'Danny: The Champion of the World' Editor's note: A bedtime story about The Big Friendly Giant reveals the source of magic powder and the depth of a father's love.

Story Time

October 11, 1998|By Roald Dahl

My father was not what you would call an educated man. I doubt he had read twenty books in his life. But he was a marvelous storyteller. He used to make up a bedtime story for me every single night, and the best ones were turned into serials and went on for many nights running.

One of them, which must have gone on for at least fifty nights, was about an enormous fellow called "The Big Friendly Giant," or the "BFG" for short. The BFG was three times as tall as an ordinary man and his hands were as big as wheelbarrows. He lived in a vast underground cavern not far from our filling station and he only came out into the open when it was dark. Inside the cavern he had a powder factory where he made more than one hundred different kinds of magic powder.

Occasionally, as he told his stories, my father would stride up and down waving his arms and waggling his fingers. But most times he would sit close to me on the edge of my bunk and speak very softly.

"The Big Friendly Giant makes his magic powders out of the dreams that children dream when they are asleep," he said.

"How?" I asked. "Tell me how, dad."

"Dreams, my love, are very mysterious things. They float around in the night air like little clouds, searching for sleeping people."

"Can you see them?" I asked.

"Nobody can see them."

"Then how does The Big Friendly Giant catch them?"

"Ah," my father said, "that is the interesting part. A dream, you see, as it goes drifting through the night air, makes a tiny little buzzing-humming sound, a sound so soft and low it is impossible for ordinary people to hear it. But the BFG can hear it easily. His sense of hearing is absolutely fantastic."

I loved the intent look on my father's face when he was telling a story. His face was pale and still and distant, unconscious of everything around him.

"The BFG," he said, "can hear the tread of a ladybug's footsteps as she walks across a leaf. He can hear the whispering of ants as they scurry around in the soil talking to one another. He can hear the sudden shrill cry of pain a tree gives out when a woodman cuts into it with an ax. Ah yes, my darling, there is a whole world of sound around us that we cannot hear because our ears are simply not sensitive enough."

It is impossible to tell you how much I loved my father. When he was sitting close to me on my bunk I would reach out and slide my hand into his, and then he would fold his long fingers around my fist, holding it tight.

"The BFG always carries a suitcase and a blowpipe," my father said. "The blowpipe is as long as a lamppost. The suitcase is for the powders. So he opens the suitcase and selects exactly the right powder - and he puts it into the blowpipe - and he slides the blowpipe in through the open window - and poof! - he blows in the powder - and the powder floats around the room - and the child breathes it in - "

"And then what?" I asked.

"And then, Danny, the child begins to dream a marvelous and fantastic dream - and when the dream reaches its most marvelous and fantastic moment - then the magic powder really takes over - and suddenly the dream is not a dream any longer but a real happening.

"Dad," I whispered.

"What is it?"

"Have you ever actually seen The Big Friendly Giant?"

"Once," my father said. "Only once."

"You did! Where?"

"I was out behind the caravan," my father said, "and it was a clear moonlit night, and I happened to look up and suddenly I saw this tremendous tall person running along the crest of the hill. He had a queer, long-striding, lolloping gait and his black cloak was streaming out behind him like the wings of a bird. There was a big suitcase in one hand and a blowpipe in the other, and when he came to the high hawthorne hedge at the end of the field, he just strode over it as though it wasn't there."

"Were you frightened, dad?"

"No," my father said. "It was thrilling to see him, and a little eerie, but I wasn't frightened. Go to sleep now. Good night."

From the book DANNY: CHAMPION OF THE WORLD by Roald Dahl. Text copyright 1975 by Roald Dahl. Illustrations copyright 1975 by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. Reprinted by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.

Pub Date: 10/11/98

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