Danny the Champion of the World, by Roald Dahl

July 27, 2010 at 18:51 (Book Reviews, Children's Books, Fiction, Highly Rated Books) (, , , )

10/10

This is Roald Dahl’s best work. It could easily be titled after the final chapter; “My Father” – and yet the title reflects the warmth and affection of Danny’s dad towards him, for it is Danny who is declared to be the champion. This is a book about a widower raising a child under trying circumstances and loving his son well, and unconditionally.

The questionable life of Danny’s dad and the induction of Danny into the world of poaching is not a postmodern message of liberal and subjective morality, but rather Roald Dahl’s recurring conceit that rules are to apply for most of the time, and that when the occasion arises to break them, honesty and selflessness and truthfulness remain cardinal. The loss of the fruits of their poaching is no setback, but simply the end of one adventure and the beginning of the next; Danny is not thrilled and excited because of the pheasants, but because of his quite wonderful father.

The story is elegant and precise, and Dahl is not afraid to leave its track for a while and pursue quite irrelevant incidentals, while fleshing out the abiding impression that Danny’s life is simple, poor and utterly wonderful. Even the disastrous episode at school is a story about loyalty and fearlessness in the face of bullying and aggression.

Through his compendium of marvellous stories, Roald Dahl shows children wild and fabulous places where they can escape. In Danny the Champion of the World, he shows children a picture of honest and powerful fatherly love. Danny needs neither giants nor peaches; neither magic nor mysterious worlds. The world he inhabits is wonderful enough, and his father more fantastic than any magical benefactor.

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