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12 Gloriumptious Facts About Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Did you know that in the first draft of Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Charlie is encased in chocolate and given to another child as an Easter present? Or that the book's original title was Charlie's Chocolate Boy? Or that Dahl was working on a third book about Charlie at the time of his death? Here are some more fascinating facts about the development of this classic children’s book.

1. AS A BOY, DAHL WAS A TASTER FOR A CHOCOLATE COMPANY.

Dahl based Charlie and the Chocolate Factory on his experiences as a taster for Cadbury. When he was 13, Cadbury would send Dahl's school boxes of chocolates for the boys to taste test—kind of like an early focus group. The boxes contained 12 chocolate bars wrapped in foil—one “control” bar and 11 new flavors. As a child, Dahl fantasized about working in a chocolate inventing room, an idea that came back to him when he began writing his second children’s book.

2. CHOCOLATE ESPIONAGE WAS A REAL THING.

The chocolate spies who try to steal Willy Wonka’s inventions for rival candy makers were not entirely a product of Dahl’s imagination. In the 1920s, competition among chocolatiers was so fierce that companies sent spies to steal each other’s innovations. Trade secrets were guarded and employees were monitored for suspicious activities. During Dahl’s childhood, the British candy firms Cadbury and Rowntree's became such vicious competitors that stories about their spying became the stuff of legend.

3. THE ORIGINAL TITLE WAS CHARLIE'S CHOCOLATE BOY.

The first draft of the book, titled Charlie's Chocolate Boy, was completely different from the published version. In it, Charlie enters a room filled with chocolate eggs “the size of automobiles” and life-sized chocolate animals and people. He tries on a mold for making chocolate boys and becomes encased in chocolate. Willy Wonka, unaware that a real boy is inside the chocolate, gives Charlie to his son for Easter. Charlie then thwarts a robbery and Mr. Wonka rewards him with an enormous chocolate shop nine-stories high.

4. THERE WERE MANY OTHER KEY DIFFERENCES BETWEEN EARLY DRAFTS AND THE PUBLISHED BOOK.

In addition to the familiar characters—Charlie Bucket, Augustus Gloop, Violet Beauregarde, Mike Teavee, and Veruca Salt—early drafts had a host of other characters and different parts of the chocolate factory. Originally, Dahl wanted at least twice as many kids to take a trip to Wonka's factory: The author's lost first draft may have had 15 children, according to a spokesperson from his literary estate, while later drafts (including the one read by Lucy Mangan for her book Inside Charlie's Chocolate Factory: The Complete Story of Willy Wonka, the Golden Ticket, and Roald Dahl's Most Famous Creation) put the number at 10 kids. In either case, Dahl quickly realized that was far too many characters and reduced the number to a more manageable five.

In the years since the book's release, many of the cut chapters have been “rediscovered” among Dahl’s papers and published online. For example, there's a chapter in which Willy Wonka takes the kids into the Vanilla Fudge Room, which has “a colossal jagged mountain as high as a five-storey building, and the whole thing was made of pale-brown, creamy, vanilla fudge.” Two of the now-excised children, Wilbur Rice and Tommy Troutbeck, disobey Mr. Wonka and ride on the railway wagon straight into the Pounding And Cutting Room. (You can read the chapter here).

In what was possibly the second draft of the book, Dahl has the children tour the Warming-Candy Room, where an elaborate machine makes a candy that warms you up when you eat it. Clarence Crump, Bertie Upside, and Terence Roper greedily eat handfuls of the stuff before learning the hard way that you’re only supposed to have one warming-candy at a time. (You can read that chapter here.)

5. A CHARACTER NAMED MIRANDA PIKER WAS TURNED INTO PEANUT BRITTLE.

“I remember one small girl I slung out of the book, who was called Miranda Mary Piker,” Dahl once recalled. “She was the filthiest, rudest, and most disobedient creature you could imagine.” In early drafts, Miranda falls into the chocolate waterfall and winds up in the peanut brittle room, where, according to an Oompa-Loompa song, she's turned into peanut brittle. ("And her parents will have surely understood / That instead of saying, 'Miranda, / Oh the beast we cannot stand her!' / They'll be saying, 'Oh, how tasty and how good!'")

Though Miranda was cut from the book, in 1973, Dahl published Miranda's chapter, called "Spotty Powder," as a short story in Puffin Post magazine. She and her parents try to smash the Spotty Powder machine and discover what the candy is really made of.

6. THE OOMPA-LOOMPAS WERE ALMOST CALLED WHIPPLE-SCRUMPETS.

Dahl changed almost all of the character names except Charlie's. Along with the Whipple-Scrumpets, Violet Beauregarde’s original last name was Glockenberry, Veruca Salt was Elvira Entwhistle, Mike Teavee was Herpes Trout, and Augustus Gloop was Augustus Pottle. Willy Wonka was Mr. Ritchie until Dahl renamed him after a boomerang his brother Louis invented when they were kids. It was called a Skilly Wonka. 

7. THE OOMPA-LOOMPAS WERE FIRST DEPICTED AS AFRICAN PYGMIES.

When Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was published in 1964, the Oompa-Loompas were described as African pygmies that Willy Wonka “discovered” and shipped to England “in large packing cases with holes in them.” In the 1970s, the NAACP and others groups criticized this portrayal as racist. Dahl rewrote the Oompa-Loompas, describing them as small people with white skin and long golden brown hair who come from Loompaland. (The orange skin and green hair were added for the 1971 film.)

8. DAHL EXPERIENCED TWO MAJOR TRAGEDIES WHILE WRITING CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY.

While writing the book, Dahl experienced two of the biggest tragedies of his life: The first occurred in 1960, when a taxi hit his son Theo, who was riding in a baby carriage. The child developed hydrocephalus, a build-up of fluid in his brain cavities that led to high fevers and temporary blindness and required that the young boy be put through a series of operations. Not content to sit by idly and watch his child suffer, Dahl became an active participant in Theo's recovery. With the help of toymaker Stanley Wade and Theo’s neurosurgeon, Kenneth Till, the trio developed a shunt that helped to alleviate the condition. It became known as the Wade-Dahl-Till valve.

Then, just as Theo was recovering, Dahl’s daughter Olivia came down with measles, which developed into measles encephalitis; she passed away not long after. Dahl was devastated. His wife, actress Patricia Neal, later said he “all but lost his mind.”

9. THE MOVIE WAS A BOX OFFICE FLOP.

The 1971 movie Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory, starring Gene Wilder, made only $4 million at the box office. Dahl reportedly hated the film, too. It wasn’t until Warner Bros. started airing the movie on TV that it became popular. (On the other hand, the 2005 movie starring Johnny Depp was a big hit.)

10. THERE'S A REASON WHY THE MOVIE STARS WILLY WONKA.

Though the book is called Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the 1971 movie is named after Willy Wonka. There are two reasons for this: When the NAACP was protesting the Oompa-Loompas, they also demanded that the movie’s title be changed so as not to promote the book among viewers of the movie. The second reason for shifting the main character focus was because the movie was financed by Quaker Oats, who were looking at it as a way of advertising a new line of chocolate bars that they were about to produce. Eventually, they settled on calling the new bar the Wonka Bar, and with that they chose to rename the entire movie after Willy Wonka as a promotional tie-in. (Because really, what better way is there to sell candy bars than with the suggestion of light cannibalism?)

11. THERE WAS GOING TO BE A THIRD CHARLIE BOOK.

The book’s sequel, Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator, was released in 1972. Dahl was working on a third book titled Charlie in the White House when he died in 1990. It was never completed.

12. CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY CONTINUES TO INSPIRE OTHER ENTERTAINMENT.

Aside from the two movies, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory has been adapted into a musical, an opera, and two video games (including a 1985 game by ZX Spectrum). There’s even a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory ride at the Alton Towers theme park in the U.K. And let’s not forget the band Veruca Salt, named after the spoiled little girl who’s labeled a “bad nut” and sent down a garbage chute by Willy Wonka’s trained squirrels.

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12 Smart Book Ideas for Everyone in Your Life
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Books make the perfect gift: they're durable, transportable, and they promise some (hopefully) quality alone time. But what do you get the aunt who loves mystery novels if you're not familiar with the genre? Or the nephew who devours travelogues and goes backpacking around the world? Look no further—we've got them covered, plus 10 other very specific categories.

1. FOR THE VINTAGE COOKBOOK LOVER: LEAVE ME ALONE WITH THE RECIPES: THE LIFE, ART, AND COOKBOOK OF CIPE PINELES, EDITED BY SARAH RICH,‎ WENDY MACNAUGHTON, DEBBIE MILLMAN, AND MARIA POPOVA; $27

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Author Sarah Rich and illustrator Wendy MacNaughton fell in love with the work of Cipe Pineles, the first female art director at Condé Nast, after discovering her recipes at a San Francisco antiquarian book fair. Filled with vibrantly colored illustrations, Leave Me Alone With the Recipes shows the joyful spirit and homespun flair that made Pineles’s work so influential. Alongside the recipes, the book includes contributions from luminaries in the worlds of food and illustration, including artist Maira Kalman and Maria Popova of Brain Pickings renown.

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2. FOR ANYONE HAVING SURGERY THIS YEAR: THE BUTCHERING ART: JOSEPH LISTER’S QUEST TO TRANSFORM THE GRISLY WORLD OF VICTORIAN MEDICINE BY LINDSEY FITZHARRIS; $27

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Back in the bad old days of medicine, a consistently blood-soaked apron was a sign of pride. Surgeons rarely washed them—or their hands, or their operating tools. Joseph Lister, the somewhat reluctant hero of Lindsey Fitzharris's new book The Butchering Art, was the genius who convinced the medical world that germs were not only real but a major cause of mortality in their hospitals. With an eye for vivid details and the colorful characters of 19th century medicine, Fitzharris has crafted a book that will make you thank Lister for his foresight—and make you glad you weren't alive back then.

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3. FOR THE GENEALOGY OBSESSIVE: IT’S ALL RELATIVE: ADVENTURES UP AND DOWN THE WORLD’S FAMILY TREE BY A.J. JACOBS; $27

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What constitutes a "family"? In his latest book, A.J. Jacobs (famed for lifestyle experiments like trying to live an entire year in accordance with the Bible) delves into the world of genetics and genealogy to try and orchestrate the world's largest family reunion. With his trademark humor and insight, he ends up exploring the interconnectedness of all of humankind.

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4. FOR THE SOCIALLY AWARE YOUNG ADULT: THE HATE U GIVE BY ANGIE THOMAS; $18

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Already caught between the conflicting worlds of the poor neighborhood where she lives and her fancy prep school, 16-year-old Starr Carter finds herself in the middle of a tragedy when her childhood best friend is shot and killed by a police officer. As his death becomes a national flashpoint, it becomes clear that she may be the only person alive who can explain what really happened that night. Angie Thomas's writing has earned praise for being gut-wrenching, searing, and deftly crafted; Publishers Weekly called the book "heartbreakingly topical."

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You might think you know the Roosevelts, but historian William J. Mann looks beyond the well-worn stories to expose the bitter rivalries that drove its most famous members' quest for power. Along the way, he examines the Roosevelts who were kept away from the limelight, and the secrets they hold—all told in dramatic style.

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6. FOR THE INTREPID TRAVELER: ATLAS OBSCURA: AN EXPLORER'S GUIDE TO THE WORLD'S HIDDEN WONDERS, BY JOSHIA FOER, DYLAN THURAS, AND ELLA MORTON; $35

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An amusement park in a salt mine? Check. A tree so big it has its own pub? Check. A giant hole that's been spouting flames for 40 years? Check. This guidebook is a compendium of the world's strangest and most wonderful places, and it's guaranteed to inspire some serious wanderlust, especially in more adventurous travelers. For the complete experience, you can also get an awesome wall calendar featuring destinations from the book designed as vintage travel posters; there's a page-a-day desk calendar and explorers' journal too.

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7. FOR YOUR FRIEND WHO LOVES WEIRD HISTORY: THE PUBLIC DOMAIN REVIEW SELECTED ESSAYS; $20

The Public Domain Review is one of the premier online destination for fans of curious history. If you know someone who enjoys stories about weird medieval medicine treaties, ancient automata, deranged 18th century scientists, and other odd subjects well off the beaten historical path, look no further than this book of essays (the site's fourth).

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8. FOR PEOPLE WHO LOVE A GOOD MYSTERY: THE BIG BOOK OF ROGUES AND VILLAINS, EDITED BY OTTO PENZLER; $25

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At the heart of every good mystery is a (usually dastardly) perpetrator, whether it's a Count Dracula or a Jimmy Valentine. With this anthology, Edgar Award winner Otto Penzler has combed through 150 years of literary history to find 72 stories featuring the most famous and entertaining antiheroes authors have ever been able to dream up.

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9. FOR PEOPLE WHO KNOW WHAT THE BORSCHT BELT IS: JEWISH COMEDY: A SERIOUS HISTORY BY JEREMY DAUBER; $28.95

Jews and humor go together like challah and Manischewitz (after all, as my bubbie says, if you don't laugh, you'll cry). In this "serious history," Columbia professor Jeremy Dauber considers the origins of Jewish humor in Biblical times through its life on Twitter today; how it's reflected—and even influenced—Jewish history; the production of major archetypes like the Jewish mother; and the prominence of Jewish comedians like Sarah Silverman and Larry David. You don't have to be Jewish to love it, but it may help you understand the in-jokes.

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10. FOR YOUR FRIEND WHO LOVES DARK SHORT STORIES: HER BODY AND OTHER PARTIES, BY CARMEN MARIA MACHADO; $16

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A story told in the form of Law & Order episode summaries. A strange plague that makes girls go invisible, as narrated by a mall worker. A recollection of romantic encounters with the last of humanity’s survivors. In this collection, Carmen Maria Machado fuses urban legends, dystopian tropes, and heavy helpings of sexuality to create a new kind of magical realism strangely appropriate to our era. The images will haunt you long after you put the book down, if you let them.

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A meditation on sorrow and the Civil War populated by a rag-tag group of ghosts, Lincoln in the Bardo starts with the real-life death of 11-year-old Willie Lincoln, Abraham's son. In the book, Willie has entered the Bardo—a Tibetan Buddhist term for a transitional limbo—where there's a fierce struggle underway for his soul.

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Book of the Month Club

Can’t decide what to get, but feeling generous? Give your friend who loves to read a new hardcover book of their choice every month. Literary fans who are short on time will love having someone else do the legwork to find the best new novels; plus, there’s early access to new releases. Prices vary depending on the length of the subscription, and there’s a deal right now where you can get a month free when you give a subscription as a gift.

Find It: Book of the Month

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10 Little Facts About Louisa May Alcott
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Born on this day in 1832, Louisa May Alcott led a fascinating life. Besides enchanting millions of readers with her novel Little Women, she worked as a Civil War nurse, fought against slavery, and registered women to vote. In honor of her birthday, here are 10 facts about Alcott.

1. SHE HAD MANY FAMOUS FRIENDS.

Louisa's parents, Bronson and Abigail Alcott, raised their four daughters in a politically active household in Massachusetts. As a child, Alcott briefly lived with her family in a failed Transcendentalist commune, helped her parents hide slaves who had escaped via the Underground Railroad, and had discussions about women’s rights with Margaret Fuller. Throughout her life, she socialized with her father’s friends, including Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Nathaniel Hawthorne. Although her family was always poor, Alcott had access to valuable learning experiences. She read books in Emerson’s library and learned about botany at Walden Pond with Thoreau, later writing a poem called "Thoreau’s Flute" for her friend. She also socialized with abolitionist Frederick Douglass and women’s suffrage activist Julia Ward Howe.

2. HER FIRST NOM DE PLUME WAS FLORA FAIRFIELD.

As a teenager, Alcott worked a variety of teaching and servant jobs to earn money for her family. She first became a published writer at 19 years old, when a women’s magazine printed one of her poems. For reasons that are unclear, Alcott used a pen name—Flora Fairfield—rather than her real name, perhaps because she felt that she was still developing as a writer. But in 1854 at age 22, Alcott used her own name for the first time. She published Flower Fables, a collection of fairy tales she had written six years earlier for Emerson’s daughter, Ellen.

3. SHE SECRETLY WROTE PULP FICTION.

Before writing Little Women, Alcott wrote Gothic pulp fiction under the nom de plume A.M. Barnard. Continuing her amusing penchant for alliteration, she wrote books and plays called Perilous Play and Pauline’s Passion and Punishment to make easy money. Alcott wrote about cross-dressers, spies, revenge, and hashish. These sensational, melodramatic works are strikingly different than the more wholesome, righteous vibe she captured in Little Women, and she didn’t advertise her former writing as her own after Little Women became popular.

4. SHE WROTE ABOUT HER EXPERIENCE AS A CIVIL WAR NURSE.


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In 1861, at the beginning of the U.S. Civil War, Alcott sewed Union uniforms in Concord and, the next year, enlisted as an army nurse. In a Washington, D.C. hotel-turned-hospital, she comforted dying soldiers and helped doctors perform amputations. During this time, she wrote about her experiences in her journal and in letters to her family. In 1863, she published Hospital Sketches, a fictionalized account, based on her letters, of her stressful yet meaningful experiences as a wartime nurse. The book became massively popular and was reprinted in 1869 with more material.

5. SHE SUFFERED FROM MERCURY POISONING.

After a month and a half of nursing in D.C., Alcott caught typhoid fever and pneumonia. She received the standard treatment at the time—a toxic mercury compound called calomel. (Calomel was used in medicines through the 19th century.) Because of this exposure to mercury, Alcott suffered from symptoms of mercury poisoning for the rest of her life. She had a weakened immune system, vertigo, and had episodes of hallucinations. To combat the pain caused by the mercury poisoning (as well as a possible autoimmune disorder, such as lupus, that could have been triggered by it), she took opium. Alcott died of a stroke in 1888, at 55 years old.

6. SHE WROTE LITTLE WOMEN TO HELP HER FATHER.

In 1867, Thomas Niles, an editor at a publishing house, asked Alcott if she wanted to write a novel for girls. Although she tried to get excited about the project, she thought she wouldn’t have much to write about girls because she was a tomboy. The next year, Alcott’s father was trying to convince Niles to publish his manuscript about philosophy. He told Niles that his daughter could write a book of fairy stories, but Niles still wanted a novel about girls. Niles told Alcott’s father that if he could get his daughter to write a (non-fairy) novel for girls, he would publish his philosophy manuscript. So to make her father happy and help his writing career, Alcott wrote about her adolescence growing up with her three sisters. Published in September 1868, the first part of Little Women was a huge success. The second part was published in 1869, and Alcott went on to write sequels such as Little Men (1871) and Jo’s Boys (1886).

7. SHE WAS AN EARLY SUFFRAGETTE.

In the 1870s, Alcott wrote for a women’s rights periodical and went door-to-door in Massachusetts to encourage women to vote. In 1879, the state passed a law that would allow women to vote in local elections on anything involving education and children—Alcott registered immediately, becoming the first woman registered in Concord to vote. Although met with resistance, she, along with 19 other women, cast ballots in a 1880 town meeting. The Nineteenth Amendment was finally ratified in 1920, decades after Alcott died.

8. SHE PRETENDED TO BE HER OWN SERVANT TO TRICK HER FANS.


Orchard House, the Alcott family home. Phillip Capper from Wellington, New Zealand (Flickr) // CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

After the success of Little Women, fans who connected with the book traveled to Concord to see where Alcott grew up. One month, Alcott had a hundred strangers knock on the door of Orchard House, her family’s home, hoping to see her. Because she didn’t like the attention, she sometimes pretended to be a servant when she answered the front door, hoping to trick fans into leaving.

9. ALCOTT NEVER HAD CHILDREN, BUT SHE CARED FOR HER NIECE.

Although Alcott never married or had biological children, she took care of her orphaned niece. In 1879, Alcott’s youngest sister May died a month after giving birth to her daughter. As she was dying, May told her husband to send the baby, whom she named Louisa in honor of Alcott, to her older sister. Nicknamed Lulu, the girl spent her childhood with Alcott, who wrote her stories and seemed a good fit for her high-spiritedness. Lulu was just 8 when Alcott died, at which point she went to live with her father in Switzerland.

10. FANS CAN VISIT ALCOTT'S FAMILY HOME IN CONCORD, MASSACHUSETTS.

At 399 Lexington Road in Concord, Massachusetts, tourists can visit Orchard House, the Alcott family home from 1858 to 1877. Orchard House is a designated National Historic Landmark, and visitors can take a guided tour to see where Alcott wrote and set Little Women. Visitors can also get a look at Alcott’s writing desk and the family’s original furniture and paintings.

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