A tale of Roald Dahl and the politically incorrect black pygmies

Do you remember the Ooompa-Loompas from the film Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory? They were small orange skinned characters with strange green hair.

But did you know Roald Dahl did not originally write the Oompa-Loompas as little orange men?

According to several web sources in the first edition of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (1964) Roald Dahl described the Oompla-Loompa as a tribe of black African pygmies who Willy Wonka had brought over to work in his Chocolate factory.

A tribe of black African pygmies?

Yes, and this soon became controversial. In later published editions the Oompa-Loompas had become white with golden hair.

In an article titled Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Politically Correct Oompa–Loompa Evolution the RoaldDahlFans.com web site quotes the following from Jeremy Treglown’s Roald Dahl: A Biography.

“In the version first published, [the Oompa–Loompas were] a tribe of 3,000 amiable black pygmies who have been imported by Mr. Willy Wonka from ‘the very deepest and darkest part of the African jungle where no white man had been before.’ Mr. Wonka keeps them in the factory, where they have replaced the sacked white workers. Wonka’s little slaves are delighted with their new circumstances, and particularly with their diet of chocolate. Before they lived on green caterpillars, beetles, eucalyptus leaves, ‘and the bark of the bong–bong tree.'”

It shows just how times were changing back in the 1960s.

Hang on, eucalyptus leaves?

Yes, in the quote above Dahl says the Oompa-Loompa used to eat eucalyptus leaves in Africa. That cannot be right, the various varieties of eucalyptus are native to Australia and nearby countries, not Africa.


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