Danny, the Champion of the World

Published in 1975

-Synopsis-

Like Fantastic Mr Fox, Danny the Champion of the World was partially inspired by the Buckinghamshire countryside where Roald Dahl lived.

Background

-Background-

Danny lives with his dad in a caravan at the edge of the wood. He thinks his dad is the best father in the world. But Danny doesn't know everything, and even his brilliant dad has secrets...

Like Fantastic Mr Fox, Danny, the Champion of the World was partially inspired by the Buckinghamshire countryside where Roald Dahl lived, from the filling station Danny's dad runs - based on the now-abandoned Red Pump Garage on Great Missenden High Street - to the woods where his dad gets trapped trying to poach pheasants belonging to Mr Victor Hazell. There are other real-life inspirations, too - the caravan Danny and his dad live in is based upon a real Romany gipsy caravan Roald acquired in the 1960s that was used as a playroom for the Dahl children. The book is dedicated to the whole family: Roald's then-wife, Patricia Neal, and his children Tessa, Theo, Ophelia and Lucy.

Danny, the Champion of the World, published in 1975, also features characters that make an appearance in other Roald Dahl stories, some older and some that were then yet-to-be written. Danny's dad, for example, first pops up in some of Roald's short stories for adults written as far back as the 1940s, and later published in the 1989 collection Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life. There was even one short story called The Champion of the World. 

There are other interesting similarities - and differences. In Danny the Champion of the World, Danny's father is called William (a name we first hear him called by local doctor and fellow pheasant-enthusiast Doc Spencer), but in the short stories that led to the creation of his character, he is called Gordon. A Mr Hazel (with one 'l' as opposed to two) also appears in some of the stories in the Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life collection. And perhaps most interestingly, the character of the BFG makes his first appearance in Danny, the Champion of the World in a bedtime story told to Danny by his father.

A 1989 film version of Danny the Champion of the World starred Jeremy Irons as Danny's dad. In this version, he is named William Smith and the film's action takes place in 1955, as opposed to the original book's 1970s setting. Other than these changes, the film follows the book's plot closely.

Find out more about the period in Roald Dahl's life during which he wrote Danny

-Quote-

Grown-ups are complicated creatures, full of quirks and secrets.

Roald Dahl 1

Danny the Champion of the World.

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