The woke brigade has come for Roald Dahl’s books
In 1807, Thomas Bowdler and his sister, Henrietta Maria Bowdler, published The Family Shakespeare, which stripped away anything bawdy. For the next 200 years, the word “bowdlerize” was a derogatory word leftists flung at prudes who watered down the classics. Wokery has changed that. Roald Dahl’s publishing company and his heirs have agreed that his works are just too much for children’s sensibilities and must be sterilized, simplified, and even augmented to make them nicer…actions that effectively erase everything that made Dahl unique.
Personally, Dahl was complicated. His WWII experiences proved him to be brave, charming, and patriotic. One of his children with his wife, Patricia Neal, died from measles, and another was terribly injured in an accident, leading him to abandon Christianity. When his wife, actress Patricia Neal, had a massive stroke, he alternately cajoled and bullied her into recovery.
Then, having restored Patricia to health, he began an 11-year-long affair with another woman who eventually became his wife. He accepted the Palestinian line on Israel, with his anti-Zionism inevitably shading into antisemitism. Critics have also attacked his books for racism (the Oompa-Loompas came from Africa) and misogyny (many of his female characters are scary and ugly).
Image: Roald Dahl. Public domain.
When it comes to the books, though, it seems silly to target racism and misogyny because the reality is that almost all the adult characters in Dahl’s books are scary and ugly. Children take pleasure in the macabre, bizarre, and scary, especially when humor and a happy outcome are involved. And for children, who have moral clarity before leftists get hold of them, a happy outcome means the good are rewarded and the bad are punished.
Perhaps it’s that ultimate moral clarity that really explains why the wokerati have come after Dahl’s writing (emphasis mine):
“Words matter,” begins the discreet notice, which sits at the bottom of the copyright page of Puffin’s latest editions of Roald Dahl’s books. “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.”
By comparing the latest editions with earlier versions of the texts, The Telegraph has found hundreds of changes to Dahl’s stories.
Language related to weight, mental health, violence, gender and race has been cut and rewritten. Remember the Cloud-Men in James and the Giant Peach? They are now the Cloud-People. The Small Foxes in Fantastic Mr Fox are now female. In Matilda, a mention of Rudyard Kipling has been cut and Jane Austen added. It’s Roald Dahl, but different.
One of the most bowdlerized books is The Witches, about a boy growing up in a coven of witches fully as unpleasant as the crones in Macbeth. The book has been cleaned up…a lot:
“A witch is always a woman”, went the 2001 version of the book. “I do not wish to speak badly about women. Most women are lovely. But the fact remains that all witches are women. There is no such thing as a male witch.” That became, simply, “A witch is always a woman. There is no such thing as a male witch.”
The tweaks are endless:
Other alterations are about weight. “Fat little brown mouse” becomes “little brown mouse”. “‘Here’s your little boy,’ she said. ‘He needs to go on a diet’”, becomes “Here’s your little boy.”
Elsewhere, Miss Trunchbull’s “great horsey face” becomes simply her “face”.
Color is especially absent. Any color:
Rather than “turning white,” a character turns “quite pale”….
In James and the Giant Peach, the Cloud-Men have become Cloud-People, Miss Sponge is no longer “the fat one”, Miss Spider’s head is no longer “black” and the Earthworm no longer has “lovely pink” skin but “lovely smooth skin”.
In Fantastic Mr Fox a description of tractors, saying that “the machines were both black”, has been cut. In the new Dahl world, it seems, neither machines nor animals can be described with a colour.
And it’s not just words. In Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the original illustrations have been changed so that Mike Teavee, with his 18 toy pistols slung about his body, no longer has any pistols—which goes with the fact that the text doesn’t mention them anymore either.
The publishers have erased everything that made Dahl’s children’s books funny and unique. As always happens when the censors get hold of things, a stupefying sameness becomes the norm. Imagination, excitement, vivid imagery, pleasantly exciting ghoulishness—none have a place in the woke censor’s world. And considering that this is happening to all children’s books, no wonder fewer and fewer children can read. With every passing day, there’s less material worth reading.