The author of James and the Giant Peach, Matilda, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and other beloved children’s books has been given a thorough — and totally unnecessary — cleansing by the woke publisher Puffin. Writer Roald Dahl just wasn’t sensitive enough for the hyper-sensitive wokesters at the British publishing house that produced all of his books, which ended up selling more than 250 million copies.
Dahl’s books have undergone thousands of changes, according to a massive study done by The Telegraph. And many of the changes have not only altered the appearance of some characters but have changed the intent of the author’s writing — watering down many points that Dahl was trying to make because they offend the sensitivities of some.
At another time, in another, more civilized age, this would be considered a sacrilege. “Intent” is what makes an author’s voice unique. It’s the most personal aspect of an author’s writing because that “intent” is the inner voice an author listens to — the voice that animates his characters and elevates his writing.
But like the fascists and communists of the past, the inner voice must be squelched lest it reveals truths at odds with what’s considered “acceptable” for the masses.
Puffin published a notice at the bottom of the copyright page of the most recent edition of the books. “The wonderful words of Roald Dahl can transport you to different worlds and introduce you to the most marvelous 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.”
In other words, these aren’t exactly the words written by Dahl but they’re much improved given that Dahl was a racist, anti-Semitic, misogynistic transphobe, and homophobe.
Language related to weight, mental health, violence, gender and race has been cut and rewritten. Remember the Cloud-Men in James and the Giant Peach? They are now the Cloud-People. The Small Foxes in Fantastic Mr Fox are now female. In Matilda, a mention of Rudyard Kipling has been cut and Jane Austen added. It’s Roald Dahl, but different.
It’s not the first time Dahl has been under scrutiny for his characterizations. The Oompa-Loompas, the midget-sized employees of Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, have been extensively reimagined over the years. But this extinguishing of Dahl’s voice is far beyond a few updated references.
In The Witches, the depictions of women have been scrubbed to the point of being unrecognizable.
Other alterations are about weight. “Fat little brown mouse” becomes “little brown mouse”. “‘Here’s your little boy,’ she said. ‘He needs to go on a diet’”, becomes “Here’s your little boy.”
In the earlier version, the narrator exclaims: “‘But what about the rest of the world?’ I cried. ‘What about ‘America and France and Holland and Germany? And what about Norway?’”. Now the sentence about America and France and Holland and Germany has been cut. The ‘rest of the world’ is evidently bigger now than it was.
This is only a sample of 59 changes found in The Witches, and it’s only one of Dahl’s books. Across the new editions, there are hundreds of edits, some bigger than others.
“We want to ensure Roald Dahl’s wonderful stories and characters continue to be enjoyed by all children today,” said a spokesperson for the Roald Dahl Story Company. “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.”
That’s prima facie, a lie based on just a few of many thousands of changes highlighted in The Telegraph article.
In Fantastic Mr Fox a description of tractors, saying that “the machines were both black”, has been cut. In the new Dahl world, it seems, neither machines nor animals can be described with a colour. Nor can anything be fat. “Bunce, the little pot-bellied dwarf”, is now plain old Bunce. The Small Foxes, previously sons, are now daughters, while Badger’s son has become a “little one”.
And on and on. Dahl died in 1990, long before the worst of cancel culture hit the publishing business. But these painfully woke editors never let it cross their minds what we were really losing in all these changes, alterations, and erasures. They were taking Roald Dahl’s soul from him. And there are no gallows high enough to punish the transgressors for this unspeakable crime.