When I was four months old, my mother died suddenly and my father was left to look after me all by himself.
Danny the Champion of the World was Dahl’s first ever book and it is a fitting conclusion to my near-fortnight of his fiction. Tomorrow I’ll be looking at the books about the man himself, Boy and Going Solo, but today it is all about Danny.
There are no fantastical elements in Danny the Champion of the World but that doesn’t mean it isn’t utterly magical. Focussed on a father and son, living modestly in the countryside, it’s a heart-warming and sweet story I have loved since first my first read. There is a simple purity to Dahl’s story-telling that sets this book apart from his more wacky titles and makes it all the more beautiful. The whimsy is replaced with a unique narrative honesty that I adore and Danny’s relationship with his father is what makes this book so special.
Danny the Champion of the World takes the reader back to a simpler time without materialistic complications. Danny and his dad live in a small gypsy caravan, run a filling station and make-up bedtime stories each night. They build cars, make kites and fire lanterns and have midnight feasts – living in the moment, for each other. Danny hero-worships his twinkly-eyed father and William tries to give Danny the best childhood he can. They’re a partnership and a team, who take on the world together and embark on an adventure to beat the bully, Mr Victor Hazell.
This book is about how imagination can create sparks in the everyday world we live in and how, even a small boy, can become Champion of the World! The possibilities in the Dahlian universe are endless and even Danny, a tale without magic or miracles, doesn’t limit on anyone’s ability to create change. Dahl empowers his child audience even with his first book and the characters in Danny are genuine, realistic and amazing!
What makes this book even more special, to me particularly, is the brief guest-star appearance. The BFG, another Dahl I adore, was spawned from Danny the Champion of the World when Danny’s dad tells him the story of the BFG as a bedtime story and, from this snippet, another classic Dahl was created. I love this intertextual reference, it links the mini universes of his stories together and makes them seem connected by something more than their author.