For decades, beloved author Roald Dahl’s books have entertained children and parents alike.
The British author, best known for classics like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach, and Matilda, passed away in 1990, but his legendary works live on today, through numerous film adaptations and constant reprints of his most popular works.
But the newest editions of his books has critics up in arms.
Puffin, in conjunction with the Roald Dahl Story Company, have opted to edit out words they deemed “offensive” in the latest editions, prompting much outrage from readers around the world.
Censoring the Past?
According to The Roald Dahl Story Company, which manages the rights to Dahl’s books, says they simply wanted to update some of the language in the books to reflect modern sensibilities and ensure that “Dahl’s wonderful stories and characters continue to be enjoyed by all children today.”
They worked with an organization called Inclusive Minds, which describes themselves as a “collective for people who are passionate about inclusion, diversity, equality and accessibility in children's literature.”
You might say the changes largely went over like a giant peach.
Augustus Gloop is no longer “fat”, he’s “enormous”. Oompa-Loompas are no longer “small men”, they are “small people”. Even words whose meaning has since shifted culturally, like “queer”, have been changed. In James and the Giant Peach, the “queer ramshackle house” is now a “strange ramshackle house”.
There are hundreds of similar revisions across his many books.
Critics were quick to hit back against the changes, with many decrying them as 1984-style censorship.
"Roald Dahl was no angel, but this is absurd censorship,” wrote author Salman Rushdie, himself no stranger to literary criticism. “Puffin Books and the Dahl estate should be ashamed.”
Rushdie was famously the target of a fatwa in the 1980s, a religious decree from Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini that wished death upon the author over alleged anti-Muslim content in his 1988 novel, The Satanic Verses.
Scottish actor Brian Cox also weighed in on the Dahl collection, saying “I really do believe [Dahl’s books are] of their time and they should be left alone.”
“If we start down the path of trying to correct for perceived slights instead of allowing readers to receive and react to books as written, we risk distorting the work of great authors and clouding the essential lens that literature offers on society,” wrote Suzanne Nossel, CEO of PEN America, a writing collective which advocates for freedom of expression.
A Complicated Legacy
Dahl’s legacy has been the subject of much debate in recent years as some rather ugly beliefs of his have resurfaced.
For example, throughout his life, Dahl made and wrote numerous antisemitic comments.
A few months before his death in 1990, he outright stated he held antisemitic views. “I’m certainly anti-Israeli, and I’ve become antisemitic in as much as that you get a Jewish person in another country like England strongly supporting Zionism. I think they should see both sides,” Dahl said.
On prior occasions, he’d called Jews “barbarous murderers”, referenced “Jewish bankers”, and even seemed to imply that Hitler’s persecution of them wasn’t unwarranted. “I mean, there’s always a reason why anti-anything crops up anywhere,” he once said. “Even a stinker like Hitler didn’t just pick on them for no reason.”
Some have compared Dahl’s complicated legacy to that of embattled Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling, who has been accused of making transphobic comments.
Still, even harsh critics of Dahl’s comments say his works shouldn’t be censored or rewritten. Author Philip Pullman stated simply that Dahl’s works “should be allowed to fade away. Let him go out of print.”
What do you think? Should books, especially books for children, be regularly updated to reflect modern sensibilities?
Is this a case of censorship, or simply a smart commercial move? And should an author’s personal views impact how we view their creative works?
Update 2/24/23: Amid growing criticism, Penguin Random House, the publisher of Roald Dahl's collection, announced it will re-issue the original books alongside the updated versions, giving people the choice on which version to buy.
Oh PUH-LEAZE. Enough already. As a Native American I have no problem being called a "Red man" Nor did I have any problem with the tomahawk chop for the Cleveland Indians. This stupidity of changing words because they dont fit the flavor of the month needs to stop, otherwise you cant whine and cry when the name you were called is wiped and now you have to find a different name.Want to me called something other then a Mr or Miss or Mz? Oh wait we cant do that because it may offend someone. You try and use any slang that other people cant use, whoops nope as that will also be not allowed. This "woke" BS and cancel culture has to stop as of yesterday!
I read today that the Indianapolis Indians have paired up with the Indiana Miami Tribe to properly represent the history of Indigenous Peoples in Indiana. The tribe agrees to no name change and do think the association will be mutually beneficial.
Indianapolis Indians are a minor league team. And the ONLY Native American Tribes/Clans/Nations that lived in indiana around where the Indianapolis Indians are located were the following Shawnee, Wea, Potawatomi, Delaware, Wyandot, Kickapoo, Piankashaw, Chickasaw. And sadly the Miami's started in Green Bay, Wisconsin, circa 1650. During the early 1700s they dwelled near present Fort Wayne, Indiana. And Ft Wayne Indiana is well over 100 miles from Indianapolis meaning that by horseback it would be well over 2 months travel for them to get from Ft Wayne to Indianapolis. So technically nothing they do or say can be used as they were nowhere around nor did they have any land close to central indiana. but I appreciate your post, thank you.
Two months by horse ? ! ? You obviously know nothing about traveling by horse. Riding would take less than a week. They do an annual Pony Express re-enactment in Arizona in which they cover a longer distance in less than a week (a few days, actually). If traveling by travois, Native Americans have been known to cover over 10 miles a day and closer to 15-20. Just plain walking would only take a couple of weeks (2, maybe 3). Shorter if they really hoof it. As for the "level" of the team, that's a non sequitur. Teams from elementary school to pro have become victims of the ridiculousness of PC and Woke. Have you looked at team names of Native American schools? Many have names/words/labels that people are objecting to when found in pro team names yet nothing is said or done about them. Talk about hypocrisy. If it's not done for/to everybody (definition of democracy), then it shouldn't be done at all.
The guy who went crying to ULC over Carl calling him out on pretending to be a Native American suddenly has "no problem" with the term red man or the tomahawk chop, I'm sure we're all just be plenty shocked at this revelation.
Thank you Daniel. You just saved me a post!!
Nope; he didn't appear to. ;-)
We’re just trying to protect children from learning inappropriate words before they can understand why they are inappropriate.
"WE're just trying…" Are you claiming to have a personal hand in this?
What inappropriate words are in "to India with Rudyard Kipling"? (I realize why they cut it—COLONIALISM!!! As if a child would comprehend that…)
We live in a world where adults are constantly cussing, the radio is blaring songs where f--k and n---er are every third word, but—my God!—we must "protect" children from the "inappropriate" word… fat.
Right. Okay. Whatever.
No I dont care if you are on the right or the left. Changing the words around so they fit what you believe in is wrong. You dont like the book then dont buy it. Simple as that. The only time you should have ANY say in it is if the book is written for 17 years and up and its in a school library or a public library that you are helping to pay for with your tax monies. Notice I said you should have a say, I never said that you should be able to force the change. Now if the majority of the tax payers want the book removed, or moved to an age appropriate section, then so be it.
I read the samples in the article. In some cases, I have no idea why they made the changes. Some were complete rewrites. All that aside, I see no reason to change books to please a small section of a modern audience. The more one tries to please everyone, the less one succeeds. And destroys the product in the effort.
I've read stories written in the 1920s and 1930s. The language is quite different from modern speech. But I love the fact that I can essentially visit the past for a while by being immersed in the language and imagery of that time. They used words differently. But learning their meanings in context adds to the feel of the literary work. The stories would be ruined if rewritten for modern, "inclusive" readers.
Add on to the fact that authors very often choose their words carefully to create a specific mood or setting. Changing the words of the author alters the imagery and the mood. Maybe even destroys a good bit of wordplay or humorous line.
I think we should stop doing things like this and let people decide on their own if they like the classics as written or not. They are free to buy and read them or not.
As a writer myself I believe that an authors work needs to stand as is. Words change meaning too often to rewrite a published work with each change. At worst a small notice could be be printed on each book indicating that it was written at a time when the words had different meanings. This is not censorship but rewriting history. Shades of 1984 - the book.
My thoughts, too. If we sanitize the past, how can we properly learn from it?
Oh dear! Let's not upset the liberal woke. I'd hate their upper cheek piercings, or nose rings, to go rusty from their salty tears.
Bring back Pansy Potter, Amos and Andy, The Black and White Minstrals, the Golliwog on Robertson's Marmalade jars. etc,.
I loved reading Enid Byron books like "The Famous Five" or "The Secret Seven" when I was a child. They were 5, or 7, well educated white children having fun uncovering mysteries.
It's conservatives who are the snowflakes Sheepheart. You haven't had an intelligent thing to say, in years. Nor do your comments, contribute positively to any conversation.
Oh, so you think that snowflake that was stealing luggage from the airports, employed by Biden, was a Conservative, Matthew? I’m sorry you are so disillusioned.
Ignore Matthew Mastrogiovanni as he seems to be upset that people with some common sense have blasted him for being the fool his post clearly shows him to be.
There’s some strange bed fellows.
🤭 We are all friends here. 😇
So I heard something on the radio today that weirdly fits in to this conversation. A talkshow host asked about separating the artist from the art. An example, you like R Kelly's music but don't like him for things that he has done. Do you stop listening to his music? There is no"right" answer, but to change the art to serve people's sensibilities is not only a disservice to art in general but its also destructive. You don't have to like it, but you have no right to change it just so you are not offended. If you don't like it, don't look at it, don't read it, don't listen to it. Don't deprive others if being able to make their own decisions on it.
It's just too bad that R. Kelly's music isn't even remotely decent. No saving grace for that poor sod.
I agree wholeheartedly. The next you know, they'll want to 'edit' the Mona Lisa or some other such nonsense.
Thankfully Penguin / Puffin is no longer going ahead with any edits to Roald Dahl’s books. They will remain as they are.
They are going ahead, but will offer the originals as a "Classic" series.
Under no circumstances should an author's work be re-written subsequent to their death. Books should reflect the period in which they were written. To do otherwise is to insult the author. The very idea is ridiculous and anybody who suggests that this is appropriate needs to take a long walk off a short pier.
I agree wholehearted with you, David. What next? A bra on Venus de Milo? A thong on David? Editing an artist's work in this manner is just showing us how far the stick is up their butts.
Some people have entirely too much time on their hands.
Totally ridiculous! Too many Overthinkers out there-they need to take their Ativan and settle down 🤦♀️
I agree that it is 1984 style censorship which is totally wrong.
I don’t understand this need to rewrite the past. Accept it, learn from it but leave it where it is. No work should be rewritten. Slap a note on it saying it is if it’s time but if it’s updated and we going to change it again in another however many years because the updated version then doesn’t fit the current narrative. There are more important thing a to deal with in this world now without spending energy on rewriting what is history… get over it.
‘Queer’ changed to ‘strange’. The referenced text is a ideal way for kids to learn that there are two meanings to the word ‘queer’. I expatriated from the US long ago so I’d had no direct interaction with those queer, woke people.
I suspect many are pleased not to have to interact with a deluded out of date fool such as you seem to be. I am a Marine veteran - straight not queer, but have queer friends. I am also a former Republican who is proud to have voted for Joe Biden and rather pleased to say this 84 yr olf "true" patriot is pleased to be close to fully "woke" and free of folk such as you - Shalom
I think you misunderstood my comment about having ‘had no direct contact with those ‘queer, woke people’. First, I simply mean that because I haven’t been in the US for 30 years I have not experienced the ‘woke’ movement. The ‘queer’ aspect was a reference to my pointing out that two meanings existed, and that some of the efforts of The Woke certainly do so queer, as in odd.
But I struggle with why you need to emphasize that you: - Were a Marine vet - Straight - Have queer friends (odd or gay?) - Used to be a Republican but changed (good on you) - Voted for Biden
Reads like a ad in the personal section.
Queer is a slur. As a lesbian I find it disgusting that heterosexuals have taken a slur hurled at me numerous times and appropriated it for themselves in some bizarre demonstration of their supposed oppression. "I'm queer. I have blue hair and I'm non binary. I'm so oppressed." Said the boring heterosexual snowflake trying to gain oppression points.
Queerqueer /kwir/ adjective 1. strange; odd. "she had a queer feeling that they were being watched" Similar: odd strange unusual funny peculiar curious bizarre weird outlandish eccentric unconventional unorthodox uncanny unexpected unfamiliar abnormal anomalous atypical untypical different out of the ordinary out of the way extraordinary remarkable puzzling mystifying mysterious perplexing baffling unaccountable incongruous uncommon irregular outré offbeat singular deviant aberrant freak freakish suspicious dubious questionable eerie unnatural unco fishy creepy spooky freaky rum off the wall bizarro suspect doubtful murky dark criminal dishonest corrupt nefarious crafty deceitful shifty underhand dishonorable unscrupulous unprincipled fraudulent illegal unlawful shady bent Opposite: ordinary conventional normal 2. denoting or relating to a sexual or gender identity that does not correspond to established ideas of sexuality and gender, especially heterosexual norms. "queer geek culture has featured gay themes since the 1980s" Similar: gay homosexual lesbian lesbigay LGBT LGBTQ GLBT homophile Uranian Opposite: heterosexual straight verbDATED•INFORMAL spoil or ruin (an agreement, event, or situation). "Reg didn't want someone meddling and queering the deal at the last minute"
Seemeth a word hath many meanings...
Queer, that. It is sooo oddly misunderstood. Golly, that's weird. No, it isn't... weird is a religion of ancient England. What? You Queer! Am not, you, sir are Queer. No, I am not... I am transgender as God made me! No, you are just a pansy! A Pansy!!!??? Not, not, not... I am a Rose! By any other name you'd still stink like a dog.. Speciesist! Don't be absurd... What's wrong with Serbs... Ethnocentrism! You didn't hear me "write"? Now you're insulting the Deaf and I'm always Right! I am not insulting the Dead, just Grateful that they are... (K. Vonnegut, Jr.... "And so it goes...")
A non sequitur Matthew, which I do not remember if I wrote you before.
My maternal grandmother's family name was Maestrogiovanni di Agnone, which was shortened to Mastroianni over the centuries. The home town since the mid-1500's was Castel di Sasso in the mountains north of Naples. The Maestro Giovanni, who founded the family, was hired as court goldsmith by the Count in 1542. As the name indicates, he was born and trained in the town of Agnone in Abruzzi province.
If it hasn’t already been mentioned, censoring should start with the nonsense in the bible! No doubt xtians and others will claim that you can’t censor a non-fiction book of nonsense because it’s ’true’! Poppycock!
Changing any form of writing from it's original publication is censorship. Beautiful words don't always say the truth and the truth doesn't always come in beautiful words. As Isaiah and Ezekiel says "for lack of knowledge people perish". I believe that to be accurate and not just knowledge of the Bible but knowledge of all things. Changing truth and facts only leads to bad behavior from ignorance. Truth is illuminating. Lies are destructive and keeps you in darkness via ignorance.
Don't f*k with the " clasics "! Don't buy a book if you don't like the author's view or language. Awake ye Awoke!
Changing the text to modernize it changes the meaning of the text. This is something Christians have been doing with the Bible. The Wicked Bible is prized and expensive Bibles at $25,000.
Exodus 20:14—“Thou shalt commit adultery”
And then there is there the Vinegar Bible, where in Luke 20 it’s Vinegar instead of vineyard.
I think there are a lot of people who would have liked to have have kept the modern updated text in Exodus 20:14—“Thou shalt commit adultery”.
Wonder if the NeoNazis will be modernizing Mein Kampf and Der Stürmer?
As a writer, myself, and a columnist, author, and a poet, I do my own editing and am fortunate to have a publisher who respects my work and we have only "agreed to disagree" once in 8 years. However, I would not have an editor that changed my work, especially to fulfill some political narrative. A writer is an artist. It would be a sacraledge to deface a world-class sculptor's statue for current political sensitivities.
So if we change all the historic novels then the record of shifting culture and trends can't be seen. Then the 'woke' can really complain that no progress has been made.
Sounds more like 1984 all the time.
The books should stay as they are, warts and all. If there is a concern somebody can write a preface explaining the language of the period.
If someone wants to write an edited adaptation of Dahl's works that's fine by me, but make it clear that it's not written by Dahl. A version not edited by the author has lost it's voice.
Meet the new boss, same as the old boss: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Bowdler
Only the taboos change.
If this is happening, then the Bible needs to be updated, to reflect modern sensibilities.
bout Me: About Me: I heard Gospel in 1999 for the first time in Dehradun & was highly influenced and touched. It was very difficult to accept the fact that whatever I had been doing all the years was just foolishness and actually a Sin. In the year 1999, I was invited by a relative to their house. Later, I found that it was a prayer meeting in their house. I was there so had no option to sit & attend it. So the preacher started preaching about the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. And He said "for your Sins, He was crucified and died. For your Sins, He suffered and because of your Sins He died" and I was thinking in my heart that why was this man accusing me for the Death of Christ. After the meeting I went to the pastor and questioned him. He answered my question well. He explained that everybody has sinned and deliverance was only possible by the blood. He also explained how God planned to send His Son Jesus for the deliverance of human. Still, it was difficult for me to accept everything. I went for this meeting again next week, and this time he preached that taste & see how good the Lord is. And he was putting a challenge in front of everyone. Now, this started a fight in me. I struggled for almost one year but God helped me. I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal savior in the month of March, 2000, and later in the same year took the step of obedience in the form of Baptism
It's out-&-out censorship. No question. And a violation of the First Amendment. I even have a problem with UK publishers who take a U.S.-written and printed book and change all the spellings and punctuations to UK standards (color becomes colour; center becomes centre). U.S. publishers don't do that to UK-written and printed books colour stays colour, centre stays centre). If the author approves, then that's another matter entirely.
People are so easily offended today. Queer was used as an insult to gay people and we owned it. We began using it as a badge of honor. It still doesn’t change the original meaning, Strange.
So, words today have different (additional) meanings than they did in the past. Good... learn what those differences are through education. Don’t edit original works of art so they can’t offend people today. Either help those people understand the meaning of what was written or let them be offended. Nobody is forcing them to read the material. Lord, help us. Lol!
No! Censorship is a form of misrepresentation. The Wokeratie need to crawl back under the rock from which they emanated. They need to get their perverts out of Libraries and away from children. Drag Queen Story is a form of grooming. Drag Queens are sexualized, offensive, sexist, misogyinistic characatures of women. All of this insanity needs to stop. What kind kind parent would expose his child to adult entertainment?
Why not a compromise? A lot of literature like the King James Bible and the plays of William Shakespeare are written in the original language and footnotes are placed at the bottom of the page expressing the editors interpretation of the author.
Is editing these stories a path we wish to go down? Where does one draw the line on what is passable and what should be changed? There are many who wish an outright ban on Mark Twain. Yet, the words he uses in his writing reflect a time in history that WAS outrageous. How do we show the "sins" of the past if we erase it? More to the point of this article, I'm not sure an improvement has been made. How many children know who Jane Austin is/was. At the time of the writing of these books, and even today, there are many more women secretaries than business owners. Is that okay? No. But, we as adults can use passages like these like these as teachable moments to effect change. This is just an opinion, and I understand that others will see this differently. And, that's okay as well.
Literature is literature and it is what it is, and both kids and adults should be taught to respect and appreciate, and analyze and be able to address a work based on it's author, the author's time, the author's sensibilities and etc. Some things are products of their times whether we agree or not with today's sensibilities.
This is called critical thinking. This is called perceptual thinking. This is called education. But no one teaches it any more for a variety of problematic concerns the preponderance of backwards thinking people putting themselves forward being all too evident.
That said : I submit that everything is subject to who, what, when, where, why, and to what extent?
Everything else is commentary.
Seems to be a lot of that.
Only Dahl has the right to edit his book and since it's too late for that - no edits.
Remember Bowdlerized Shakespeare?
hmm 🤔 hasnt the Bible s language been updated too in the not too distant past? and Shakespeare s? even Cayce s!
Comment removed by user.
Should we edit and rewrite Huckleberry Finn or Merchan of Venice?
If there is a problem of understanding, footnotes at the bottom have always worked fine for me.