Roald Dahl wrote many beloved, macabre books for children. (And for adults as well. Check out the nightmarish short story “Skin” sometime.) He was also an open anti-Semite whose works often traded in racial stereotypes. His work has sometimes been altered. For instance, in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the Oompa Loompas were originally Black African pygmies. (Dahl himself changed that one.) But a new line of editions of his children’s books may have gone too far.
As per The Guardian, Puffin Books hired “sensitivity readers” to pore over Dahl’s books and ensure they “can continue to be enjoyed by all today.” They made hundreds of changes. The adjective “fat” was removed from several books. Augustus Gloop, the rotund child from Chocolate Factory, is now only described as “enormous.” The antiheroes of The Twits are no longer “ugly and beastly,” but simply “beastly.”
Many were minor, arguably arbitrary tweaks. Miss Trunchbill in Matilda, originally described as a “most formidable female,” is now a “most formidable woman.” The Oompa Loompas used to be “small men”; they’re now “small people.”
You can some more changes below.
Roald Dahl, 2001 vs 2022 editions:
In James and the Giant Peach, the Cloud-Men have become Cloud-People, Miss Sponge is no longer “the fat one”, Miss Spider’s head is no longer “black” and the Earthworm no longer has “lovely pink” skin but “lovely smooth skin”. pic.twitter.com/zd4A7uBUbA
— Incunabula (@incunabula) February 18, 2023
“Fat little brown mouse” has become “little brown mouse”. “‘Here’s your little boy,’ she said. ‘He needs to go on a diet’”, becomes “Here’s your little boy.”
In Esio Trot, in 2022, middle-aged ladies can no longer be attractive, they can only be kind… pic.twitter.com/TNFAXSVe9o
— Incunabula (@incunabula) February 18, 2023
Genuinely laughing out loud at some of these awful purse-lipped tin-eared changes to Roald Dahl. Hilariously terrible. pic.twitter.com/kz7jNJDgNP
— Niall Gooch (@niall_gooch) February 18, 2023
This change to Roald Dahl is so preposterously, laughably pointless it makes you wonder whether the publisher is aware that fiction is an act of creatively making things up. pic.twitter.com/FZ84I3toPB
— Stig Abell (@StigAbell) February 18, 2023
While Dahl’s real-life bigotry is fairly well-known, his work continues to be read and adapted into movies and TV shows. Netflix forked over tens of thousands last year for his complete works. Willy Wonka is coming to the big screen for a third time, now as hot Timothée Chalamet. The 1971 film Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory remains a stone cold classic.
Will these revisions protect young readers from retrograde mores? Or is it destroying a late artist’s work? (Again, Dahl was responsible for the Oompa Loompa change.) Whatever the case, the changes seemed to please few, with many marveling not only at the extent of the changes, but also at their poor quality.
Haven’t seen a single person of any political leaning say the Roald Dahl edits are good. No one seems to have asked for this and it was executed abysmally. Genuinely baffled as to how they get through presumably a large number of reasonable people at Penguin?! https://t.co/KJPYAAe7F6
— Summer Anne Burton (@summeranne) February 18, 2023
NO ONE ASKED FOR THIS https://t.co/IA9mjLq0BH
— Maris Kreizman (@mariskreizman) February 18, 2023
The thing that annoys me about the Roald Dahl changes is how stupid they are. A ban on the word “fat” yet keeping in the rest of the description in which Augustus Gloop is clearly fat pic.twitter.com/1Grm0gMwZJ
— Anita Singh (@anitathetweeter) February 18, 2023
i have mutuals across the political spectrum and it’s cracking me up that none of them seem to like the news of Roald Dahl’s books being rewritten
— Jessica (@BadPostsLLC) February 18, 2023
The thing about Roald Dahl is that his writing is in fact kind of dark and grotesque and edgy and mean, certainly a good deal more than your average children’s book. That’s part of the appeal!! https://t.co/zjuTW5qiUS
— StephenM (@greilsarriskirk) February 18, 2023
Woman hired by Puffin Books to rewrite Roald Dahl classics is revealed to be eminent Italian artist. pic.twitter.com/hJNFQofKTq
— Kate Clarke (@kteltowers) February 18, 2023
Some suggested what publishers and readers alike could do instead.
Keep Roald Dahl books as they are but have a little note at the beginning explaining that he was a cunt.
— Richard Blandford (@rblandford) February 18, 2023
While they’re at it, one more revision should be to change “Roald Dahl” to whoever wrote this shit. https://t.co/6a9IzprCdk
— Mark Harris (@MarkHarrisNYC) February 18, 2023
I believe that modern media & books etc for kids should be more inclusive & respectable, but on the other hand we shouldn’t censor the past. Roald Dahl’s books are language & attitudes of their time. No they’re not right, but should create conversation & educate! As WB once said pic.twitter.com/P9qHqcWK6m
— Animation Fanatical (@Tre_Animation) February 18, 2023
If you don’t like Roald Dahl’s work, it seems to me the answer is to read someone else’s work, not change Dahl’s work to suit your tastes https://t.co/tqBIcY1Ode
— Lauren Morrill (@LaurenEMorrill) February 18, 2023
Instead of hiring ‘sensitivity writers’ to butcher Roald Dahl’s work, just raise your kids to have a backbone and not be offended by every single thing. That way they won’t think words are ‘literal violence’ in the future when real life hits them https://t.co/vrWNjX63M1
— The Sting (@TSting18) February 18, 2023
Changing words in old books—Roald Dahl’s here—to align with current language norms is wrong.
Think the books aged poorly (or were never good)? Don’t read them. Change some words as you’re reading to your kid? Up to you.
Don’t bowdlerize and take the originals away from others. https://t.co/gakyReQt2A
— Nicholas Grossman (@NGrossman81) February 18, 2023
(Via The Guardian)