Mr. and Mrs. Twit are two ugly, smelly, nasty, stupid people who spend their lives playing nasty tricks on each other. They also enjoy being cruel to animals, which they do by luring birds to glue-smothered trees so they can be baked into bird pie, and tormenting their pet monkeys, Muggle-Wump and his family, by getting them to stand upside down, one on top of the other. They hate children, and Mrs. Twit often carries a walking stick in her right hand that she uses to hit children and animals.
One day, the arrival of the Roly-Poly Bird from Africa allows the monkeys and the surviving birds to get the revenge they have craved for years. They glue the carpet and furniture to the living room ceiling while the Twits are out. On the Twits' return, two ravens swoop over and drop glue from paintbrushes held in their claws onto the Twits' heads. When the Twits go indoors and see their furniture upside down, they stand on their heads, believing they are upside down, and because of the glue on their heads, they remain stuck that way. With the Twits out of the way, the Muggle-Wumps are able to return to their native Africa with the help of the Roly-Poly Bird. Eventually, the Twits' bodies collapse into themselves, until there is nothing left of them but their clothes.
Mr Twit is a trollish person, having hair that covers his entire face, with the exception of his forehead, eyes and his nose. His hair (which he falsely believes makes him look wise and grand), is spiky and hard. He is 60 years old, and he never washes. This explains why his beard holds scraps of food dropped there while he ate, including tinned sardines, stilton cheese, and corn flakes. Occasionally, he picks these scraps out and eats them. He is also a possible cannibal; when some boys come into his garden and climb the glue-ridden branches of the tree and get stuck by the seats of their pants, he threatens to bake them in a pie instead of the birds; they escape by unzipping their pants and falling out of the tree, however. Mr Twit is a beer drinker, even doing so at breakfast. He is known to get very quiet when he is plotting his latest evil trick, the victim of which is usually his equally disturbing wife.
Mrs Twit is the shrewish wife of Mr Twit. She, unlike her husband, was once very beautiful, but thinking ugly thoughts caused her to transform into the ugliest woman in the world. She is dirtier than her husband is,she has black crazy, messed up hair and no more pleasant either: she uses her cane as a weapon against children and animals. She will never look at the beauty of herself. Mrs Twit has only one real eye; the other is made of glass,and she sometimes takes it out and uses it to frighten her husband.
The Tricks of The Twits
The Glass Eye
Mrs Twit likes to let Mr Twit know that she is always watching him. She does this by placing her glass eye into Mr Twit's mug of beer at the breakfast table. This always makes Mr Twit jump in shock of the horror.
In revenge for the glass-eye trick, Mr Twit places a frog in Mrs Twit's bed.(shouting) He teases Mrs Twit by claiming the item in her bed is a Giant Skillywiggler, with teeth like screwdrivers with which it would bite off her toes. Mrs Twit faints during this trick, later to recover as the frog sits on her face.
The Wormy Spaghetti
Seeking revenge for the Frog trick, Mrs Twit engineers the Spaghetti Incident. Mr Twit enjoys spaghetti for his lunch, and so the day after the Frog trick, Mrs Twit puts worms from the garden into the cooked spaghetti, and hides the lot by covering it in a tomato sauce. Mr Twit notices that his lunch is moving, but Mrs Twit claims that the spaghetti is of a new brand, 'Squiggly Spaghetti'. Mr Twit eats all of it and saying that it's bitter, causing Mrs Twit to burst out laughing and reveals the trick.
After the Worms in the Spaghetti trick, Mr Twit wants to get revenge on Mrs Twit. He glues pieces of wood no thicker than a penny onto her cane each night, as well as onto the legs of her chair, making Mrs Twit believe that she is slowly shrinking. Mr. Twit tells her that she has the shrinks, and her head will turn into her neck, her neck turns into her body, her body turns into her legs, her legs turn into her feet, then no more than her clothing, pair of shoes, socks and her long cane.
Mrs. Twit Goes Ballooning Up
Mr. Twit says that the only cure for the Shrinks is to be stretched. He does this by tying Mrs Twit by her ankles to an iron ring in the ground outside, then tying helium-filled balloons to her arms, hair, and neck until she is rising off the ground. As Mr Twit is about to leave her where she is for a few nights, Mrs Twit tells him to make sure that her ankles are secured so she doesn't float away. This only serves to prompt Mr Twit to cut the rope, sending Mrs Twit flying off. She bites the balloons off one at a time and sinks back to earth and lands on top of Mr Twit, beating him up with her stick.
There is an unimaginatively-named "Big Dead Tree" in the Twits' garden. This, Mr Twit uses to trap birds, by spreading "HUGTIGHT" sticky glue on the branches. Those that get stuck, he eventually picks off to be put into a pie baked by Mrs Twit. He also manages, inadvertently, to catch four boys by the same method when they foolishly climb the tree themselves. Mr Twit sees them and very nearly bakes them instead. Luckily, they escape in time. It is this use of glue that gives his pet monkey Muggle-Wump and his family the idea of using it against the Twits.
The Twits, as a book, has, as Dahl himself acknowledged, occasionally made adults feel physically sick — perhaps not least because of the graphic description of what lies within Mr Twit's beard in the second chapter of the book (all the chapters being very short by the standards of Dahl's novels). However, it seems it was written with the view that children enjoy being disgusted — and frightened. Whatever the truth in this theory, it has remained popular amongst children and due to its shortness is occasionally seen as a good "starting point" by British parents — and primary school teachers — when introducing children to Roald Dahl's stories for younger readers.
- The idea of The Twits was triggered by Dahl's simple desire to "do something against beards" since he had an acute dislike of them himself. The first sentence of the story — "what a lot of hairy faces one sees nowadays" — is a genuine complaint.
- The Twits as a book has remained so successful since its publication in 1980 — that it was adapted for the stage in 1999.
- Certain things within the book, such as Mr Twit's beard, "Wormy Spaghetti" and bird pie, appear within Roald Dahl's Revolting Recipes.
- A monkey named Muggle-Wump (whether the same character as the one in The Twits or a member of the same family is not known) also appears in The Enormous Crocodile. A monkey bearing a more than passing resemblance to Quentin Blake's illustration of the same character also appears in The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me.
- A Roly-Poly Bird likewise makes an appearance in The Enormous Crocodile and is also to be found in Dirty Beasts.
A film adaptation of the book is in the works with Walt Disney Pictures, with screenplay written by John Cleese. Shrek producer John H. Williams is developing the film at Disney, and it's thought that Cleese himself will play one of the titular Twits. It is rumored that Conrad Vernon will direct the film. It has a release date set for 2012. It will be the second adaptation of a Roald Dahl book to be distributed by Disney after James and the Giant Peach in 1996.
- ISBN 0-224-06491-6 (hardcover, 2003)
- ISBN 0-14-130107-4 (paperback, 2002)
- ISBN 0-375-82242-9 (hardcover, 2002)
- ISBN 0-14-131138-X (paperback, 2001)
- ISBN 0-14-034640-6 (paperback, 1991)
- ISBN 0-14-031406-7 (paperback, 1982)
- ISBN 0-224-01855-8 (hardcover, 1980)
- The Twits information and games
- The Twits title listing at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database