Roald Dahl Book Publisher Does Damage Control After Decision To Rewrite Author’s Words Sparks Backlash

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UPDATE: This piece has been updated to reflect a statement from the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE).

After facing a week of backlash over its decision to rewrite portions of Roald Dahl’s books to make them more inclusive, Puffin will continue to keep the author’s original text in print, the company announced Friday.

Puffin will still keep the new version of the text, which swaps out potentially offensive words like “fat” and adds additional passages to make the stories more palatable to modern readers, but will keep publishing the original text under the name “The Roald Dahl Classic Collection,” according to the announcement. Readers will now “be free to choose,” the company said.

Among the hundreds of changes previously unveiled by Puffin, the publisher axed adjectives from descriptions, making Oompa-Loompas just “small” instead of “no higher than my knee,” removed gender references, redubbing James and the Giant Peach’s “Cloud-Men” as “Cloud-People,” and inserted new content, clarifying after a paragraph in The Witches explaining that witches wear wigs because they are bald that, “There are plenty of other reasons why women might wear wigs and there is certainly nothing wrong with that,” the Telegraph reported.

“We’ve listened to the debate over the past week which has reaffirmed the extraordinary power of Roald Dahl’s books and the very real questions around how stories from another era can be kept relevant for each new generation,” Francesca Dow, Managing Director of Penguin Random House Children’s said in a statement. (RELATED: Publisher Of Roald Dahl’s Books Make ‘Woke’ Changes After His Death)

“As a children’s publisher, our role is to share the magic of stories with children with the greatest thought and care. Roald Dahl’s fantastic books are often the first stories young children will read independently, and taking care [of] the imaginations and fast-developing minds of young readers is both a privilege and a responsibility,” Dow continued. “We also recognise the importance of keeping Dahl’s classic texts in print. By making both Puffin and Penguin versions available, we are offering readers the choice to decide how they experience Roald Dahl’s magical, marvellous stories.”

Aaron Terr, Director of Public Advocacy at the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE), said the company’s decision is “a reminder never to stay silent in the face of censorship.”

“If people and organizations across the ideological spectrum hadn’t spoken up, including FIRE and thousands of our supporters, a celebrated collection of literature might have been lost to history,” he said. “Literature, like all art, offers us an invaluable window into the past and into the imagination and perspective of our fellow human beings. We must stay vigilant against any efforts to close that window.”

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