OMG they're going to cancel Augustus Gloop
You realize I soon won't be able to refer to our state leader as Gov Fatzo for fear the woke brigade will storm my house.
That's it. Hey UK! Kiss my ass, you Limey bastards.
Roald Dahl’s Children’s Books Changed to Make Them More Inclusive
U.K. government and others criticize the move to strip out words like ‘fat’ and ‘crazy’
By David Luhnow and Max Colchester, WSJ
Feb. 20, 2023 11:46 am ET
LONDON—The British publisher of Roald Dahl’s “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and other children’s books has made hundreds of changes to their texts—altering passages that refer to body weight, race and gender—in an effort to make them more acceptable to contemporary readers.
The modifications drew criticism from Britain’s Conservative government as well as some high-profile authors and free-speech advocates. U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s spokesman said Monday that “you should not gobblefunk around with words,” using a word coined by Mr. Dahl and used in his book “BFG” that means roughly “to tinker.”
Among the changes to the latest editions of Mr. Dahl’s books, the gluttonous boy Augustus Gloop in “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” is no longer described as “enormously fat,” and is now just “enormous.” The Cloud Men in “James and the Giant Peach” are now Cloud People. The giants in The BFG no longer eat “men, women and children,” but “people.”
The heroine of the book “Matilda” no longer reads Rudyard Kipling, but Jane Austen. A reference in the “Witches” to putting people in a meat grinder is removed.
Salman Rushdie, the Indian-born British author whose novels were banned in scores of Islamic countries for alleged blasphemy and who was attacked by a knife-wielding assailant last year, said the changes were unwarranted. “Roald Dahl was no angel but this is absurd censorship,” Mr. Rushdie wrote on Twitter. “Puffin Books and the Dahl estate should be ashamed.”
This isn’t the first time that a famous children’s book author has had words revised posthumously for the present day. The British author Enid Blyton, whose books on childhood adventure became bestsellers in the 1930s, had many of her works reedited after her death to change words including “queer” and update some terminology.
Six illustrated books from American author Dr. Seuss stopped being published in 2021 after a review by the company in charge of the late author’s works concluded they contained offensive images.
But the reworking of Mr. Dahl’s works is possibly the most high-profile example of a post publication edit, experts say.
Puffin Books, a division of Penguin Random House, didn’t respond to requests for comment. The Roald Dahl Story Company, which owns the rights to the books and was acquired by Netflix Inc. in 2021, also didn’t respond to a request for comment. Netflix said the decision to make the changes occurred before the acquisition.
In the latest editions of the books, Penguin Random House says in a note on the copyright page: “Words matter. 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 publisher gives thanks to U.K. firm Inclusive Minds for its work on the books. On its website, Inclusive Minds says: “We believe in breaking down barriers and challenging stereotypes to ensure that every child can access and enjoy great books that are representative of our diverse society.”
Netflix has said it is planning a range of content based on the hit books including films and theater productions. Mr. Dahl died in 1990.
Publishers tweaking texts carries risks, said Rachel Potter, a literature professor at the University of East Anglia. “On the same logic you could censor a text because you don’t like it because it represents trans-sexuality,” she said. Editing could also change the meaning of Mr. Dahl’s books, she says. “The language and the story lines are not really separate,” she said.
Physical descriptions have been altered. The word “fat” has been removed as well as “ugly.” The description of a “fat little brown mouse” was changed to “little brown mouse.” The words “black” and “white” have often been removed: characters no longer turn “white with fear” and the BFG’s “flashing black eyes” and now just “flashing eyes.” In Matilda, Miss Trunchbull’s “great horsey face” becomes simply her “face.”
Many references to gender, as well as reference to people with mental illness as “mad” or “crazy,” have also been removed. Mothers and fathers are now “parents.” The giants in BFG no longer eat “men, women and children,” but “people.” In the same book, the boys’ dreams are no longer separate from girls’ dreams, excising a long passage about how the hero Sophie thinks boys’ dreams are sillier than girls’ dreams.
In “Witches,” a paragraph about how the witches wear wigs to hide telltale bald heads used to include an admonishment from the hero’s grandmother: “You can’t go round pulling the hair of every lady you meet, even if she is wearing gloves. Just you try it and see what happens.” That now reads: “There are plenty of other reasons why women might wear wigs and there is certainly nothing wrong with that.”
Philip Pullman, a bestselling author, noted that millions of Mr. Dahl’s books are already in widespread circulation in school libraries and homes around the world. “Are you going to round up all the books and cross them out with a big, black pen?” he told the BBC Today show on Monday. Mr. Pullman offered another solution: “If Dahl offends us, let him go out of print.”
Suzanne Nossel, the CEO of Pen America, an advocacy group of protect open expression, said selective editing to make words of literature conform to particular sensibilities could represent “a dangerous new weapon.” She added: “Those who might cheer specific edits to Dahl’s work should consider how the power to rewrite books might be used in the hands of those who do not share their values and sensibilities,” she wrote on Twitter.
Mr. Dahl’s books were controversial even soon after they were published in the 1960s. In the first edition of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” the Oompa-Loompas were black pygmies, enslaved by Willy Wonka from the darkest parts of “the African jungle.” Mr. Dahl himself rewrote the characters in the late 1960s.
In 2020, the Dahl family issued an apology for the writer’s anti-Semitism. “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,” a statement on the Roald Dahl Story Company website reads.
In the original “BFG,” the giant describes the differences in eating people of various nationalities: Greeks used to taste “greasy,” while the Japanese were so small the giant needed to eat several more than, say, plumper Americans. Those references have also been removed.
Write to David Luhnow at firstname.lastname@example.org and Max Colchester at Max.Colchester@wsj.com