Classic children’s books by author Roald Dahl have been partly rewritten to remove language now deemed too offensive.
References to people being “fat” and “ugly” have been removed from much-loved works including Matilda, The BFG and James and the Giant Peach.
The Oompa Loompas from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory are also now gender-neutral.
Puffin, the publisher of Dahl’s classic works, hired sensitivity readers to make changes to certain portions of the author’s wording in the UK editions as part of an effort to ensure the books “can continue to be enjoyed by all today”.
British newspaper The Telegraph reported Augustus Gloop, the chubby character featured in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, is now described as “enormous”, while Mr Twit, a character from The Twits is described as just “beastly” instead of “ugly and beastly”.
In James and the Giant Peach, Puffin, part of global books giant Penguin Random House, has changed the character of Miss Sponge so she is no longer described as “the fat one”, Miss Spider’s head is no longer “black”, and the Earthworm has given up its “lovely pink” skin for “lovely smooth skin”.
Roald Dahl’s book are some of the most loved and successful works for children.
In Dahl’s The Witches, first published in 1983, a paragraph noting that witches are bald beneath their wigs includes a new line that reads: “There are plenty of other reasons why women might wear wigs and there is certainly nothing wrong with that.”
Another passage from The Witches that originally described a “fat little brown mouse” has been changed to “little brown mouse” and a section that used to be “‘Here’s your little boy,’ she said. ‘He needs to go on a diet’,” has been altered to read simply: “Here’s your little boy,” reported Fox News.
In Matilda, the description of Mrs Trunchbull’s “great horsey face” has been changed to just “face”, and “eight nutty little idiots” now reads “eight nutty little boys”.
The changes have also resulted in the inclusion of gender-neutral language.
The Oompa Loompas in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory were once described by Dahl as “small men”, but now they are known in the rewritten books as “small people”.
Similarly, in James and the Giant Peach, the Cloud-Men are now Cloud-People.
A notice that sits at the bottom of the copyright page of Dahl’s latest written editions reads: “The wonderful words of Roald Dahl can transport you to different worlds and introduce you to the most marvellous characters. This book was written many years ago, and so we regularly review the language to ensure that it can continue to be enjoyed by all today”.
The Roald Dahl Story Company, which owns the works, has defended the decision, concluding that “it’s not unusual to review the language” used in stories of the past and that the changes were “small and carefully considered”.
“We want to ensure Roald Dahl’s wonderful stories and characters continue to be enjoyed by all children today,” a spokesman for the company, which is ultimately owned by Netflix, told Fox News Digital.
“When publishing new print runs of books written years ago, it’s not unusual to review the language used alongside updating other details including a book’s cover and page layout. Our guiding principle throughout has been to maintain the storylines, characters, and the irreverence and sharp-edged spirit of the original text. Any changes made have been small and carefully considered.
“As part of our process to review the language used we worked in partnership with Inclusive Minds, a collective for people who are passionate about inclusion and accessibility in children’s literature,” the spokesman added.
“The current review began in 2020, before Dahl was acquired by Netflix. It was led by Puffin and Roald Dahl Story Company together.”
Dahl, who died in 1990, has come under scrutiny in recent years for alleged anti-Semitic comments he made prior to his death.
In December 2020, Dahl’s family released a statement three decades after his death to apologise for the “hurt” his books caused.
“The Dahl family and the Roald Dahl Story Company deeply apologise for the lasting and understandable hurt caused by some of Roald Dahl’s statements,” the family’s brief statement read.
“Those prejudiced remarks are incomprehensible to us and stand in marked contrast to the man we knew and to the values at the heart of Roald Dahl’s stories, which have positively impacted young people for generations.”
It concludes: “We hope that, just as he did at his best, at his absolute worst, Roald Dahl can help remind us of the lasting impact of words”. - news.com.au