Classic Roald Dahl books live to tell the story after backlash

Roald Dahl’s famous children’s books including Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Matilda will be published uncensored later this year says publisher Puffin, bowing to pressure after a public outcry over modernised versions.

United Kingdom Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was among those to have criticised the “airbrushing” of literature on Monday after a report in The Daily Telegraph showed 2022 versions of the children’s books had removed or changed references to gender, race and physical appearance to avoid causing offence.

The “enormously fat” Augustus Gloop from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was just “enormous” in last year’s version while Mrs Twit from The Twits was no longer “ugly”.

Phillip Wiegratz as Augustus Gloop in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, 2005. Photo: Mary Evans Picture Library.

News of the changes sparked a debate across the UK.

“Please remain true to your calling, unimpeded by those who may wish to curb the freedom of your expression or impose limits on your imagination. Enough said,” Camilla, the Queen Consort, told an audience of writers and publishers on Thursday in what UK media said was a reference to the Dahl row.

Puffin, which is part of United States-based publisher Penguin Random House, said on Friday that it would release 17 of Dahl’s titles under its Penguin logo later this year, with his original text unchanged.

Penguin Random House Children’s managing director Francesca Dow said in a statement that the decision to print the classic texts as well as the ones with changes came from listening to the debate over the last week, a discussion which she said showed the “extraordinary power” of Dahl’s books.

“By making both Puffin and Penguin versions available, we are offering readers the choice to decide how they experience Roald Dahl’s magical, marvellous stories,” Penguin Random House Children’s managing director Francesca Dow said in a statement.

Many of Dahl’s stories feature a repugnant adult character who a child who must overcome.

Dahl’s stinging and quirky descriptions of the adult antagonists, like Miss Trunchbull in Matilda, have delighted young readers for decades.

Pam Ferris plays Miss Trunchbull in 1996’s Matilda. Photo: Mary Evans Picture Library.

Puffin publishes Dahl’s works, including James and the Giant Peach and The Witches in partnership with the Roald Dahl Story Company.
Dahl died in 1990 aged 74.

In 2020 his family apologised for anti-Semitic remarks he had made, saying the comments were “incomprehensible to us”.

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