Roald Dahl Censoring Controversy Ends With A Win For Free Speech

After sparking outrage when Puffin Books announced they were censoring Roald Dahl's books, the publishing company will now release two versions of the author's classic stories.

By Sckylar Gibby-Brown | Updated

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Puffin Books sent the internet into a tizzy last week when they said they were going to censor beloved children’s book author Roald Dahl’s classic novels. According to Variety, after listening to the online debate that argued for free speech over political correctness, Puffin Books has changed its mind and decided to release “The Roald Dahl Classic Collection,” which will have all of the original text. 

While Puffin Books will release the original Roald Dahl texts, they haven’t gone back on their commitment to also release edited versions that have redacted certain phrases that are now considered offensive. Instead, “The Roald Dahl Classic Collection” will be released alongside the newer, edited versions so that readers can make their own decision on which version they would like to read.

While Roald Dahl died more than 30 years ago in 1990, generations of children have continued to enjoy his books and the movies based on his stories. Since many of his novels were written more than half a century ago, these texts are filled with phrases and language that is no longer considered polite, and, to some, the original texts are no longer appropriate reading material for children aged 7 to 9, which is the reading group Dahl’s books fall in. To fix this, Puffin Books edited out certain phrases like “enormously fat” to just “enormous” and “most formidable female” to “most formidable woman.”

Puffin Books changed hundreds of phrases in 17 of Roald Dahl’s books to appease a market of parents who wanted the texts to be more politically correct. In doing so, the publishing company ticked off many Dahl fans who took to the internet to exclaim their displeasure, including author Salman Rushdie who called the movement “absurd censorship.” Now, to avoid any further argument and to remove themselves from the eye of the storm, Puffin Books has announced that they will release both versions of these books, edited and unedited. 

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Matilda the Musical – an adaptation of Roald Dahl’s work

Francesca Dow, MD of Penguin Random House Children’s, which oversees Puffin Books, said that the debate over the censorship of Roald Dahl’s books proves how impactful the author’s writing has been. She explained that Penguin Random House understands the importance of keeping Dahl’s classic writing in print, while at the same time, the company knows that printing books that are often the first that children read independently is a huge responsibility. Dow said that the publishing house aims to pursue Dahl’s mission of turning children into readers through the stories the author told, which is why they have decided to release both versions of his famous books. 

Roald Dahl’s books have indeed inspired children and adults for generations, with many of his stories having been adapted for movies, television, and the stage. Most recently, Matilda the Musical was released as a Netflix Original and received a perfect score from audiences who reported to movie aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes. 

Netflix acquired the Roald Dahl company in 2021 and likely plans to make more content based on the classic author’s novels. The acquisition was made after Puffin Books had begun editing Dahl’s texts, and the streaming company was not involved with the change.