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Iconic children’s book illustrator Quentin Blake who collaborated on beloved Roald Dahl books says that ‘if the woke had their way we wouldn’t have the Twits’
- READ MORE: EDEN CONFIDENTIAL: Roald Dahl museum puts up apology sign
The famous children’s book illustrator Quentin Blake who collaborated on much-loved Roald Dahl books has said that ‘if the woke had their way we wouldn’t have the Twits’.
Blake spoke this week just after the Roald Dahl museum and Story Centre, in Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire, put up an apology panel at its entrance declaring that the racism and antisemitism of the author were ‘undeniable and indelible’.
In the recent flurry of ‘cancelled’ pieces of work, Dahl’s novels have been changed by publishers to be more ‘woke’.
Earlier this year publisher Puffin hired sensitivity readers to rewrite chunks of the author’s text to make sure the books ‘can continue to be enjoyed by all today’, resulting in extensive changes across Dahl’s work.
Considerable edits were made to descriptions of the characters’ physical appearances – the new editions no longer use the word ‘fat’, which has been cut from every book, and the Oompa Loompas are now gender neutral.
The famous children’s book illustrator Quentin Blake (pictured last year) who collaborated on much-loved Roald Dahl books has said that ‘if the woke had their way we wouldn’t have the Twits’
In the recent flurry of ‘cancelled’ pieces of work, Dahl’s (pictured in 1976) novels have been changed by publishers to be more ‘woke’
READ MORE HERE: EDEN CONFIDENTIAL: Roald Dahl museum puts up sign to say that it ‘deeply apologises’ for the iconic children’s author’s anti-Semitism
Blake, who illustrated the books, said he was shocked by this, adding: ‘If the work is wrong, it’s wrong. If it’s crude and insensitive, we need to know that.’
But he said that children laugh at ‘rude descriptions’ of characters such as Miss Trunchbull from Matilda or The Twits.
‘That’s what they like! If the sensitive had had their way, he’d never have written The Twits at all,’ he told the Telegraph.
The novel has seen small alterations such as Mrs Twit’s ‘fearful ugliness’ chopped to ‘ugliness’.
Changes were made by Puffin and the Roald Dahl Story Company – bought by Netflix in 2021 for a reported £500 million.
But the review began in 2020 when the company was still run by the Dahl family who, the same year, apologised for the author’s anti-semitic statements.
Dahl, a fighter pilot during the Second World War, is one of the best-selling children’s authors in history with more than 250 million books sold.
According to The Telegraph, Matthew Dennison, Dahl’s biographer said the author carefully chose his vocabulary, he said: ‘I’m almost certain that he would have recognised that alterations to his novels prompted by the political climate were driven by adults rather than children.’
Problems with the content of Dahl’s children’s book were heightened in 2020 when a Hollywood version of The Witches received backlash after the Grand Witch, played by Anne Hathaway, had a finger missing from each hand.
The novel has seen small alterations such as Mrs Twit’s ‘fearful ugliness’ chopped to ‘ugliness’
Paralympians and charities said it was offensive to the limb-difference community and Warner Bros was forced to issue an apology.
In the latest edition of The Witches, 59 changes have been made to avoid offence, such as the phrases ‘You must be mad, woman!’ and ‘great flock of ladies’ being changed to ‘You must be out of your mind!’ and ‘great group of ladies’.
It comes as Rishi Sunak hit out at attempts to alter Dahl’s books, with the Prime Minister quoting the author’s BFG character to warn you shouldn’t ‘gobblefunk’ with words.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said it was ‘important’ literary works were ‘preserved and not airbrushed’, citing the ‘right of free speech and expression’.
The spokesman said: ‘When it comes to our rich and varied literary heritage, the Prime Minister agrees with the BFG that we shouldn’t gobblefunk around with words.
‘I think it’s important that works of literature and works of fiction are preserved and not airbrushed. We have always defended the right to free speech and expression.’
The Prime Minister had concerns about rewriting the books – and quoted Dahl’s BFG in a warning not to ‘gobblefunk’ with words. Pictured: BFG film poster
Rishi Sunak poses with his daughter on the red carpet at the world premiere of the Roald Dahl’s Matilda The Musical film last year
Hundreds of changes have been made to Dahl’s books, with some passages not written by the author being added
Acclaimed writer Sir Salman Rushdie has also branded the moves as ‘absurd censorship’.
It was previously revealed that following the use of sensitivity readers, the publishers had decided to cut words such as ‘crazy’ and ‘mad’ from the books.
References to the colours ‘black’ and ‘white’ are also said to have been removed, with the BFG not able to wear a black cloak and the description ‘turning white with fear’ axed.
This comes as children’s authors have given their opinion on the controversy.
His Dark Materials author Philip Pullman said Dahl’s books ‘should be allowed to fade away’ rather than changed if they were regarded as offensive.
‘If Dahl offends us, let him go out of print,’ Pullman told Radio 4’s Today programme. ‘Read all these [other] wonderful authors who are writing today, who don’t get as much of a look-in because of the massive commercial gravity of people like Roald Dahl.’
Best-selling author Philip Pullman (pictured in 2019) has said that publishers must stop censoring Roald Dahl’s classic children’s books and instead just let his work go ‘out of print’
Puffin Books, a division of Penguin Random House, has removed so-called colourful language from books like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Matilda to make them ‘more acceptable’ to modern readers (file photo)
Unlike the literary experts calling the censorship ‘absurd,’ Sir Philip argued that changing Mr Dahl’s texts will not cause lasting damage to the industry. Pictured: Roald Dahl in 1988
He pointed out that there were probably millions of second-hand editions of Dahl’s books in school libraries, classrooms and charity shops, saying ‘are you going to round up all the books and cross them out with a big black pen?’.
Appearing on Nicky Campbell’s Radio 5 Live talk show, John Dougherty, award-winning author of around 30 children’s books, said the alterations made to Dahl’s books sounded like ‘overreach’.
He said there was no reason the BFG should not have black cloak, saying this ‘seems absurd’.
How the stories changed
CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY
2001 – Mrs Salt was a great fat creature with short legs, and she was blowing like a rhinoceros
2022 – Mrs Salt was so out of breath, she was blowing like a rhinoceros
2001 – Mrs Twit may have been ugly and she may have been beastly, but she was not stupid
2022 – Mrs Twit may have been beastly, but she was not stupid.
2001 – Get your mother or father
2022 – Get your family
2001 – ‘BFG,’ she said, ‘would you please tell these rather dim-witted characters exactly what to do.’
2022 – ‘BFG,’ she said, ‘would you please tell them exactly what to do’.
THE ENORMOUS CROCODILE
2001 – We eat little boys and girls
2022 – We eat little children
2001 – ‘I beg you to tell me Mr Hoppy! I’ll be your slave for life.’
2022 – ‘I beg you to tell me Mr Hoppy! You’ll be my hero for life.’
FANTASTIC MR FOX
2001 – Bunce, the little pot-bellied dwarf, looked up at Bean…
2022 – Bunce looked up at Bean…
JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH
2001 – They were like a couple of hunters who had just shot an elephant
2022 – They were like a couple of hunters who had just shot their prey
Hundreds of changes were made to the original text, extinguishing Dahl’s colourful and memorable descriptions, some over fifty years old, to make his characters less grotesque.
Mrs Twit’s ‘fearful ugliness’ has been chopped to ‘ugliness’ and Mrs Hoppy in Esio Trot is not an ‘attractive middle-aged lady’ but a ‘kind middle-aged lady’.
Gender is also eliminated, with books no longer referring to ‘female’ characters.
Miss Trunchbull in Matilda, once a ‘most formidable female’, is now a ‘most formidable woman’, while her ‘great horsey face’ is now called ‘her face’.
Oompa-Loompas, who were once ‘small men’, are now ‘small people’ and Fantastic Mr Fox’s three sons have become daughters.
Passages not written by the late author, who died in 1990, have also been added by the publisher to complete their new editions.
In The Witches, a paragraph describing them as bald under their wigs is followed shortly by a new line: ‘There are plenty of other reasons why women might wear wigs and there is certainly nothing wrong with that.’
A witch posing as a ‘cashier in a supermarket’ now works as a ‘top scientist’ and Matilda reads Jane Austen instead of Rudyard Kipling.
Mental health was another focal point for sensitivity readers with the words ‘crazy’ and ‘mad’, which Dahl used in a comic fashion, removed from his books.
The word ‘black’ was removed from the description of the terrible tractors in 1970s The Fabulous Mr. Fox. The machines are now simply ‘murderous, brutal-looking monsters’.
The Roald Dahl Story Company, which controls the rights to the books, previously said it worked with Puffin to review the texts because it wanted to ensure that Dahl’s ‘wonderful stories and characters continue to be enjoyed by all children today’.
The language was reviewed in partnership with Inclusive Minds, a collective which is working to make children’s literature more inclusive and accessible. Any changes were ‘small and carefully considered,’ the company said.
The firm claimed the analysis started in 2020, before Netflix bought the Roald Dahl Story Company and embarked on plans to produce a new generation of films based on the author’s books.
A spokesman for the organisation added: ‘We want to ensure that Roald Dahl’s wonderful stories and characters continue to be enjoyed by all children today.
‘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.’
They added: ‘As part of our process to review the language used we worked in partnership with Inclusive Minds, a collective for people who are passionate about inclusion and accessibility in children’s literature.
‘The current review began in 2020, before Dahl was acquired by Netflix. It was led by Puffin and Roald Dahl Story Company together.’
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