Roald Dahl intended Charlie to be black

LONDON • The hero of Roald Dahl's Charlie And The Chocolate Factory book was originally written as a black boy.

"The first Charlie that he wrote about was a little black boy, you know, and I'm sure that was influenced by America," his widow Liccy told the BBC on Wednesday.

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.

She noted that 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 the latter's agent "thought it was a bad idea" to include a black hero.

As with many of Dahl's books, Charlie And The Chocolate Factory made it to the silver screen in 1971.

But Liccy said he "wasn't very happy" with the film version, starring Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka.

A second movie version came out in 2005, directed by Tim Burton and with actor Johnny Depp playing the eccentric factory owner

Liccy revealed that Dahl, who died in 1990, 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 (there's) the fear of starting another one'," she said.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 15, 2017, with the headline 'Roald Dahl intended Charlie to be black'. Print Edition | Subscribe