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Charlie and the Chocolate Factory hero ‘was black boy’

Writer’s agent ‘thought it was a bad idea’ to include a black hero so it was changed

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The hero of Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory book was originally written as a black boy, the author’s widow told the BBC on Wednesday.

“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 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 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, her husband “wasn’t very happy” with the film version starring Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka.

A second movie version hit cinemas in 2005, directed by Tim Burton and with actor Johnny Depp taking in the role as the eccentric factory owner.

Numerous of Dahl’s other children’s classics have made it onto the screen and stage, many since his death aged 74 in 1990.

They include Matilda, about the life of a genius five-year-old, which saw a 1996 film version ahead of a musical production by the Royal Shakespeare Company which opened in 2010.

Despite becoming a celebrated author, Dahl’s 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’,” his widow told the BBC.

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