Puffin is woke-washing Roald Dahl books at a terribly problematic cost to readers

Amrutha Pagad
Amrutha PagadFeb 20, 2023 | 10:09

Puffin is woke-washing Roald Dahl books at a terribly problematic cost to readers

Puffin books rewrites children's books by Roald Dahl to remove 'offensive' language. Photo: roald_dahl/Instagram

Imagine if a Gen Zer was tasked with 'sensitising' Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge. This is exactly what's happening to 20th-century British novelist Roald Dahl's children's books including Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. 

What's happening: The Daily Telegraph reported that Roald Dahl's children's books were being rewritten to fit into our 'progressive' or shall I say 'woke' society (in this case). 

  • The changes have been made by publisher Puffin Books, a part of Penguin Random House, and Roald Dahl Story Company (acquired by Netflix in 2021) in collaboration with Inclusive Minds.

What are the changes? If you are wondering how bad the changes can be, check out this Twitter thread:

In The Witches, the original line reads like this:

Even if she is working as a cashier in a supermarket or typing letters for a businessman…

This line has been changed to:

Even if she is working as a top scientist or running a business…
  • While Dahl may hold a stereotypical view of roles in the workplace undertaken by women, it is a representation of the 20th-century society that the novelist lived, worked, and died during. 
  • This is almost like making race-conscious Bridgerton period drama under the explicit name of Jane Austen. 

Another one of the changes that were brought to Dahl's works includes this:

"Tell Charlie about the crazy Indian prince," said Grandma Josephine.
- Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Changed to:

"Tell Charlie about that ridiculously rich Indian prince," said Grandma Josephine.
- Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
  • Even 'Prince Pondicherry' is changed to 'Prince Puducherry'.
  • Words relating to characters' physical appearances like "fat" and "ugly" have been culled from the new editions of the books. 

What the publishers have to say: 

When publishing new print runs of books written years ago, it's not unusual to review the language used...
- Roald Dahl Story Company spokesperson (The Guardian)
Any changes made have been small and carefully considered.
- Roald Dahl Story Company spokesperson

Why are the changes problematic? The changes don't seem to be 'small' and the language reviewed seems to be erasing the author's entire outlook towards the society and the times he lived in. If nothing else, it is the distortion of the original work by Roald Dahl, however, 'offensive' it may seem today. 


Suzanne Nossel, CEO of PENAmerica, had this to say about the changes:

  • Nossel argues that if one group of people can take the liberty to change the works of a dead and revered author to suit their ideology, the same can be done by someone else who shares an extreme and dangerous ideology.

How to sensitise children about the outdated language and views held in an age-old book?

If Puffin can take the liberty to make Roald Dahl's books more 'woke', someone might as well change history to review the language spoken by late British PM Winston Churchill when he said: I hate people with slit eyes and pigtails. 

Last updated: February 20, 2023 | 16:30
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