off grid kids: roald dahl on bauwagen life

When I started reading Danny the Champion of the World by Roald Dahl for The Great Roald Dahl Re-Read I was excited.  I had never read it before.  Maybe it was going to be The Best Ever.  Well.  It wasn’t my all-time favorite story (it is mainly about stealing pheasants ala Fantastic Mr. Fox), but I still loved it.  Because it is about a boy who lives in a little wooden caravan with his dad.  Just like us.

Roald Dahl on Bauwagen life:

The caravan was our house and our home.  It was a real old gipsy wagon with big wheels and fine patterns painted all over it in yellow and red and blue.  …

There was only one room in the caravan and it wasn’t much bigger than a fair-sized modern bathroom.  It was a narrow room, the shape of the caravan itself, and against the back wall were two bunk beds, one above the other. …

There was a wood-burning stove with a chimney that went up through the roof, and this kept us warm in winter.  There was a paraffun burner on which to boil a kettle or cook a stew, and there was a paraffin lamp hanging from the ceiling.

When I needed a bath, my father would heat a kettle of water and pour it into a basin.  Then he would strip me naked and scrub me all over, standing up.  …

For furniture, we had two chairs and a small table, and those, apart from a tiny cest of drawers, were all the home comforts we possessed.  They were all we needed. …

But the best bit, the very best best bestest bit, particularly as someone who lives in a caravan much like Danny’s with a child, was this bit about why Danny loves living in the caravan with his dad:

I really loved living in that gipsy caravan.  I loved it especially in the evenings when I was tucked up in my bunk and my father was telling me stories.  The paraffin lamp was turned low, and I would see lumps of wood glowing red-hot in the old stove and wonderful it was to be lying there snug and warm in my bunk in that little room.  Most wonderful of all was the feeling that when I went to sleep, my father would still be there, very close to me, sitting in his chair by the fire, or lying in the bunk above my own.

I can only hope that one day Pickles feels the same.

Do you know of any other children’s books feature caravans?  I’d love to add them to our collection…

Copyright information on the photo above: As the restrictions on this collection expired in 1986, the Library of Congress believes this image is in the public domain. However, the Carl Van Vechten estate has asked that use of Van Vechten’s photographs “preserve the integrity” of his work, i.e, that photographs not be colorized or cropped, and that proper credit is given to the photographer. For more information consult Restrictions on Van Vechten Photographs


0 Comments on “off grid kids: roald dahl on bauwagen life

  1. There are at least two Famous Five books in which the kids stay in caravans while on holiday (Five Go Off in a Caravan and Five Have a Wonderful Time) but the caravans aren’t described in a lot of detail and aren’t permanent homes.

    The Trolley Car Family by Eleanor Clymer was written in the era when many cities were changing from trolleys to buses. It’s about a motorman who refuses to drive a bus and instead buys a trolley and drives it to a rural area where he can haul it off the tracks with horses and turn it into a home for his family. Very charming (if old-fashioned) story, and my favorite part is the detailed floor plan of the trolley-home.

  2. I remember this being one of my favorite books of my childhood. Together with Matilda. Thank you for taking me back. I think I shall pay the library a visit this week and get it to read and enjoy again 🙂

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