Six key changes to Roald Dahl’s books sparking backlash

Changes to Roald Dahl's books to make them less offensive have been met with heavy criticism from other authors

The latest editions of Roald Dahl's children's books have been rewritten, with gender neutral terms being swapped in, and descriptions of "fat" characters being cut from the texts.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has condemned the changes, which include references relating to weight, mental health, violence, gender and race being cut out, the Telegraph reported.

Changes reportedly include removing the word “fat” from every book.

Charlie And The Chocolate Factory character Augustus Gloop is now instead described as “enormous.”

Roald Dahl Credit: PA

Gender-neutral terms have also been added. Where Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’s Oompa Loompas were orginally descirbed as “small men,” they are now “small people”.

In The Witches, at the end of a paragraph explaining that witches are bald beneath their wigs, a new line has been added saying: “There are plenty of other reasons why women might wear wigs and there is certainly nothing wrong with that,” the Guardian reports.

In earlier editions of James and the Giant Peach, the Centipede sings: “Aunt Sponge was terrifically fat, and tremendously flabby at that,” and, “Aunt Spiker was thin as a wire, and dry as a bone, only drier.”

These verses have been switched to the new lines: “Aunt Sponge was a nasty old brute, and deserved to be squashed by the fruit,” and, “Aunt Spiker was much of the same, and deserves half of the blame.”

In the same book The Cloud-Men have become Cloud-People.

Sir Salman Rushdie is a previous winner of the award Credit: Ian Nicholson/PA

Further references to gendered terms have been changed with “female” characters being cut.

Miss Trunchbull in Matilda, once a “most formidable female”, is now a “most formidable woman”.

Booker Prize winning author Salman Rushdie has characterised the edits as “absurd censorship,” adding in a tweet: “Puffin Books and the Dahl estate should be ashamed."

Mr Sunak followed suit, with his official Downing Street spokesman saying on Monday: “When it comes to our rich and varied literary heritage, the Prime Minister agrees with the BFG that we shouldn’t gobblefunk around with words.”

The official added: “I think it’s important that works of literature and works of fiction are preserved and not airbrushed. We have always defended the right to free speech and expression.”

The Roald Dahl Story Company confirmed it began a review into the books alongside publishers Puffin in 2020, and that any changes made were “small and carefully considered”.

A spokesperson for the Roald Dahl Story Company said: “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.”

The company added that it had worked alongside Inclusive Minds, a collective for people working towards inclusion and accessibility in children’s literature.

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The review was launched before Netflix bought the rights to Dahl’s entire catalogue of children’s books in 2021 with the streaming giant planning to create films, TV series, spin-off games, immersive experiences and theatre shows.

Dahl died in 1990 at the age of 74 but has since regularly topped lists of the nation’s favourite authors and his stories continue to be beloved by children around the world.

However, he was a controversial figure due to antisemitic comments made throughout his life.

In 2020, his family apologised, saying they recognised the “lasting and understandable hurt caused by Roald Dahl’s antisemitic statements”.