Five Champion Danny Facts

Posted by
Roald Dahl HQ
Posted on
12:00pm, 2nd June
Danny, Short stories, The BFG
Roald Dahl's Danny, the Champion of the World, illustrated by Sir Quentin Blake

How much do you know about Roald Dahl's champion story of father and son?

First published in 1975, Danny, the Champion of the World is the story of a young boy who lives in a gipsy caravan in the English countryside with his pheasant-catching father.

Drawing on Roald Dahl's love of storytelling and based in Great Missenden, the place where he lived and wrote and which is now home to the Roald Dahl Museum, this is perhaps one of Roald Dahl's most personal stories and is dedicated to his whole family - then-wife, Patricia Neal, and his surviving children Tessa, Theo, Ophelia and Lucy.

1. Danny's father made his first appearance in Roald Dahl's short stories for adults

In a collection of stories written in the 1940s and later published in the 1989 collection Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life, a character very similar to Danny's dad takes centre stage. These stories were again inspired by the Great Missenden countryside and in one - called The Champion of the World - a man called Gordon (who would later become Danny's dad William) joins his friend Claud for a great pheasant-poaching trick involving a lot of raisins. This might be familiar to anyone who has read Danny, the Champion of the World...

2. The petrol station was inspired by petrol pumps that still stand on Great Missenden High Street

These pumps, in fact...

The petrol pumps in Great Missenden that inspired Roald Dahl's Danny, the Champion of the World

If you're planning a visit to the Roald Dahl Museum, make sure you download the Village Trail and keep an eye out for the pumps.

3. The Big Friendly Giant starred in one of Danny's dad's stories - seven years before the publication of The BFG

The Big Friendly Giant - the same character that would later befriend orphan Sophie, meet the Queen and delight readers with his marvellous gobblefunk language in The BFG - made his very first appearance as the hero of a bedtime story told by Danny's father. As with the later full-length story, Danny's dad's version tells of a friendly giant that catches dreams to share with sleeping children.

4. The school scenes with Captain Lancaster drew heavily on Roald Dahl's own childhood

Roald Dahl's memories of his schooldays were captured in Boy: Tales of Childhood, released in 1984, several years after Danny, the Champion of the World.

It's easy to see how these tales of hard scoolteachers and their punishments were swirling around in Roald Dahl's head when he wrote Danny: Captain Hardcastle from Boy is very similar to Danny's Captain Lancaster. In fact, Roald Dahl's schooldays almost made it into another of his children's stories, The Witches - but instead, editor Steven Roxburgh persuaded him to take all those stories and put them into Boy.

5. Roald Dahl had a real-life gipsy caravan in his back garden

Another real-life element from Great Missenden that found its way into Danny was the Romany gipsy caravan that sat in the Dahl's back garden, after Roald Dahl acquired it in the 1960s. His children would use it as a playroom. The descriptions of the caravan in the published story are very like the real thing. Here it is, as illustrated by Sir Quentin Blake:

The caravan from Roald Dahl's Danny, the Champion of the World, as illustrated by Sir Quentin Blake

Fancy reading (or re-reading) about Danny and his Dad's adventures? Find out more here.

Champion Father's Day gifts