Charlie and the Chocolate Factory hero ‘was originally black’

Roald Dahls widow and biographer say first Charlie was black but novelist was persuaded to induce him white

Roald Dahl originally wanted the eponymous hero of his much-loved children’s book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to be black, his widow has said.

In an interview with BBC Radio 4′ s Today programme for Roald Dahl day on Wednesday, Liccy Dahl said:” His first Charlie that he wrote about was a little black boy .”

Asked why it was changed, she replied:” I don’t know. It’s a great pity .”

Her husband’s biographer Donald Sturrock, who was also being interviewed, said the change to a white character was driven by Dahl’s agent, who supposed a black Charlie would not appeal to readers.

” I can tell you that it was his agent who thought it was a bad notion, when the book was first published, to have a black hero ,” said Sturrock.” She said people would ask:’ Why ?'”

BBC Radio 4 Today (@ BBCr4today)

Roald Dahl originally wanted Charlie from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to be black #r4today pic.twitter.com/ h2P4NkI78f

September 13, 2017

The revelation about Dahl’s original wish for Charlie may surprise the individuals who accused the author of racism in relation to the book. The accusation stemmed from the fact that the Oompa Loompas in the original version were black pygmies from Africa.

The news in 1970 that there was to be a cinema of the book drawn attention of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People( NAACP) to the work and they said the importation of the Oompa Loompas to the factory had overtones of bondage.

Dahl insisted there was no racist intent behind the Oompa Loompas but also said he found himself sympathising with the NAACP. As a outcome, he rewrote them in time for the second US edition as white hippyish dwarves hailing from an invented place, “Loompaland”. The film, starring Gene Wilder, avoided the issue of race wholly, attaining them green-haired and orange-skinned.

In 2016, the Bookseller said Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was Dahl’s bestselling book across editions with nearly 1m marketings. It said the follow-up, Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator, had sold about 375,000 transcripts.

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