Eagle-eyed readers of Roald Dahl might notice some small-but-significant changes within an upcoming republishing of the legendary author’s children’s books as some language has been changed to make it less offensive and more inclusive.
Dahl’s own literary estate approved of the edits, which include changing the description of Augustus Gloop in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory from “fat” to “enormous,” and replacing the word “female” throughout Matilda with “woman,” the Guardian reports.
A spokesperson for the Roald Dahl Story Company said of the changes in a statement, “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.”
According to the Guardian, publishers Puffin hired sensitivity readers — “a collective for people who are passionate about inclusion and accessibility in children’s literature,” Puffin said — to comb through Dahl’s children’s books (but not his adult works), with those readers finding over 100 edits, ranging from tweaking or removing a word or two to rewriting entire couplets.
For example, in James and the Giant Peach, the lines “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” has become “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.”
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’s Oompa Loompas, described as “small men” in the original text, are now the more-gender neutral “small people.”
Puffin said of the edits in a note on the copyright page of the new editions, “The wonderful words of Roald Dahl can transport you to different worlds and introduce you to the most marvelous 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.”