Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’s hero was supposed to be black, reveals Roald Dahl’s widow

Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is a beloved children’s book that has been adapted for the big screen a couple of times.

However, it seems like the author’s original vision of the hero was a little different than what we ended up reading about or seeing on the big screen.

The writer’s widow, Felicity Dahl and his biographer, Donald Sturrock told BBC in an interview this week that Charlie Bucket, the young boy whose life is forever changed by a golden ticket in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, was originally supposed to be black.

“His first Charlie that he wrote about was a little black boy,” she shared.

Sadly, readers and moviegoers the world over know that Charlie Bucket is white. Mr Sturrock said that was because of Mr Dahl’s agent, whom he did not name.

“It was his agent who thought it was a bad idea when the book was first published to have a black hero. She said people would ask why.”

Mrs Dahl stated that “it was a great pity” that her late husband had changed Charlie’s race. When the interviewer asked if they would ever issue a “reworking” of the story, Mrs Dahl replied, “It would be wonderful, wouldn’t it?”

“He wasn’t very happy about Charlie, the original with Gene Wilder,” she added about the 1971 film.

That being said, Dahl did not escape criticism for racial depictions in his book. In the first published edition of the book in 1964, the Oompa-Loompas were depicted as black pygmies.

After facing some backlash, they were changed in the second edition and given “rosy-white” skin.

For the first Charlie and the Chocolate Factory movie, the film-makers made them orange.

The interview with Mrs Dahl and Sturrock, took place on the 101st anniversary of Dahl’s birth.

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