Roald Dahl wanted 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory' protagonist to be black, widow says

Published September 16, 2017

Roald Dahl’s widow and biographer said the late writer wanted the protagonist of his popular children’s book “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” to be a black boy.

Felicity Dahl, Roald’s widow, told BBC’s Radio 4’s “Today” show that Charlie Bucket, the book’s protagonist, was supposed to be a black boy.

“His first Charlie that he wrote about was a little black boy,” Dahl told the BBC.

Donald Sturrock, Dahl’s former biographer said the writer “understood the American sensibility.”

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Felicity Dahl said she thought the writer’s intended plan for Charlie’s race was “influenced by America.”  

Sturrock said Dahl’s agent, whom he did not name, talked the writer out of depicting the book’s hero as a black boy.

"It was his agent who thought it was a bad idea, when the book was first published, to have a black hero," Sturrock said. "She said: 'People would ask why.'"

Felicity Dahl called the book’s change “a great pity” but said she was open to the idea of “reworking” the plot.

“It would be wonderful, wouldn’t it?” Dahl said.

Dahl also revealed that the British novelist did not care for the 1971 film “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.”

"He wasn't very happy about Charlie, the original with Gene Wilder," she said.

Dahl’s other books “Matilda,” “Witches.” “Fantastic Mr. Fox” and “The BFG” have all been made into popular films.

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However, Dahl was no stranger to controversy during his life. He was accused of making anti-Semitic comments and his original depiction for the book’s worker, the Oompa Loompas, were portrayed as black pygmies, The New York Times reported.

Dahl changed their descriptions and the 1971 movie portrayed the Oompa Loompas as short, stocky orange-skinned men with green hair.

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