Passages in the books by children’s author Roald Dahl have been extensively rewritten by its publisher to align with a woke agenda.
Hundreds of changes to Dahl’s celebrated children’s books, including the likes of Matilda, James and the Giant Peach, and The Witches, have been identified by Ed Cumming, Genevieve Holl-Allen, and Benedict Smith in an article for The Telegraph, some of them changing passages of the works in question virtually beyond recognition.
“The wonderful words of Roald Dahl can transport you to different worlds and introduce you to the most marvellous characters. 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,” publisher Puffin Books says of the changes — in other words, it is regularly rewriting those “wonderful works” to suit modish sensibilities, much as ‘Minitrue’ (the Ministry of Truth) continuously rewrote books and other records to suit the narrative of the powers that be in George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four.
“Words matter,” Puffin stated by way of further explanation.
Dahl, born in 1916 in Wales to Norwegian parents, has in recent years been accused of harbouring anti-Semitic sentiments in later life, complaining shortly before his death in 1990 that “[t]here aren’t any non-Jewish publishers anywhere, they control the media,” for example.
He served bravely as a Royal Air Force (RAF) fighter pilot against the Axis powers during the Second World War, however, taking part in a deadly dogfight with the Luftwaffe over Athens, for instance, and surviving a fiery crash in the North African desert.
In any event, Puffin, an imprint of German-owned Penguin Random House, has not taken aim at inappropriate political commentary or certain once-normal words now considered racially insensitive in Dahl’s books; it has taken an axe — or grafting tools — to passages whose only crime is not actively promoting a feminist agenda or suggesting that obesity may not be a positive trait, among other high crimes.
One passage from The Witches reading “Even if she is working as a cashier in a supermarket or typing letters for a businessman” is contorted into “Even if she is working as a top scientist or running a business” — with the real world existence of female cashiers and secretaries with male bosses apparently being considered beyond the pale.
Paleness, meanwhile, is in itself also considered controversial, as is the lack of it: references to being “White in the face”, “white as paper”, and “turning white” are changed to avoid the word “white” or removed altogether, while a simple description of two machines in Fantastic Mister Fox as “black” is excised.
Countless references to ugliness and fatness are also removed — “fat little brown mouse” becoming “little brown mouse” and Mrs Twit no longer being “ugly” — along with references to females being “pretty”.
References to a “Mrs Silver” becoming “Mrs Hoppy” are also removed, so the poor woman does not have to take her husband’s surname.
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Many changes are classics of Justin Trudeau-style woke censoriousness: “Cloud-Men” becoming “Cloud-People”, “twice the height of ordinary men” becoming “twice the average height of a person”, references to “mothers” and “fathers” becoming references to “parents”, “ladies and gentlemen” becoming “folks”, and so on.
There also appears to have been an overzealous approach to censoring expressions that could be linked, however tenuously, to mental health, with various remarks about this or that person or situation being “mad” or “dotty” ending up on the cutting room floor.
Other changes seem, if anything, counter-productive, with an explicitly non-sexist passage in The Witches reading “I do not wish to speak badly about women. Most women are lovely” being purged, for example.
Some passages have been edited in aid of unpersoning writers other than Dahl now considered undesirables — the eponymous character in Matilda, a voracious reader, is no longer said to devour the works of Heart of Darkness author Joseph Conrad and British imperialist poet Rudyard Kipling, but of the comparatively inoffensive Jane Austen and John Steinbeck.
The Telegraph notes that Dahl did approve some politically correct changes to his work during his lifetime, however — for example, the Oompa-Loompas of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory were originally pygmies from “the deepest and darkest part of the African jungle”.
The Telegraph also notes that the rights to the books were held by the Dahl estate until they were sold to Netflix in 2021. The streaming giant now controls the publishing of Dahl’s books, as well as any film adaptions of them. However, these latest changes to the books reportedly predate the Netflix deal by at least a year.
“Puffin and the Roald Dahl Story Company made the latest changes in conjunction with Inclusive Minds, which its spokesperson describes as ‘a collective for people who are passionate about inclusion and accessibility in children’s literature,’” according to The Telegraph.
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