Roald Dahl’s ‘The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar’

The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar is a 1977 short story by Roald Dahl. The book was published by Jonathan Cape in the UK and Alfred A. Knopf in the US.

It is about a wealthy, retired man named Henry Sugar who discovers a book that describes how to develop the ability to see through objects. Sugar becomes obsessed with learning this skill, and eventually succeeds. He uses his newfound ability to win at gambling and make money, but he soon realizes that he is no longer happy. He eventually decides to use his ability for good, and helps others in need.

The story was adapted into a short film in 2023 by Wes Anderson, starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Henry Sugar. The film was released on Netflix on September 27, 2023.

The story of Henry Sugar is a cautionary tale about the dangers of greed and ambition. It is also a reminder that true happiness comes from helping others, rather than from material possessions.


The narrative centers around Henry Sugar, a wealthy and self-indulgent man who stumbles upon a peculiar article that piques his interest. This article reveals the astonishing abilities of Indian fakirs who have learned to see without the use of their eyes. Intrigued and motivated by avarice, Henry embarks on a quest to master this extraordinary skill.

Henry’s journey is fraught with doubt and incredulity. To his amazement, he discovers that this seemingly supernatural feat is not only possible but can be learned through intense dedication and training. Under the guidance of a retired Indian yogi named Mr. Wainwright, Henry undergoes rigorous exercises to expand his perception beyond the confines of conventional sight.

The process is painstaking, pushing Henry to the limits of his physical and mental endurance. He practices gazing at playing cards, gradually deciphering their denominations. As his abilities grow, so does his confidence. Henry becomes proficient enough to discern the contents of sealed envelopes and eventually to read entire books.

However, it is not long before Henry faces a moral dilemma. Armed with the power to see through objects, he contemplates using his newfound skill to win at gambling. The allure of wealth and opulence tempts him, and he succumbs to this temptation, initially winning vast sums of money.

Yet, as Henry’s fortune swells, so does his inner turmoil. He grapples with the ethical implications of his actions, questioning the morality of exploiting his ability for personal gain. His internal conflict reaches its climax when he witnesses the suffering of impoverished children during a trip to a remote village. The stark contrast between his opulent lifestyle and their destitution serves as a powerful catalyst for change.

Motivated by empathy and a desire to make amends, Henry resolves to use his extraordinary talent for a higher purpose. He donates his winnings to various charitable causes, striving to alleviate suffering and make a positive impact on the lives of those in need.

As Henry redirects the course of his life, he becomes an inspirational figure, demonstrating the potential for personal growth and altruism. His transformation from a self-indulgent playboy to a benevolent philanthropist is a testament to the power of self-discovery and the capacity for change that resides within each individual.

In the end, “The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar” is a thought-provoking narrative that delves into themes of human potential, moral responsibility, and the transformative power of empathy. Roald Dahl’s masterful storytelling and vivid imagination breathe life into this tale, leaving readers with a profound message about the capacity for individuals to make a positive difference in the world. Through Henry Sugar’s journey, we are reminded that even the most self-absorbed among us have the potential for redemption and the ability to impact the lives of others in meaningful ways.

Ways Henry Sugar Uses His Ability to Help Others

Helping Doctors Diagnose Diseases

Sugar’s ability to see through objects is particularly useful for helping doctors diagnose diseases. For example, he is able to see tumors and other abnormalities inside the body. He can also see the movement of blood and other fluids, which can help doctors to diagnose a variety of conditions.

One of the first people that Sugar helps is a young girl named Susannah. Susannah has been suffering from mysterious medical problems, and doctors have been unable to diagnose her condition. Sugar is able to see a tumor inside Susannah’s brain, which allows doctors to operate and save her life.

Sugar also helps doctors to develop new treatments for diseases. For example, he is able to see how cancer cells respond to different types of chemotherapy drugs. This information helps doctors to develop more effective treatments for their patients.

Helping the Police Solve Crimes

Sugar’s ability to see through objects is also useful for helping the police solve crimes. For example, he is able to see bullets and other evidence that is hidden behind walls or other objects. He can also see the movements of criminals, which can help the police to apprehend them.

One of the first cases that Sugar helps the police with is a murder investigation. The police have a suspect, but they need to find the murder weapon in order to convict him. Sugar is able to see the murder weapon hidden in a secret compartment in the suspect’s car. This evidence allows the police to convict the suspect and bring him to justice.

Sugar also helps the police to prevent crimes from happening. For example, he is able to see criminals planning robberies and other crimes. He can then alert the police, who can intervene and prevent the crimes from happening.

Helping People Find Lost Loved Ones

Sugar’s ability to see through objects is also useful for helping people find lost loved ones. For example, he is able to see people who are trapped under rubble or who are lost in the wilderness. He can also see the movements of people who have gone missing, which can help the police to track them down.

One of the first people that Sugar helps to find is a young boy named Michael. Michael has gone missing in the woods, and the police have been unable to find him. Sugar is able to see Michael’s footprints in the mud, which allows the police to track him down and rescue him.

Is Henry Sugar story real?

No, the story of Henry Sugar is not real. However, the story is inspired by a real person named Kuda Bux, a Pakistani magician who claimed to be able to see without his eyes.

Dahl wrote an article about Bux in 1952, and he later used Bux as the inspiration for the character of Imdad Khan in the story. However, there is no evidence that Bux ever actually had the ability to see without his eyes.

How many pages is the wonderful story of Henry Sugar?

It is typically around 20-25 pages long, while the book with the other stories will be about 225 pages.

What age read Henry Sugar?

The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar is typically recommended for readers aged 8-12. However, it can be enjoyed by readers of all ages. The story is written in a simple and straightforward style, and it is full of humor and adventure.

The story is also thought-provoking, and it explores important themes such as the nature of happiness, the importance of compassion, and the dangers of greed. As a result, it can be a valuable read for children and adults alike.

Biography of Roald Dahl

Roald Dahl, the British author known for his darkly humorous and morally rich children’s books, led a remarkable life. Born in Wales to Norwegian parents, he later served as a fighter pilot in WWII. Dahl’s literary journey began with adult fiction, but it was his children’s classics like “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and “Matilda” that earned him global acclaim. His books, translated into 60 languages, have sold over 250 million copies. Dahl’s legacy endures through beloved stories that continue to captivate readers of all ages.