This article originally appeared on NME.
Roald Dahl wanted Charlie of Charlie and The Chocolate Factory to be black, his widow has revealed.
The iconic children’s book, released back in 1964, follows the exploits of the eponymous, impoverished Charlie Bucket, who wins a tour of the reclusive Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. It has been turned into two critically acclaimed film adaptations.
In a new interview with Roald Dahl’s widow, Liccy Dahl, it has been revealed that the children’s author initially wanted the hero of the story to be black.
Speaking to Radio 4’s Today programme, Liccy Dahl told the hosts that her late husband had originally written the story to be about a black character. “His first Charlie that he wrote about, you know, was a little black boy,” she said. “I’m sure that was influenced by America.”
“It was his agent who thought it was a bad idea, when the book was first published, to have a black hero,” said Dahl’s biographer Donald Sturrock. “She said: ‘People would ask why.’”
Liccy Dahl goes on to call the changes “a great pity” and insist it would have been “wonderful” to see the story as her husband had originally intended it.
The interview, which took place yesterday (on what would have been Roald Dahl’s 101st birthday), can be heard here.
Liccy Dahl also goes on to explain that Roald Dahl was not a fan of the original, Gene Wilder-starring film adaptation of Charlie and The Chocolate Factory.
“He wasn’t very happy about Charlie, the original with Gene Wilder,” she said of the film, released in 1971 as Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.
However, Dahl’s first meeting with his longtime illustrator Quentin Blake was more amicable, she explained. “You knew straight away,” said Mrs Dahl. “I was witnessing a rather amazing union.”