Editors at Penguin’s children’s imprint Puffin have taken a red pencil to the works of iconic, but divisive British writer Roald Dahl, known for “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and “Matilda” among many others.
An extensive report by U.K. newspaper The Telegraph says “language related to weight, mental health, violence, gender and race has been cut and rewritten.”
In 1964 novel “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” which has been adapted twice as films in 1971 and 2005, starring Gene Wilder and Johnny Depp respectively, for example, the phrase “enormously fat” has been edited to just “enormous.” The same phrase in 1970 book “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” adapted as an animated film by Wes Anderson with a voice cast of George Clooney and Meryl Streep in 2009, has also been edited 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 edited out, including in “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” altered from “most formidable female” to “most formidable woman”; The Oompa Loompas from “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” changed from “small men” to “small people”; and “Bunce, the little pot-bellied dwarf” “Fantastic Mr. Fox” to just Bunce.
Puffin and the Roald Dahl Story Company made the edits with Inclusive Minds, a collective that specializes in “inclusion and accessibility in children’s literature,” according to a spokesperson.
The report quotes the copyright page of Puffin’s new editions of Dahl’s books, saying: “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.”
A spokesperson for the Roald Dahl Story Company told Variety: “We want to ensure that Roald Dahl’s wonderful stories and characters continue to be enjoyed by all children today. 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 current review began in 2020, before Dahl was acquired by Netflix. It was led by Puffin and Roald Dahl Story Company together.”
There have been allegations of misogyny, racism and anti-Semitism against Dahl, who died in 1990. In 2020, his family issued an apology for the writer’s “prejudiced remarks.”
Variety has reached out to Puffin for comment.