In The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar, the titular character learns an extraordinary skill to become more rich. However, it also changes him as a person forever. The movie is now streaming on Netflix.
Warning: This article contains heavy spoilers
Roald Dahl narrates the story of Henry Sugar, a 41-year-old, unmarried, and rich man. He inherits all of his wealth from his rich father and doesn’t marry because he is too selfish to share any of his wealth with his wife.
Henry hasn’t done a day’s work in all of his life. All of his friends are rich too. According to Roald Dahl, men like Henry are not particularly bad, but they are not good either. Much like all rich people, even Henry has this terrific urge to make himself richer.
People like Henry indulge in various methods to increase their fortunes. Some opt to invest in stocks and shares, some buy land or art, and some bet on roulette, blackjack, and horses. Henry is one of those too, and is also into cheating.
One summer weekend, Henry drives down from London to the countryside to stay with William W. It is raining. While William is busy with his friends, playing afternoon games, Henry stares at the drops splashing against the windows.
He wanders out of the drawing room into the front hall and eventually finds himself in a library. Though Henry fails to find any book that he would like, his eyes fall upon a cardboard exercise book that stands out from others.
While the cover had nothing written on it, the first page of the book read, “A report on Imdad Khan, the man who sees without his eyes, by Dr. Z.Z. Chatterjee, December 1935, Calcutta.”
The book tells about Dr. Chatterjee’s experience of meeting a man named Imdad Khan who visits Lords and Ladies Hospital, Calcutta, claiming that he can see without his eyes.
Dr. Chatterjee and his colleagues test Imdad Khan, who proves that he is not lying. Imdad Khan explains that this is a genuine skill that he has attained after years of training.
Imdad Khan works for a traveling theater, and they will be performing at the Royal Palace Hall. Whenever they visit a new town, Imdad Khan asks the doctors to bandage his face in the most thorough fashion before his performance, making sure that his eyes can’t see.
It is important that it’s done by doctors; otherwise, people think he is cheating. Dr. Chatterjee and his colleague fulfill Imdad Khan’s wishes and bandage his entire head, leaving an opening only for his nose so that he can breathe.
Imdad Khan continues to surprise the doctors as he walks out of the hospital swiftly, dodging every obstacle in his path. Out of curiosity, Dr. Chatterjee attends Imdad Khan’s show and is more invested in knowing Khan’s secret.
Dr. Chatterjee meets Imdad Khan backstage after the show. Imdad Khan tells him how he grew up admiring a conjurer. He then joined a traveling theater and soon heard about a great yogi who acquired the great power of levitating in the air.
Imdad Khan struggles to find the great yogi, but he comes across his disciple. The disciple is reluctant to let Imdad Khan meet the yogi, but Imdad Khan follows the disciple and eventually meets the great yogi, who, surprised, throws a brick at him.
A great yogi isn’t meant to lose his temper and fling bricks. To make up for it, the yogi teaches Imdad Khan how to concentrate on one item only and have his mind visualize that single thing.
Imdad Khan exercises for years. Khan’s concentration becomes so strong that he begins to see things without relying on his eyes. He achieves this ability; however, to this day, not many believe him to be genuine.
Imdad Khan says there are other ways to send an image to the brain. After making this statement, a tired Imdad Khan goes to sleep. Dr. Chatterjee visits the traveling theater the next day with the intention of finding these other ways and helping the blind and deaf, only to learn that Imdad Khan has passed away.
Henry Sugar reads all of this, steals the book, and goes back home to follow the exercise Imdad Khan performed. Out of all of this information, the only practice that catches Henry’s attention is Imdad Khan’s ability to read the value of a playing card from the reverse side.
Being a dishonest gambler, Henry plans to make a fortune by learning Imdad Khan’s extraordinary skills.
The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar ending explained in detail:
Does Henry succeed in replicating Imdad Khan’s skills?
Henry practices what Imdad Khan did five times a day. For the first time in life, he is genuinely invested in achieving a skill. By the end of the year, Henry is able to concentrate on one thing for at least five minutes.
Henry tests his skill and is able to guess the card from the reverse side, but it takes him around four minutes to guess it. Henry then practices to reduce the time he needs.
Henry is eventually able to guess a card within five seconds. It takes three years and three months of uninterrupted effort for him to do so.
Why don’t Henry’s skills make him happy?
Henry tries his skills at his favorite casino, Lord’s House. Henry keeps his winnings reasonable, loses occasionally, and in an hour makes £30,000, which could have certainly been a million.
Henry is now capable of making money faster than anyone in the world. Henry from three years ago would have been excited after achieving this, but Henry doesn’t feel excited; he feels rather sad.
Henry already knows he is going to win. He misses the thrill and danger of placing a bet. The process of achieving the yoga powers completely changed Henry’s outlook on life.
What does Henry do with his skills?
The next day, Henry, not wanting the money he won from his skills, threw all of it out of his balcony. The fallen money causes a riot, and a police officer comes knocking on Henry’s door.
The police officer puts some sense into Henry’s mind and advises him to give away his money to some orphanage or hospital rather than throwing it away.
Henry devised a plan and traveled the whole world, making money without having anyone suspect him. He sent the money won to his trusted accountant, John Winston. Henry won all of this money with the mission of establishing hospitals and orphanages around the world.
What becomes of Henry?
Henry dies at the age of 63 from a pulmonary embolism. By now, Henry had made £644 million and left 21 well-established and well-run children’s hospitals and orphanages around the world.
Soon after Henry’s death, John Winston telephoned Roald Dahl to have him write about their organization, Henry Sugar, and what he had done for the world.
Dahl visits Winston in Lausanne and also meets Henry’s makeup artist, Max Engelman, who had traveled with Henry around the world.
Roald Dahl is shown Dr. Z.Z. Chatterjee’s original book, which he copies word for word later. Henry Sugar is not Henry’s real identity. Even Roald Dahl is not told about Henry’s true name, as Max and Winston had promised to never reveal it.
Roald Dahl is asked to write using the name Henry Sugar, and he has done so.