The editors of Penguin’s children’s imprint Puffin took a red pencil to look at the works of the British cult author Roald Dahl, who is known for, among other things, “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and “Matilda”.
According to a lengthy report by the British newspaper The Telegraph: “Language related to weight, mental health, violence, gender and race has been abridged and rewritten.”
For example, in the 1964 novel Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which was filmed twice in 1971 and 2005, starring Gene Wilder and Johnny Depp respectively, the phrase “enormously fat” was changed to “enormous.” The same sentence in the 1970 book Fantastic Mr. Fox, adapted as an animated film by Wes Anderson in 2009 and starring George Clooney and Meryl Streep, was also changed to “enormous.”
The report compares the 2001 editions of Dahl’s children’s books to the 2022 editions and finds that the word “fat” has been systematically excised in, among others, The Enormous Crocodile (1978), James and the Giant Peach” (1961), “The Twits” (1980) and “The Witches” (1983).
Other examples of Puffin’s editing include the description of Miss Trunchbull in “Matilda” being changed from “Most Impressive Woman” to “Most Impressive Woman”; The Oompa Loompas from “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” went from “little men” to “little people”; and “Bunce, the little pot-bellied dwarf” “Fantastic Mr. Fox” to just Bunce.
According to a spokesperson, Puffin and the Roald Dahl Story Company made the changes with Inclusive Minds, a collective specializing in “inclusiveness and accessibility in children’s literature.”
Citing the copyright page of Puffin’s new editions of Dahl’s books, the report says, “This book was written many years ago, and as such we regularly review the language to ensure it can still be enjoyed by all today.”
A spokesman for the Roald Dahl Story Company told Variety, “We want to make sure Roald Dahl’s wonderful stories and characters are enjoyed by all children today. When new editions of books written years ago are published, it’s not uncommon to review the language used while updating other details, including a book’s cover and page layout. Our guiding principle was to retain the storylines, characters, and irreverence and hard-edged spirit of the original text. Any changes made were small and carefully considered.
“As part of our language review process, we worked with Inclusive Minds, a collective for people passionate about inclusion and accessibility in children’s literature. The current review began in 2020, before Dahl was acquired by Netflix. It was co-directed by Puffin and the Roald Dahl Story Company.”
There were allegations of misogyny, racism and anti-Semitism against Dahl, who died in 1990. In 2020, his family apologized for the writer’s “biased statements.”
Variety has reached out to Puffin for comment.