Charlie And The Chocolate Factory hero 'was black boy'

The widow of author Roald Dahl said that the character of Charlie Bucket from Charlie And The Chocolate Factory was actually written as a black boy. PHOTO: ST FILE

LONDON (AFP) - The hero of Roald Dahl's Charlie And The Chocolate Factory was originally written as a black boy, the author's widow told the BBC on Wednesday (Sept 13).

"The first Charlie that he wrote about was a little black boy, you know, and I'm sure that was influenced by America," Liccy Dahl told BBC Radio 4.

The tale of Charlie Bucket's adventures at the chocolate factory owned by Willy Wonka was first published in 1964 and is now available in 55 languages. Liccy Dahl said the final decision not to write the main character as a black child was "a great pity", adding that it "would be wonderful" to see a reworking of the book to incorporate her late husband's wish.

Donald Sturrock, biographer of the world-famous children's author, said Roald Dahl's agent "thought it was a bad idea" to include a black hero.

As with many of his books, Charlie And The Chocolate Factory made it to the silver screen in 1971. But according to Liccy Dahl, her husband "wasn't very happy" with the film starring Gene Wilder as Wonka. A second movie hit cinemas in 2005, directed by Tim Burton and with Johnny Depp taking on the role as the eccentric factory owner.

Numerous of Roald Dahl's other children's classics have made it onto the screen and stage, many after his death at age 74 in 1990. Matilda, about the life of a five-year-old genius, was adapted into a 1996 film and a musical by the Royal Shakespeare Company that opened in 2010.

Despite becoming a celebrated author, Roald Dahl became "extremely grumpy" when he was about to finish a book.

"I used to say to him, 'Surely you should be thrilled, because you've finished a book.'He said, 'Yes, but the fear of starting another one,'" Liccy Dahl told the BBC.

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