Stay up to date with notifications from The Independent

Notifications can be managed in browser preferences.

Roald Dahl books rewritten to remove controversial language

Augustus Gloop is now described as ‘enormous’ rather than ‘fat’

Maryam Zakir-Hussain
Saturday 18 February 2023 16:48 GMT
Roald Dahl children’s books rewritten to remove controversial language
Roald Dahl children’s books rewritten to remove controversial language (Getty Images)

Fat, ugly and flabby are among the hundreds of words that have been removed from Roald Dahl’s children’s books so the stories “can continue to be enjoyed by all today”, it has been reported.

Publishers have made a string of changes to Dahl’s work, primarily around language related to weight, mental health, violence, gender and race. They have also inserted sentences into the books which were not written by the author.

In Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, for example, Augustus Gloop is described as “enormous” rather than “fat”.

Mrs Twits from The Twits is now just “beastly” rather than “ugly and beastly”.

References to “female” characters have also been changed to say “woman”, according to The Daily Telegraph. Miss Trunchball, for example, is described as a “most formidable woman” instead of “female”.

In The Witches, 59 changes were said to have been made, the publication said.

One paragraph explaining that witches are bald beneath their wigs ends with the new line: “There are plenty of other reasons why women might wear wigs and there is certainly nothing wrong with that.”

Gender-neutral terms have also been added, it was said. The Oompa Loompas in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory are now called “small people” instead of “small men”. References to mother and father have been replaced with “parents”, with mentions of girls and boys becoming “children”.

All references to ‘female’ have been removed from texts such as Matilda (Getty Images)

Other changes apparently include “great flock of ladies” becoming “great group of ladies” and “the old hag” replaced with “the old crow”. “She needs a really good spanking” has been changed to “She needs a really good talking to”. Mentions of skin colour have also been removed.

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 note from Puffin in the latest edition of the books says: “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.”

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

Roald Dahl died in 1990 and his books have sold more than 250 million copies worldwide.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in