Roald Dahl rewrite: Publisher makes ‘inclusive’ edits to classic children’s books, draws criticism

by Chris Lange

Chris Lange, FISM News


The publisher of the popular children’s books by British author and poet Roald Dahl has come under a barrage of criticism for making hundreds of gender-neutral and other “inclusive” edits to classics like “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and “James and the Giant Peach.” 

Puffin Books, a division of Penguin Random House, and the Roald Dahl Story Co. came under fire for the sweeping revisions that included changing the “Cloud-Men” in “James and the Giant Peach” to “Cloud-People” and altering the gender of the foxes in “Fantastic Mr. Fox” from male to female while omitting the word “black” from a description of the “terrible tractors” in the same novel. 

Additional edits include swapping out a reference to author Rudyard Kipling with Jane Austin in “Matilda” and removing the word “fat” from a description of Augustus Gloop, the self-indulging glutton in “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” originally published in 1964. Supernatural women in “The Witches” who cloaked their true identities by working as a “cashier in a supermarket” or someone “typing letters for businessmen” now hold jobs as “top scientist[s]” and “business executives” in the modern makeover.

The edits, which were first reported by the U.K.-based Telegraph last week, have since been met with widespread censure and ridicule.

Renowned author Salman Rushdie slammed the revisions as “absurd censorship” in a tweet Saturday.

“Puffin Books and the Dahl estate should be ashamed,” he wrote.

Rushdie has been living since 1989 with a bounty on his head after his novel “The Satanic Verses” prompted Iran’s Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini to issue a fatwa calling for his death. Rushdie is still recovering from a stabbing attack in August allegedly carried out by a California-born Shi’ite Muslim.


Actor Brian Cox, who stars in HBO’s Succession, said that the edits smack of McCarthyism.

“I really do believe [these books are] of their time and they should be left alone,” Cox told The Times of London. “Roald Dahl was a great satirist, apart from anything else. It’s disgraceful. It’s this kind of form of McCarthyism, this woke culture, which is absolutely wanting to reinterpret everything and redesign and say, ‘Oh, that didn’t exist.'” he continued. “Well. it did exist. We have to acknowledge our history.”

Dahl, who died in 1990, has been described by opponents as an anti-Semite and bigot. In recent years, his novels, like many others, have fallen victim to the “cancel culture” movement of the left which promotes censorship in the name of inclusivity and harassment — or worse — of anyone who refuses to fall in line.

J.K. Rowling, famed British author of the wildly popular Harry Potter novels, has received death threats from trans activists in recent years in what began as criticism that the book series wasn’t inclusive enough.

Suzanne Nossel, the CEO of PEN America, a nonprofit that defends free expression in art and literature, said that she was “alarmed” by the Dahl edits.

“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,” she wrote on Twitter.

Genuinely laughing out loud at some of these awful, purse-lipped, tin-eared changes to Roald Dahl. Hilariously terrible,” another user wrote in a post that included an excerpt from “The Witches” which formerly read: “You can’t go round pulling the hair of every lady you meet, even if she is wearing gloves. Just try it and see what happens.” The edited version reads: “Besides, there are plenty of other reasons why women might wear wigs and there is certainly nothing wrong with that.” 

Puffin Books and the Roald Dahl Story Co., which manages the works’ copyright and trademarks on behalf of the Dahl family estate, told the Telegraph that the revisions were made in collaboration with Inclusive Minds, a self-described “collective for people who are passionate about inclusion, diversity, equality and accessibility in children’s literature, and are committed to changing the face of children’s books.”

Amid the barrage of criticism over the edits, one user welcomed the changes.  

“As someone who has experienced hair loss and weight gain in my adult years I do think the messages in those books are harmful,” she wrote.

This article was partially informed by The Washington Examiner, Axios, The Associated Press, and Fox News Reports.