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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Rewriting Roald Dahl: Nobody's 'fat' or 'female'

Augustus Gloop in "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory"

Characters can be "enormous" and "beastly," but not "fat" or "ugly," in the new sensitivity-edited versions of Roald Dahl's children's books, reports Hayden Vernon in The Guardian. "Female" has been replaced by "woman." Dahl's estate agreed to the changes.

Witches are bald beneath their wigs, writes Dahl in The Witches. The editors have added a new line: “There are plenty of other reasons why women might wear wigs and there is certainly nothing wrong with that.”

While Dahl suggests witches might work as cashiers or secretaries, the 2023 version says they may be "top scientists" or business owners, writes Laura Hackett in The London Times. She finds that "patronizing."

The Centipede's song in James and the Giant Peach, was rewritten.

Dahl: “Aunt Sponge was terrifically fat / And tremendously flabby at that,” and, “Aunt Spiker was thin as a wire / And dry as a bone, only drier.”
Rewrite: “Aunt Sponge was a nasty old brute / And deserved to be squashed by the fruit,” and, “Aunt Spiker was much of the same / And deserves half of the blame.

Dahl was very particular about the words and expressions he used, says Matthew Dennison, whose biography of Dahl, Teller of the Unexpected, was published last year. (See Andrew Stuttaford’s non-firewalled post on theTelegraph's story.)

Dahl didn't care what adults thought about his children's books, says Dennison. “He never, for example, had any truck with librarians who criticised his books as too frightening, lacking moral role models, negative in their portrayal of women, etc. Dahl wrote stories intended to kindle in children a lifelong love of reading and to remind them of the childhood wonderlands of magic and enchantment, aims in which he succeeded triumphantly."

British taxpayers are funding an anti-terrorism program called Prevent, which has released a report on suspect literature, movies and television shows said to be favored by "white nationalists/supremacists," reports the Daily Mail. In an Orwellian twist, it includes 1984 by George Orwell.

Also signs of extreme right-wingedness is an appreciation for the comedy Yes Minister, the political satire House of Cards, the 1955 war film The Dam Busters, The Great Escape, Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, Conrad's The Secret Agent, Beowulf, The Canterbury Tales, Paradise Lost and more.

"This list includes more or less the entire classical canon of literature and some of the very best British television programmes ever made," said House of Cards screenwriter Andrew Davies.

A Home Office spokesman said: Prevent will refocus "on the key threat of Islamist terrorism, as well as remaining vigilant on emerging threats."


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