As with many of Dahl’s stories, it involves a young lad in England doing over the world in one way or another. This time with pheasant poaching. Nicely done, sir.
Danny, The Champion of the World
Meet Danny, a young chap in England whose mother, sadly, died when he was but four months old.
His father, William, has since raised him. And they live in a caravan behind a service station his father runs.
The setting is supposed to be around the early to mid-1970s, we believe, so there’s a kind of quaint feeling to things (seriously, who could run their own service station these days with Shell around?).
Anyway, when Danny is nine he learns his father is an avid poacher of local pheasants. Which, of course, remains pretty illegal.
One early morning, Danny wakes up to find William hasn’t returned from a poaching trip. It was to take pheasants from local business magnate Victor Hazell.
Danny drives out to Mr. Hazell’s place and finds his father in a poaching trap, with a broken ankle. He’s able to help his father to safety.
To get their revenge, the father/son duo hatch a nefarious plot! To catch all of Mr. Hazell’s pheasants.
So, Danny uses his cunning wiles to add sleeping pills to raisins. Which they feed to all 120 of the feathered beasts.
The vicar’s wife, Mrs. Clipstone, is transporting the sleeping pheasants in an oversized pram to Danny and William. But the birds wake up and go shooting off into the air, causing all manner of commotion.
Events wrap up with Mr. Hazell accusing William of theft, but the business dude is left humiliated as Danny and William shoo the pheasants into his car—which ends up covered in all manner of crap.
The book ends with his father, and several locals, hailing Danny as the “champion of the world”. Chuffed, he and his father head into town and discuss potentially poaching local trout.
So, there we go! Another one of those darkly humourous, sentimental Roald Dahl tales.
For us as kids, his stories stood out thanks to that advanced nature of the funny bits. There’s often a sense of melancholia hiding behind the surface (Danny’s mother’s death, for example).
Whereas we sat about watching Blue Peter, bored of its grinning presenters, Dahl’s work has character. And treats its audience with respect.
Danny, the Champion of the World certainly isn’t his finest work. But, decades on from first reading it, it has a strong place in our childhood reading memory collection.
It’s daring, a bit scary at times (such as with rescuing William from the pit), and there’s a sense of fiendish glee.
Another one we can recommend to anyone reading this with kids. Along with the rest of Dahl’s rather impressive canon.
Gavin Millar took on directorial duties for this 1989 made-for-TV adaptation.
Jeremy Irons (who we mentioned recently in, “LET THEIR BLOOD… RAIN FROM THE SKY!”) plays William. And as Samuel, we have Mr. Iron’s real life son taking on the role. Which is cute.
Despite this introduction to the world of acting, it appears Samuel Irons didn’t attempt any further acting gigs after around 1990.
Robbie Coltrane (of Cracker fame) stars as Victor Hazell.
At 95 minutes, it launched in April—shortly before another made-for-TV film adaptation of The BFG.
As we loved the book as kids, we vaguely remember watching the film. Although our memories of it are somewhat hazy.
Reviews seem pretty positive online, although it’s not the first Dahl adaptation that springs to mind. Yet, we have happy memories about it all.