Roald Dahl Edited to Make Language More Inclusive

New editions of famed children's author Roald Dahl's books have been reviewed to alter text referring to weight, mental health, gender, and race for inclusivity. The changes were first reported by the Telegraph newspaper....

Roald Dahl Edited to Make Language More Inclusive
Image credit: Telegraph
audio-thumbnail
0:00
/0:00

Facts

  • New editions of famed children's author Roald Dahl's books have been reviewed to alter text referring to weight, mental health, gender, and race for inclusivity. The changes were first reported by the Telegraph newspaper.1
  • Edited passages include swapping the word 'fat' to describe Augustus Gloop in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to 'enormous,' changing Mrs. Twit's description in the Twits from 'ugly and beastly' to simply 'beastly,' and editing classic text The BFG so that the titular character's coat is no longer black and Mary goes 'still as a statue' rather than 'white as a sheet.' References to being 'crazy' and 'mad' have also been removed, while 'a weird African language' in the Twits is now 'an African language.'2
  • Hundreds of changes have been undertaken by Puffin so that, the publisher said, the texts 'can continue to be enjoyed by all today.' A review of Dahl's collection reportedly began in 2020, after a new Hollywood production of The Witches faced backlash over the depiction of the Grand Witch with fingers missing. Paralympians and charities complained the representation was offensive, leading Warner Bros to apologize.3
  • A spokesperson for the Roald Dahl Story Company — which owns the rights to the corpus in collaboration with Puffin, and was acquired by Netflix in 2021 — has said that any and all alterations to the texts implemented were 'small and carefully considered.'4
  • Critics — including Booker Prize-winning author Salman Rushdie and deputy literary editor of London's Sunday Times newspaper, Laura Hackett — however, have hit back at the news, reacting angrily and even deeming it censorship.5
  • Dahl died in 1990 at age 74 — his books have sold over 300M copies worldwide in 68 languages. The review was carried out in collaboration with Inclusive Minds, a group working towards improving the inclusivity and accessibility of children's literature.6

Sources: 1Itv news, 2BBC News, 3The telegraph, 4Rte.ie, 5Guardian and 6Associated Press.

Narratives

  • Left narrative, as provided by Guardian. It is very common during print runs of new books to review the language of the text as well as other publication features like cover and page layout. These edits do nothing to diminish the original wit or spirit of the text and, while the original storylines and characters have been left untouched, the considered alterations make the texts far more inclusive and appealing to modern audiences in an age of rising cultural sensitivity.
  • Right narrative, as provided by Washington examiner. This decision has rightly prompted widespread condemnation from the literary community. Arguments that Dahl's children's books are in some way bigoted are ludicrous and censoring his satire is nothing short of modern McCarthyism. The review is also an insult to the intelligence of audiences, who should be allowed to interpret and respond to literature on an individual basis, rather than have publishers curate and sterilize their experience of storytelling.