The past few days have been filled with unexpected literary surprises. On Saturday, The Guardian published a chapter from an early draft of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. There are some surprising changes. For one thing, there are eight children who are allowed into the factory. Augustus Pottle (who would become Augustus Gloop) is on his way to the chocolate fudge room after being sucked up into a tube in the chocolate river. Charlie, his mother (not grandfather), and seven other child/parent pairings remain on the tour of Willy Wonka's factory.
The second room they enter is the vanilla fudge room. It's a dangerous mountain of solid vanilla fudge being excavated by the Oompa Loompas. The children scurry up and down the safer side of the mountain, eating fudge as they go. That's when two of the boys decide to be very naughty.
I won't spoil what happens. You'll have to read for yourself.
What I will say is that this early draft has all the hallmarks of Roald Dahl's infamous darker side. Willy Wonka is not particularly funny or charming in the text. There is no sympathy or even irony in what happens to the boys in the vanilla fudge room. The Oompa Loompas sing no songs and the punishment for boys roughhousing is somehow worse than the fate of spoiled rotten Veruca later on.
The editing of the novel makes sense just from that angle, but there is an even stronger argument for the changes. How can the audience be expected to focus on eight children, especially when Dahl was willing to knock out two of the pretenders in one chapter? Five children flows better and makes the material less sinister for a younger reader.
Ultimately, this serves as a strong reminder of just how much work goes into a finished piece of writing. Dahl didn't quite hit it out of the park with this earlier eight child draft, so he kept working on it until he got to what we know and love as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory today.