12 Gloriumptious Facts About Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Rob Kim/Getty Images for Dylan's Candy Bar
Rob Kim/Getty Images for Dylan's Candy Bar

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.

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.

8 Fun Bookmarks to Keep Your Place

iStock
iStock

Why settle for a torn piece of paper or receipt when you can have something way more exciting? These bookmarks are for readers who want to add some extra whimsy to their reading routine.

1. Sprouts; $12.50

These ingenious silicone markers don’t work like normal bookmarks. Shaped like adorable sprouts, they fit inside your book and mark the exact line you’re at on the page. Because they’re made with a flexible material, you can close the book easily with the sprout inside and it will spring back to shape when you open the book again. The sprouts come in sets of six. For a little luck, check out the four-leaf clover iteration.

Find it: Amazon

2. Butterflies; $10


If you've ever wanted to have a real Disney princess moment, consider buying these bookmarks, which will make it look like butterflies have perched on your books. The set comes with 10 pieces in a variety of designs.

Find it: Amazon

3. Crocodile; $13

These clever placeholders create the illusion that a crocodile is lurking on top of your book. When you lift up this intimidating bookmark, it shows the reptile’s sharp teeth, warning others not to dare lose your place. (If mammals are more your style, there is also a hippo option.)

Find it: Amazon

4. Lamp; $13

Let this lamp-shaped bookmark illuminate where you left off. The lamp shape sits on top of the book while the yellow light-beam fits snuggly between the pages. It comes in three colors: white, red, and gray.

Find it: Amazon

5. Literary Feet; $24

Remember that scene in The Wizard of Oz when the house fell on the Wicked Witch of the East and only her feet stuck out? You can recreate that iconic movie scene with a bookmark. Even better, the design isn’t restricted to just the witch: You can get all kinds of famous book character feet to stick out of your book. Just some of the literary legs available include Alice from Alice in Wonderland, a direwolf from A Song of Ice and Fire, and a magician from Harry Potter. There are also some non-book selections, like animals, ballerinas, and Yoda.

Find it: Amazon

6. Food; $30

Let some of your favorite food keep your place. The plush bookmarks feature a slice of pizza, ice cream, coffee, and an ice cream sandwich.

Find it: Amazon

7. Magnetic pals; $5

You’ll be even more motivated to read if you have a small buddy smiling at you from the side of your book. You can attach them to any place on the side of the page, so you know exactly where you are in the story.

Find it: Amazon

8. Pointers; $7

These bookmarks also mark the exact place in the book, but without the help of magnets. Instead, they come with stretchy loops that wrap around the entire book. A hand pointing can pinpoint the exact word, in case you’re the type that stops reading mid-sentence. They come in packs of three.

Find it: Amazon

Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we choose all products independently and only get commission on items you buy and don't return, so we're only happy if you're happy.

11 Scrumdiddlyumptious Roald Dahl Facts

Ronald Dumont / Getty Images
Ronald Dumont / Getty Images

A world without Roald Dahl would be a world without Oompa Loompas, Snozzcumbers, or Muggle-Wumps. And who would ever want to live in a world like that? Celebrate the author with these gloriumptious facts about the master of edgy kids' books.

1. Writing was never Roald Dahl's best subject.

Dahl held onto a school report he had written as a kid, on which his teacher noted: “I have never met anybody who so persistently writes words meaning the exact opposite of what is intended.”

2. Making up nonsensical words was part of what Roald Dahl did best.

When writing 1982’s The BFG, Dahl created 238 new words for the book’s protagonist, which he dubbed Gobblefunk.

3. Roald Dahl's first profession was as a pilot.

And not just any pilot: Dahl was a fighter pilot with the Royal Air Force during World War II. And it was a plane crash near Alexandria, Egypt that actually inspired him to begin writing.

4. Roald Dahl got into some 007 kind of stuff, too.

Alongside fellow officers Ian Fleming and David Ogilvy, Dahl supplied intelligence to an MI6 organization known as the British Security Coordination.

5. Roald Dahl's first published piece was accidental.

Upon recovering from that plane crash, Dahl was reassigned to Washington, D.C., where he worked as an assistant air attaché. He was approached by author C.S. Forester, who was writing a piece for The Saturday Evening Post and looking to interview someone who had been on the frontlines of the war. Dahl offered to write some notes on his experiences, but when Forester received them he didn’t want to change a word. He submitted Dahl’s notes—originally titled “A Piece of Cake”—to his editor and on August 1, 1942, Roald Dahl officially became a published author. He was paid $1000 for the story, which had been retitled “Shot Down Over Libya” for dramatic effect.

6. Roald Dahl's first children's book was inspired by the Royal Air Force.

Published in 1942, The Gremlins was about a group of mischievous creatures who tinkered with the RAF’s planes. Though the movie rights were purchased by Walt Disney, a film version never materialized. Dahl would go on to become one of the world’s bestselling fiction authors, with more than 100 million copies of his books published in nearly 50 languages.

7. Roald Dahl read Playboy for the articles.

Or at least his own articles. While he’s best known as a children’s author, Dahl was just as prolific in the adult short story sphere. His stories were published in a range of outlets, including Collier’s, Ladies Home Journal, Harper’s, The New Yorker, and Playboy, where his topics of choice included wife-swapping, promiscuity, suicide, and adultery. Several of these stories were published as part of Dahl’s Switch Bitch anthology.

8. Quentin Tarantino adapted a Roald Dahl short story for the big screen.

One of Dahl’s best-known adult short stories, “Man from the South” (a.k.a. “The Smoker”), was adapted to celluloid three times, twice as part of Alfred Hitchcock Presents (once in 1960 with Steve McQueen and Peter Lorre, and again in 1985) and a third time as the final segment in 1995’s film anthology Four Rooms, which Quentin Tarantino directed.

9. Roald Dahl's own attempts at screenwriting were not as successful.

One would think that, with his intriguing background and talent for words, Dahl’s transition from novelist to screenwriter would be an easy one ... but you would be wrong. Dahl was hired to adapt two of Ian Fleming’s novels, the James Bond novel You Only Live Once and the kid-friendly Chitty Chitty Bang Bang; both scripts were completely rewritten. Dahl was also hired to adapt Charlie and the Chocolate Factory for the big screen, but was replaced by David Seltzer when he couldn’t make his deadlines. Dahl was not shy about his criticisms of the finished product, noting his “disappointment” that the film (and its changed title) shifted the story’s emphasis from Charlie to Willy Wonka.

10. Roald Dahl made an important contribution to the field of neurosurgery.

In 1960, Dahl’s four-month-old son Theo’s carriage was struck by a cab driver in New York City, leaving the child suffering from hydrocephalus, a condition that increases fluid in the brain. Dahl became very actively involved in his son’s recovery, and contacted toymaker Stanley Wade for help. Together with 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.

11. Even in death, Roald Dahl's sense of humor was evident.

Roald Dahl passed away from a blood disease on November 23, 1990 at the age of 74. Per his request, he was buried with all of his favorite things: snooker cues, a bottle of Burgundy, chocolate, HB pencils, and a power saw.

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