Readers in Sheffield libraries have responded to ‘updates’ made to language in Roald Dahl’s beloved children’s books by the publisher Puffin.
These changes included references to gender, weight, appearance and mental health.
Jeanette Lowe, a volunteer at Broomhill Library said: “Some of them frankly were ridiculous, like ‘as white as a sheet’. Because sheets are white. Are you going to ban the colour?”
She added: “What about everything else that’s written? You can’t go about changing history.”
Broomhill library currently stocks the original editions of the texts in the children’s section, and have claimed that they aren’t planning on restocking with the new edits.
Sensitivity readers were hired to make changes to the texts and remove any language considered offensive.
The words ‘fat’ and ‘ugly’ have been taken out of every new edition, along with references to female characters.
For example, in Matilda, Miss Trunchbull is no longer referred to as ‘most formidable female’, and is instead referred to as ‘most formidable woman’.
In some places, gender neutral terms have been added.
Oompa Loompas in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory are now referred to as ‘small people’ instead of ‘small men’.
During his lifetime, Dahl had spoken of his fears that censors would change his work.
A 40 year old conversation has come to light between Dahl and Francis Bacon, an artist, revealing Dahl was so against the idea of publishers censoring his work one day that he threatened to send one of his renowned characters, The Enormous Crocodile, to ‘gobble them up’.
This was recorded by Barry Joule, a friend of Bacon’s, who was spending the weekend with them at Dahl’s home in Great Missenden in 1982.
Puffin’s extensive changes received such heavy backlash that they announced on Friday that they will be publishing the 17 original editions of the texts alongside the reworked edits.
Francesca Dow, MD of Penguin Random House Children’s said: “We’ve listened to the debate over the past week which has reaffirmed the extraordinary power of Roald Dahl’s books.
“We are offering readers the choice to decide how they experience Roald Dahl’s magical, marvellous stories.”