The Landlady by Roald Dahl: Summary, Analysis & Themes

Summary of The Landlady by Roald Dahl

An Eerie Tale

The story unfolds as an eerie and mysterious narrative centered around a peculiar lady running a small hotel in the charming city of Bath, England. The protagonist, Billy, arrives in Bath with the task of finding affordable accommodation for his boss, Mr. Greenslade. Intrigued by the prospect of exploring new places and making new acquaintances, Billy sets out to find a suitable lodging after alighting from the train.

An Old Lady and a Quaint Inn

During his journey, Billy observes the dilapidated state of many buildings in contrast to the opulence of London. However, his attention is captured by a charming and cozy inn, which exudes a welcoming aura with its beautiful decor. Unable to resist the inn's appeal, he decides to inquire about a room and is warmly received by an elderly and tired-looking lady.

A Peculiar Encounter

The old lady showers Billy with kindness and presents an offer he finds impossible to decline. Impressed by the inn's ambiance, he chooses to stay and is given a room on one of the upper floors. As he settles into his accommodation, the lady requests him to sign the entry log and join her for tea downstairs. Despite finding her behavior a little odd, Billy attributes it to her age.

Unveiling Suspicion

Upon examining the entry log, Billy notices only two previous entries under the names of Mr. Mulholland and Mr. Temple, both of which trigger a vague memory in his mind. He vaguely recalls hearing about these names in the news a few years ago, linked to some incident. Intrigued, he questions the lady about them, and she reluctantly admits that they still reside on the fourth floor. This revelation unsettles Billy, and he begins to piece together the unsettling mystery.

Billy Becomes the Latest Victim

As the pieces of the puzzle come together, Billy becomes increasingly suspicious of the situation. The strange taste of the tea he was served raises further doubts, leading him to realize that he has been drugged. Inquiring about the last visitor to the inn, the lady reveals with a sinister smile that Billy is her first guest in two years.

In Conclusion

Roald Dahl crafts a chilling and suspenseful tale in "The Landlady," as Billy unwittingly becomes entangled in the mysterious web spun by the seemingly hospitable yet sinister innkeeper. The story's unsettling atmosphere and unexpected twists keep readers engaged, as they explore the eerie reality hidden beneath the appearance of warmth and hospitality.

Analysis: The Landlady by Roald Dahl


The story takes place in the charming city of Bath, England. Amidst the old and rundown buildings in the area, stands the well-maintained inn of an old lady. The inn emanates a warm and inviting atmosphere, adorned with colorful flowers that add to its appeal. However, beneath this seemingly pleasant exterior lies an eerie and mysterious interior, concealing deep and dark secrets within its walls.


Throughout the narrative, subtle hints foreshadow the enigmatic nature of the old lady. Billy, the protagonist, becomes suspicious of the information he receives from her, particularly concerning the absence of other guests. He also notices the peculiar compliments she bestows upon his youthful looks, which raise his suspicions even further.

It is when he recollects the news about the Mulholland disappearance and discovers something unusual about the tea she serves him that the true deceitfulness of the landlady begins to unravel.


The central conflict of the story revolves around the stark contrast between appearance and reality. From the outside, the inn and its landlady present a welcoming and pleasant facade. However, as the story progresses, the inn's mysterious aspects, such as deserted rooms and unexplained events, start to undermine the amiable image it portrays.

The landlady's peculiar interests, including her fondness for young boys and taxidermy, add to the sense of contradiction and discomfort that surrounds the bed and breakfast. The unexplained history of only two visitors in the entry log hints at a spooky and unsettling past, intensifying the overall tension.


The story concludes with an ominous realization that, by signing the entry log, Billy may have sealed his fate. His growing suspicion, triggered by the mention of Mulholland's name in the guest log and confirmed by the spiked tea, leads him to a horrifying revelation.

As he discovers that every animal in the inn is stuffed, the reader becomes aware that Billy has unknowingly become the latest victim of the landlady's deranged fetish. She successfully lures her third youthful victim into the dark and sinister depths of her desires.

In conclusion, Roald Dahl masterfully crafts a tale of deception and suspense, using the setting, foreshadowing, and conflict to build an atmosphere of unease and foreboding. The unexpected and chilling ending leaves readers haunted by the sinister reality hidden beneath the landlady's seemingly warm exterior.

Themes in The Landlady by Roald Dahl

Seclusion & Desertion

The theme of seclusion and desertion is prevalent throughout the story. The city of Bath and the neighborhood where Billy visits are depicted as quiet and devoid of vibrancy. The dilapidated houses and deserted surroundings reflect a sense of isolation and loneliness. The bed and breakfast itself, with only two previous visitors, adds to the feeling of extreme isolation. The landlady's solitary existence further emphasizes this theme. The characters in the story, including Mulholland, Temple, and Billy, find themselves vulnerable due to their seclusion and lack of social harmony.

Reality & Ruse

Deception is a central theme in "The Landlady." Throughout the story, there is a stark contrast between appearances and reality. The neighborhood may seem welcoming with its colorful flowers, but beneath the surface lies a dark and eerie atmosphere. The landlady appears generous and friendly, yet she harbors sinister fetishes and murderous intentions. The furniture and decor in the bed and breakfast may look beautiful, but they conceal the disturbing truth of being made from stuffed carcasses. The landlady's ability to seduce Billy despite his initial alarms highlights the theme of deception and how appearances can be misleading.

Youth and Old Age

The theme of youth and old age is explored through the stark contrast between the energetic life of London and the slow-paced life of Bath. Billy's youthful exuberance leads him to the bed and breakfast, attracted by the warm and generous demeanor of the landlady. On the other hand, the landlady, being cunning and secretive, strategically lures young and vulnerable individuals. The story highlights the impulsive nature of youth and how it can lead to disregarding instincts and making hasty decisions. The landlady's manipulation of Billy, praising his youth and looks, exposes the vulnerability of adolescence. In the end, youthfulness and the landlady's wise deception make Billy a tragic victim of his own impatience and the cunning of an older individual. "The Landlady" by Roald Dahl masterfully explores these themes, creating a chilling tale that warns against the dangers of deception, isolation, and impulsive decisions.

Characters in The Landlady by Roald Dahl

Mr. Greenslade (The Boss)

Mr. Greenslade is Billy Weaver's boss back in London. He plays a crucial role in the story by instructing Billy to travel to Bath to find suitable accommodation. Portrayed as a strict and disciplined man, Mr. Greenslade demands nothing but the absolute best from his employees.

Two Victims

Christopher Mulholland: One of the entries in the inn's guest log, Christopher Mulholland, was around the same age as Billy. Though Billy faintly recalls his name from newspapers, it becomes apparent through the story that he fell victim to the landlady's sinister schemes. The lady's reference to him never leaving the inn strongly suggests that his life ended tragically within its walls, becoming one of her taxidermy creations. Gregory W. Temple: Another unfortunate victim of the landlady, Gregory W. Temple, was older than both Mulholland and Billy. Described as tall, handsome, and impressionable, he too fell prey to the lady's sinister intentions.

The Landlady (The Antagonist)

The central antagonist of the story, the landlady, is a creepy old woman who runs the quaint inn in Bath. She possesses both conversational skill and taxidermy expertise. However, beneath her polite and welcoming exterior lies a disturbing obsession with young and vulnerable boys. She lures them in, drugs them, and then proceeds to stuff them as if they were her pets. Her cold-blooded and focused demeanor conceals her dark and murderous intentions.

Billy Weaver (Protagonist)

Billy Weaver serves as the protagonist of the story. A young man from London, he embarks on a journey to Bath with the intention of finding suitable accommodation. Initially determined to stay and enjoy a drink at a pub, Billy is enticed by the charm of the quaint inn run by the old woman.

Naïve and trusting, Billy is captivated by the apparent warmth of the place and its host. However, as he becomes more skeptical about the lady's evasive answers to his questions and the eerie emptiness of the inn, he starts to sense something amiss. As he reads the guest log and discovers the fates of previous visitors, he begins to unravel the lady's sinister intentions.

Unfortunately, Billy's realization comes too late, and he falls victim to the landlady's sinister plot when he drinks the drugged tea. In the story's chilling climax, the landlady reveals herself to be a heartless murderer, and Billy becomes her latest prey. In the end, he becomes a tragic example of the lady's dark and depraved obsession with young boys.

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