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DR MELISSA DERBY: Roald Dahl rewritten: when will this madness end?


“Augustus Gloop is no longer fat, Mrs Twit is no longer fearfully ugly, and the Oompa-Loompas have gone gender-neutral”.


Yes, you read that right – the latest body of work to fall prey to the cancel culture busy bodies is that of children’s literary genius, Roald Dahl.


Like so many children, I grew up on Roald Dahl books, with my son recently reading (for the third time) my well-worn, dog-eared copy of The Twits – a book, I have discovered in adulthood, that’s as funny to read aged 41 as it was when I first read it, aged 6. My son, when he got to the final chapter, exclaimed ‘This is so funny! I don’t want it to end!’


At a time when literacy rates across the country are plummeting, and children who read for pleasure are as rare as a conservative in a humanities department, why, oh why, are we messing with the classics?!


While we can debate whether it’s appropriate or not to refer to someone as “fat” (with the holier-than-thou judgment coming down from Dahl’s publishing company noting it most certainly is not appropriate), we have got to the point that, in James and the Giant Peach, Miss Spider’s head is no longer “black” and the Earthworm has given up its “lovely pink” skin for “lovely smooth skin”. Last I checked, spiders are often black, if the ones that make a most unwelcome appearance in my home are anything to go by, and earthworms often appear pink in colour. Are the words “pink” and “black” to be [insert any colour but black or pink]-listed?


The word “black” took another hit, having been removed from the description of the terrible tractors in Fantastic Mr. Fox. The machines are now simply “murderous, brutal-looking monsters”. What if, in Roald Dahl’ imagination, the tractors were black? A rather pertinent question to ask is ‘what was going through the censors’ heads if they felt the word ‘black’ was inappropriate here?’ I’m sure that question would make the so-called anti-racist zealots squirm.


Another change is presumably meant to empower women – in The Witches, the wording has shifted from “even if she is working as a cashier in a supermarket or typing letters for a businessman” to “even if she is working as a top scientist or running a business”. As a girl who devoured Roald Dahl books over and over, I was never ‘limited’ by the original text. Rather, it was my parents who took responsibility for broadening my horizons, not Roald Dahl.


When will this madness end?


I could list other egregious changes, but why bore us all with the nit-picking of the miserable, vocal few? Instead, I’ll continue to read my original copies of Dahl’s stories with my son so that he can enjoy them in their lively, edgy, wonderfully colourful glory, just as I did.



Dr. Melissa Derby is a Free Speech Union Council member and education and literacy expert


2,653 views85 comments

85 Comments


Phil O'Donoghue
Phil O'Donoghue
Feb 27, 2023

It’ll probably end when our taxpayer funded public education system, sooner or later, turns out completely illiterate teenagers (who believe they can choose their gender, weather is climate and they are ‘tāngata tiriti’.)

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Al Bourne
Al Bourne
Feb 28, 2023
Replying to

Wait till you see the census forms. the world will go out of orbit due to heavy laughter all around the world as people see us as the idiots of the world without a thought of a village

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Al Bourne
Al Bourne
Feb 27, 2023

More on the madness.

When autocrats want to change the course of their country’s future they begin by taking control of the past. By setting their objectives – however outrageous they may actually be – in what appears to be a plausible historical trajectory they create a story which makes their own ambition justifiable. If this propaganda operation is conducted successfully, it can make even the most appalling crimes seem not just acceptable but necessary.


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A wry madness aside -


The Maori Renascence 2023: NZ the way some want it


A tavern patron arrives for a beer, and a chat. They notice the live and rousing Te Matatini video sound level is high, making conversation difficult.


Nevertheless, the patron asks for the sound level to be reduced, but is taken to task by the bar manager abruptly saying they and a deaf staffer were watching.

Really? The patron thought they supposed to be working!


Patron leaves and will not be back when that bar manager is on duty.


Oh, the perils of cultural clashes nowadays!

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When will they censor Maurice Gee's "The Fat Man" or have they done that already?

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Book burning in NZ started many decades ago, and started with getting rid of several dozen works relating to the Moriori from the National Archives, Public Libraries, and Schools. Books about the Moriori, that were written from the accounts of Maori about the race/races of people who lived here before Maori. And that were butchered, eaten, raped, taken as slaves or wives, and integrated into the Maori race.


From the Maori culture at the time of arrival the colonists, stature within a tribe was improved by success in battle, and rank was obtained by force, not negotiation. No-one voted for a tribal chief, the concept of democracy being a non existent concept. You were rich in the "currency of that…


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winder44
winder44
Feb 27, 2023
Replying to

"The issue facing New Zealand is not one of race, but of civilised vs uncivilised behaviour."

Sounds about right.


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