If We’re Talking about Bowdlerizing Roald Dahl, Why Not Talk about Danny, Champion of the World?

In case you don’t know, the new UK editions of some Roald Dahl books have some new edits suggested by sensitivity readers.

What I find most remarkable is that nobody has mentioned Danny, Champion of the World. Nowadays Danny is far less known than Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda, James and the Giant Peach, The Witches, etc. Danny is the only Roald Dahl book I’ve read as an adult, so though I’m not sure if it’s as good as the more popular Dahl books, I assert it’s a well-written children’s book which can delight people of all ages, except…

… except Danny glorifies poaching.

That’s the only reason I can think of that Danny, despite being a well-written Dahl book, has fallen into obscurity. Few people in the English-speaking world today (including hunters) want to publicly support poaching, and they especially don’t want to talk to children about why the ‘heroes’ violate hunting laws for fun. Thus, they avoid talking about the book, which means fewer people hear about it, which means fewer people read it… it’s a vicious cycle.

Danny is also fatphobic, but a sensitivity edit could change that without changing the storyline. Removing the ‘poaching for fun’ aspect would require such a rewrite that it wouldn’t come out as the same story.

As far as I can tell, the Roald Dahl Story Company isn’t changing Danny.

Yet, what I find more interesting is that the crowd who denounces the new sensitivity edits aren’t flocking to Danny. Most of them probably never read it, and those who have are keeping their mouths shut lest other accuse them of endorsing poaching.

However, even if the public has forgotten Danny, I bet the Roald Dahl Story Company, who owns the copyright, remembers. They’d love to make money off Danny, I’m sure, yet they avoid mentioning it, even on their main website. That means they consider the book a liability to the ‘Roald Dahl’ brand.

Because Danny fell into obscurity, I understand why the Roald Dahl Story Company may have considered the sensitivity edits necessary. Social mores around poaching changed such that hardly anybody reads Danny anymore. As social mores around other issues change, the other Dahl books risk the same fate.

Are these sensitivity edits the best way to deal with the problem? I don’t know, but they are generating a lot of media buzz, which I’d expect to increase sales of Dahl books.

Personally, I’d be fine with all the Dahl books falling into obscurity—there are so many other children’s books out there—but if I owned the copyrights, my opinion might be different.

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