The story arc of “The Enormous Crocodile” is a familiar one. It’s a variation on a theme seen in “Little Red Riding Hood” and “Three Little Pigs” to name a couple of well-known examples. First, there is a bad guy who wants to eat some helpless and / or unwitting victims. In this case, the enormous crocodile is the gluttonous cad—rather than a wolf–and the helpless victims are the local children. Second, the villain is thwarted at the last possible moment.
While it’s a tale that’s been told many times in many ways, Dahl does a good job adding his own imprint to it. An important element of the story is that the crocodile angers, alienates, and attacks several of the other jungle creatures on his way into town to find a victim or victims. Because of this, these animals conspire to thwart the crocodile’s clever plots, and this ultimately contributes to his downfall. It’s with the crocodile’s clever plots that Dahl most fully engages the imagination. The croc uses various disguises to try to lure children to within snapping distance.
It should be pointed out that the illustrations by Quentin Blake are as crucial as Dahl’s words. The color drawings really bring the book to life, and serve to make feasible the clever plots of the crocodile. (e.g. When the croc scoops up coconuts and fronds and stands on his tail in mimicry of a coconut tree, it’s the illustration that makes this seem believable—not to mention capable of being visualized by a small child.)
If you’re looking for a short young children’s story that can be read in 15 minutes or so, this is a good one.