Original book cover
|Illustrator||Jill Bennett (original)|
|Published||1975 Jonathan Cape (original)|
Puffin Books (current)
|Media type||Print (Hardback, Paperback)|
Danny, the Champion of the World is a 1975 children's book by Roald Dahl. The plot centres on Danny, a young English boy with a big wagon, and his father, William, who live in a Gypsy caravan fixing cars for a living and partake in poaching pheasants. It was first published in 1975 in the United States by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. and in the United Kingdom by Jonathan Cape.
It was adapted into a made-for-TV movie in 1989 by Thames Television which starred Jeremy Irons. It is based on Dahl's adult short story "Champion of the World" which first appeared in print in The New Yorker magazine, as did some of the other short stories that would later be reprinted as Kiss Kiss (1960). Peter Serafinowicz provides the English language audiobook recording. Time included the novel in its list of the 100 Best Young-Adult Books of All Time.
Danny was only four months old when his mother died. At the beginning of the book, he lives with his widowed father, William, in an old caravan behind the service station and garage owned and operated by his father. At the age of nine, Danny learns that his father is an avid poacher, as was his father's father. Shortly thereafter, Danny wakes at 2:10 am to find his father hasn't returned from his latest poaching venture on the property of the local beer magnate, Mr Hazel. Danny drives to the property and finds his father in a trap, incapacitated by a broken ankle. Danny rescues his father and helps him home. While his father recovers from his injury, he and Danny realize Mr. Hazel's annual pheasant shoot is approaching - an event to which he invites wealthy, powerful and influential people. Danny and his father decide to humiliate Mr Hazell by capturing all the pheasants in the forest. To accomplish this, they place the contents of the sleeping pills prescribed to Danny's father by the village doctor, Doc Spencer, into raisins that the pheasants will eat; Danny's father calls this new method "Sleeping Beauty". After having successfully captured 120 pheasants from Hazell's Wood, Danny and his father take a taxi (driven by a fellow poacher) to the local vicarage, where they hide the pheasants. Afterwards, they walk home. The next day, the vicar's wife (Mrs Clipstone) delivers the sleeping pheasants to Danny's father's garage in a specially built baby carriage; however, the pheasants start flying out of the baby carriage as the narcotic wears off. The birds do not travel far, as they're still sleepy. During the commotion, Mr. Hazell arrives and confronts Danny, his father and Doc Spencer. With the help of Sergeant Enoch Samways, the village policeman, Danny and his father shoo the stunned pheasants over (and in some cases inside) Mr. Hazell's Rolls Royce, damaging the car's paintwork in the process. As Mr. Hazell leaves disgraced, the pheasants wake up completely and fly away in the opposite direction from Hazell's property. The book ends when Danny is hailed as "the champion of the world" by his father, Doc Spencer and Sgt. Samways. Six pheasants died of a sleeping pill overdose, so Doc Spencer gives two each to Sgt Samways, Mrs Clipstone and Danny and his father. Danny and his father then walk into town, intending to buy a new oven to cook their pheasants. They also discuss possibly attempting to poach trout from a local stream.
The book was adapted into a made-for-TV movie in 1989 by Thames Television. It was directed by Gavin Millar and starred Jeremy Irons as William and his son, Samuel, as Danny, with Robbie Coltrane as Mr. Hazell. It was released to Region 2 DVD in 2006.
Danny, The Champion of the World is based on a previous short story by Dahl, entitled The Champion of the World, which was first published in The New Yorker Magazine in 1959 and later re-published in the compilation Kiss Kiss. The original story has a similar premise, but with adults as the main characters.
William tells Danny a bedtime story sequence of a "Big Friendly Giant" who captures good dreams and blows them into children's bedrooms at night. Dahl would later use the same concept in the full-length novel entitled The BFG.
Danny describes being caned by his teacher, Captain Lancaster, for cheating in an exam. This is similar to an experience that Dahl recounted of his own teacher, Captain Hardcastle, in Boy: Tales of Childhood.