The publisher of Roald Dahl has defended changes made to his books as ‘minimal’ and insisted it has a ‘significant responsibility’ to young readers.
Puffin hired sensitivity readers to rewrite chunks of Dahl’s texts to ensure the books ‘can continue to be enjoyed by all today’. The move has sparked fury among some literary fans including acclaimed writer Sir Salman Rushdie who branded the move as ‘absurd censorship’.
Edits include descriptions of characters’ physical appearances for example removing the word ‘fat’, making some characters gender neutral, and references to the colours ‘black’ and ‘white’ are also said to have been removed.
The publisher maintains that the spirit of the iconic books remains unchanged.
A spokesman for Puffin told The Bookseller: ‘Children as young as five or six read Roald Dahl books, and often they are the first stories they will read independently. With that comes a significant responsibility, as it might be the first time they are navigating written content without a parent, teacher or carer.
‘It is not unusual for publishers to review and update language, as the meaning and impact of words changes over time.’
Puffin insists that the spirit of the iconic books remains unchanged amid backlash
‘Roald Dahl’s stories remain unchanged and his mischievous spirit undiminished,’ a spokesman for the publisher said – pictured is Roald Dahl
They said that in the last year, they have published updated editions of 16 of Dahl’s books, by working with the Roald Dahl Story Company and insisted these were ‘small’ edits to text and changes to covers and layouts.
Puffin said that edits were even made in the author’s lifetime.
‘Roald Dahl’s stories remain unchanged and his mischievous spirit undiminished – they still celebrate and showcase his unique voice and his brilliantly rich storytelling,’ the spokesman added.
Edits have been made to descriptions of characters’ physical appearances – the new editions no longer use the word ‘fat’, for example, which has been cut from every book, and the Oompa Loompas from Charlie And The Chocolate Factory are now gender neutral.
Elsewhere, in The Witches, ‘old hag’ has been changed to ‘old crow’, while ‘you must be mad, woman’ is now ‘you must be out of your mind’. And in Matilda, Miss Trunchbull no longer has a ‘great horsey face.’
References to the colours ‘black’ and ‘white’ are also said to have been removed, with the BFG not able to wear a black cloak and the description ‘turning white with fear’ axed.
Puffin Books is the company which publishes the Dahl novels. It is the children’s division of Penguin Random House.
And while it has decided to make controversial edits to the classics, its European counterparts will not be following suit, with some criticising the move.
Hundreds of changes were made to the original text, extinguishing Dahl’s colourful and memorable descriptions, some over fifty years old, to make his characters less grotesque
In the new version of The Twits, Mrs Twit’s ‘fearful ugliness’ has been chopped to ‘ugliness’
Publishers Puffin and the Roald Dahl Story Company have changed how Gloop (pictured far left in 1971’s Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory) is described, with the character no longer called fat in new versions of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
In The Witches (pictured), ‘old hag’ has been changed to ‘old crow’, while ‘you must be mad, woman’ is now ‘you must be out of your mind’
How the stories changed
CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY
2001 – Mrs Salt was a great fat creature with short legs, and she was blowing like a rhinoceros
2022 – Mrs Salt was so out of breath, she was blowing like a rhinoceros
2001 – Mrs Twit may have been ugly and she may have been beastly, but she was not stupid
2022 – Mrs Twit may have been beastly, but she was not stupid.
2001 – Get your mother or father
2022 – Get your family
2001 – ‘BFG,’ she said, ‘would you please tell these rather dim-witted characters exactly what to do.’
2022 – ‘BFG,’ she said, ‘would you please tell them exactly what to do’.
THE ENORMOUS CROCODILE
2001 – We eat little boys and girls
2022 – We eat little children
2001 – ‘I beg you to tell me Mr Hoppy! I’ll be your slave for life.’
2022 – ‘I beg you to tell me Mr Hoppy! You’ll be my hero for life.’
FANTASTIC MR FOX
2001 – Bunce, the little pot-bellied dwarf, looked up at Bean…
2022 – Bunce looked up at Bean…
JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH
2001 – They were like a couple of hunters who had just shot an elephant
2022 – They were like a couple of hunters who had just shot their prey
Joris van de Leur, director of De Fontein, which has published Dahl translations for decades, will demand an explanation during talks in Italy in two weeks’ time, reports the Times, after he was left ‘surprised’ by the changes.
Mr de Leur said stereotypes and exaggerations ‘make children think about good and evil’, telling the Trouw newspaper: ‘If you take them all out, it loses its power.’
The decision to edit Dahl’s classics has triggered a wave of outrage in the UK, with 98 per cent of MailOnline readers demanding the best-selling author’s works are kept in their original form.
Now parents have said they will be boycotting the updated novels as the changes were branded as ‘absolutely insane’, with one saying: ‘If you’re that easily offended, then stay at home wrapped in bubble wrap.’
‘I find the whole thing utterly horrific and shudder to think that there are enough people in the profession to cheer this on,’ wrote one person on popular parenting forum Mumsnet.
‘Write your own books and leave other books alone. If you are that easily offended, then stay at home wrapped in bubble wrap.’
One parent raged: ‘This is absolutely insane. These are children’s books that have been beloved for decades. I won’t be buying the new versions for my two little ones… seriously, what’s going to be targeted next? Shakespeare?’
Hundreds of changes were made to the original text, extinguishing Dahl’s colourful and memorable descriptions, some over fifty years old, to make his characters less grotesque.
Mrs Twit’s ‘fearful ugliness’ has been chopped to ‘ugliness’ and Mrs Hoppy in Esio Trot is not an ‘attractive middle-aged lady’ but a ‘kind middle-aged lady’.
Gender is also eliminated, with books no longer referring to ‘female’ characters.
Miss Trunchbull in Matilda, once a ‘most formidable female’, is now a ‘most formidable woman’, while her ‘great horsey face’ is now called ‘her face’.
Oompa-Loompas, who were once ‘small men’, are now ‘small people’ and Fantastic Mr Fox’s three sons have become daughters.
Passages not written by the late author, who died in 1990, have also been added by the publisher to complete their new editions.
MailOnline earlier contacted Penguin Random House for comment.