the Champion of the World

The following text for is taken from Danny the Champion of the World [copyright by Felicity Dahl and the other Executors of the Estate of Roald Dahl].
Please read the text carefully then click on the link "Worksheet on Danny" which will open a new window with the questions on reading comprehension and vocabulary. Right-click a blank area on the taskbar then click "Tile Windows Horizontally". In this way, you can see both the text and the questions at the same time.
Horizontal Rule

"I have decided to tell you something," he said. "I am going to let you in on the deepest darkest secret of my whole life."

I was sitting up in my bunk watching my father.

"You asked me where I had been, " he said. "The truth is I was up in Hazell's Wood."

"Hazell's Wood!" I cried. "That's miles away!"

"Six miles and a half, " my father said. "I know I shouldn't have gone and I'm very, very sorry about it, but I had such a powerful yearning ..." His voice trailed away into nothingness.

"But why would you want to go all the way up to Hazell's Wood?" I asked.

He spooned cocoa powder and sugar into two mugs, doing it very slowly and levelling each spoonful as though he were measuring medicine.

"Do you know what is meant by poaching?" he asked.

"Poaching? Not really, no."

"It means going up into the woods in the dead of night and coming back with something for the pot. Poachers in other places poach all sorts of different things but around here it's always pheasants."

"You mean stealing them?" I said, aghast.

"We don't look at it that way, " my father said. "Poaching is an art. A great poacher is a great artist."

"Is that actually what you were doing in Hazell's Wood, Dad? Poaching pheasants?"

"I was practising the art," he said. "The art of poaching."

I was shocked. My own father a thief! This gentle lovely man! I couldn't believe he would go creeping into the woods at night to pinch valuable birds belonging to somebody else. "The kettle's boiling," I said.

"Ah, so it is." He poured the water into the mugs and brought mine over to me. Then he fetched his own and sat with it at the end of my bunk.

"Your grandad," he said, "my own dad, was a magnificent and splendiferous poacher. It was he who taught me all about it. I caught the poaching fever from him when I was ten years old and I've never lost it since. Mind you, in those days just about every man in our village was out in the woods at night poaching pheasants. And they did it not only because they loved the sport but because they needed food for their families. When I was a boy, times were bad for a lot of people in England. There was very little work to be had anywhere, and some families were literally starving. Yet a few miles away in the rich man's wood, thousands of pheasants were being fed like kings twice a day. So can you blame my dad for going out occasionally and coming home with a bird or two for the family to eat?"

"No," I said. "Of course not. But we're not starving here, Dad."

"You've missed the point. Danny boy! You've missed the whole point! Poaching is such a fabulous and exciting sport that once you start doing it, it gets into your blood and you can't give it up! Just imagine," he said, leaping off the bunk and waving his mug in the air, "just imagine for a minute that you are all alone up there in the dark wood, and the wood is full of keepers hiding behind the trees and the keepers have guns ..."

"Guns!" I gasped. "They don't have guns!"

"All keepers have guns, Danny. It's for the vermin mostly, the foxes and stoats and weasels who go after the pheasants. But they'll always take a pot at a poacher, too, if they spot him."

"Dad, you're joking."

"Not at all. But they only do it from behind. Only when you're trying to escape. They like to pepper you in the legs at about fifty yards."

"They can't do that!" I cried. "They could go to prison for shooting someone!"

"You could go to prison for poaching," my father said. There was a glint and a sparkle in his eyes now that I had never seen before. "Many's the night when I was a boy, Danny, I've gone into the kitchen and seen my old dad lying face down on the table and Mum standing over him digging the gunshots pellets out of his backside with a potato-knife."

"It's not true," I said, starting to laugh.

"You don't believe me?"

"Yes, I believe you."

"Towards the end, he was so covered in tiny little white scars he looked exactly like it was snowing."

"I don't know why I'm laughing," I said. "It's not funny, it's horrible."

"Poacher's bottom they used to call it," my father said. "And there wasn't a man in the whole village who didn't have a bit of it one way or another. But my dad was the champion ..."

"How do you actually catch the pheasants when you're poaching? Do you have a gun hidden away up there?"

"A gun!" he cried, disgusted. Real poachers don't shoot pheasants, Danny, didn't you know that? You've only to fire a cap-pistol up in those woods and the keepers'll be on you."

"Then how do you do it?"

"Ah," my father said, and the eyelids drooped over the eyes, veiled and secretive. He spread strawberry jam thickly on a piece of bread, taking his time.

"These things are big secrets," he said. "Very big secrets indeed. But I reckon if my father could tell them to me, then maybe I can tell them to you. Would you like me to do that?"

Brought to you by "Parenting the Next Generation" - A Christian Parenting Web Site
Horizontal Rule

[ Worksheet on Danny ] [ Worksheets Menu ] Home [ Main Page ] [ Books by Roald Dahl ]
If you have comments or suggestions, Email email us at vta_alan@hotmail.com