Classic children’s books in a Cambridge University archive are set to be labelled with ‘trigger warnings’ for ‘harmful content relating to slavery, colonialism and racism’.
Researchers are reviewing more than 10,000 books and magazines to expose offensive authors after campaigners demanded teachers censor racial slurs when reading Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird.
With other modern classics like Little House On The Prairie and the works of Dr Seuss dubbed as potentially harmful, Femail has examined other children’s texts which have come under fire.
Criticism includes that of Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book which was slammed for it’s ‘colonial’ depiction of animals and Roald Dahl’s Matilda which was dubbed transphobic for it’s portrayal of masculine Miss Trunchbull.
Here, FEMAIL takes a look at what other much-loved bedtime stories could be at risk of being ‘cancelled’.
THE JUNGLE BOOK
Rudyard Kipling’s 1894 work The Jungle book was accused of for forming part of the construction of ‘colonial English national identity’
Rudyard Kipling’s 1894 work The Jungle book is a collection of stories set in a forest in India with a cast of animals and ‘man-cub’ Mowgli, who is raised in the jungle by wolves.
While the book and it’s many adaptions have been a childhood favourite for many, the novel itself has come under fire for forming part of the construction of ‘colonial English national identity’.
In 2001, academic Jopi Nyman argued that the book’s depiction of Indian children and animals contribute ‘imagining of Englishness as a site of power and racial superiority’.
He argued that all animals are not portrayed equally in the book and the author depicts ‘colonial animals as racialised’ while characters such as the ‘White Seal’ promote the ‘true English identity’.
Kipling’s 1899 poem The White Man’s Burden has been criticised in modern times for advocating colonialism and portraying other races as inferior.
In 2012, former England footballer John Barnes said that literature like The Jungle Book has instilled bigotry in the minds of generations of British children.
Speaking to students at Liverpool University, he said: ‘Over the last 200 years we have had negative images of black people.’
He added: ‘There are examples everywhere. Rudyard Kipling, one of our greatest heroes, wrote The White Man’s Burden, in which he wrote it was incumbent on the Americans to go and civilise the savages in the Philippines.’
In 2018, students at the University of Manchester painted over Rudyard Kipling’s venerated poem ‘If’ because they deemed it ‘deeply inappropriate’ and upsetting to ethnic minorities.
A team removed Kipling’s verses and accused the university of insulting students by putting it up without consulting them and saying: ‘Black and brown voices have been written out of history enough’.
A 1967 film adaptation of Kipling’s novel, has also been highlighted, namely for its depiction of the ape King Louie, which has been accused of perpetuating a stereotype of African Americans.
Roald Dahl’s beloved 1988 novel Matilda was accused by one online critic of being transphobic due to it’s portrayal of Miss Trunchbull
Roald Dahl’s beloved 1988 novel Matilda has been a favourite among young readers for decades, telling the story of a young girl who escapes her abusive parents with the help of her kind teacher miss Honey.
However it’s not Mr. and Mrs. Wormwood some readers have a problem with, with one online critic claiming the depiction of Matilda’s tyrannical headmistress, Miss Trunchbull, is transphobic.
The character is portrayed as having a ‘gigantic and formidable’ physique including with large shoulders, arms and legs with a ‘deep and dangerous voice’. She wears non-feminine clothing and is known by her last name rather than her first, which is Agatha.
Meanwhile, Miss Honey is perceived as much more feminine, beautiful and smaller than Miss Trunchbull, described as ‘like a porcelain figure.’
According to one online critic writing for Salon magazine, Trunchbull is an allegory for ‘the hubris of being transgender’.
‘Women should know their limitations and never imitate a man’s authority or physical prowess, lest he intervene to remind them who’s boss’.
Last year Sainsbury’s shoppers stripped mugs from their shelves that carried the phrase, ‘a brilliant idea hit her’, an adaptation from a sentence from Trunchbull in the children’s classic, ‘the germ of a brilliant idea hit her’.
Activists accused the supermarket of encouraging ‘domestic violence’ through the ‘hugely problematic’ Miss Trunchbull-style kitchen essential.
A handful of Harry Potter readers have claimed that the book’s portrayal of goblins is anti-Semitic
Last year J.K. Rowling was embroiled in a series of transphobia rows after mocking an online article using the words ‘people who menstruate’ and featuring a male serial killer who dresses as a woman to slay his victims in her latest book.
But it’s not just the author’s personal opinions that online critics have dubbed as offensive, with a handful of Harry Potter readers claiming that the book’s portrayal of goblins is anti-Semitic.
Gringotts Wizarding Bank is the only only bank of the wizarding world and is owned and operated by goblins who are said to be ‘clever as they come, but not the most friendly of beasts.’
Critics on social media have claimed that these goblins, who feature hooked noses and are obsessed with the ownership of gold, are based on antisemitic stereotypes and tropes of Jews.
Several critics have disputed this claim, pointing out 2004 comments from Rowling herself comparing terminology in the book such as ‘mud blood’ to anti-Semitic propaganda of the Nazis and how Lord Voldemort is based, in part, off of Hitler.
BEAUTY AND THE BEST
Some critics have claimed that Beauty and the Beast explores themes of Stockholm Syndrome, which describes the phenomenon of people forming alliances with their captors
Some critics have claimed that Beauty and the Beast isn’t so much a romantic love story as it is a tale about a kidnapped young girl who develops Stockholm Syndrome.
The original tale, written by French novelist Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve and published in 1740, has been adapted several times including into the much-loved 1991 animation.
After being locked up and forbidden to leave the castle by the Beast, Belle eventually finds herself falling in love with her captor, empathising with him and seemingly forgiving him for taking her prisoner.
Stockholm Syndrome describes the phenomenon of people forming alliances with their captors. It was named in 1973, when four hostages taken in a bank robbery in Stockholm, Sweden defended their captors, refusing to testify against them in court after being released.
However, Emma Watson – who played Belle in Disney’s live-action take on the story, said while she ‘grappled’ with the question at the beginning, she ultimately decided that her character was able to ‘keep her independence’.
THE SECRET GARDEN
The Secret Garden is a novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett first published in book form in 1911 which has been slammed for it’s racist dialect and colonial overtones
The Secret Garden is a novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett first published in book form in 1911 which has been slammed for it’s racist dialect and colonial overtones.
The novel tells the story of 10-year-old girl Mary who was born in British India to wealthy British parents who neglect her and she is cared for primarily by servants who allow her to become spoilt and demanding.
After a cholera epidemic kills Mary’s parents, the few surviving servants flee the house without Mary and she is placed in the temporary care of an English clergyman after being discovered by soldiers.
In one exert from the novel, Mary’s maid says to her, ‘I thought you was a black too,’ which causes Mary to stamp her foot and say: ‘You thought I was a native! You dared! You don’t know anything about natives! They are not people.’
Other concerning lines include Mary speaking about house staff in India: ‘They are not people – they’re servants who must salaam to you.’
THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA
CS Lewis’ classic fantasy novels have come under fire for some controversial themes. Pictured, the cover for his novel The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
Despite children’s fantasy novel The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe recently being voted Britain’s most popular book, CS Lewis’ classic fantasy novels have come under fire for some controversial themes.
Part of the fantasy world created by the author includes the Calormene Empire, an empire in the south of the world of Narnia inhabited by the Calormenes.
According to the Telegraph’s Edward Lucas, the depiction Calormenes as ‘cruel and ancient’ is racist stereotyping of a kind common in the GA Henty era, now thankfully forgotten.’
Novelist Philip Pullman called the Chronicles of Narnia ‘blatantly racist’ and in an interview with The Observer, said the books contained ‘a peevish blend of racist, misogynistic, and reactionary prejudice’.
Pullman, who wrote the His Dark Materials trilogy, added: ‘It is monumentally disparaging of girls and women. It is blatantly racist. One girl was sent to hell because she was getting interested in clothes and boys.’
J. M. Barrie’s 1904 Peter Pan play, 1911 novel 1911 novel, and their subsequent screen adaptations have faced controversy over their portrayal of Native Americans
J. M. Barrie’s 1904 Peter Pan play, 1911 novel 1911 novel, and their subsequent screen adaptations have faced controversy over the portrayal of Native Americans.
Critics have argued that the novel has racist undertones, with the author describing Tiger Lily as a princess of a ‘Piccaninny tribe’ and often uses the offensive phrase ‘redskins’.
In one exerpt from the novel, Tiger Lily declares Peter ‘the Great White Father’, after he saves her life.
Viewers of the 1953 animated adaptation of Peter Pan are warned that Native Americans Indians are referred to as ‘redskins’.
Disney claim scenes in which Peter and The Lost Boys dance in native American headdresses are a ‘form of mockery and appropriation of Native peoples’ culture and imagery.’
Hugh Lofting’s ‘Dr. Dolittle’ was first published in 1920 however in the late ’80s was altered to remove some of the offensive content
Hugh Lofting’s ‘Dr. Dolittle’ was first published in 1920 however in the late ’80s was altered to remove the racist content.
In one passage from the original book, the protagonist helps an African prince who wants to marry a Caucasian princess by bleaching his skin while the novel also featured offensive illustrations of African people.
Librarian Isabelle Suhl called the book ‘chauvinistic’ and dubbed the protagonist ‘the personification of The Great White Father Nobly Bearing the White Man’s Burden’
She added to the New York Times that his creator was a ‘white racist and chauvinist, guilty of almost every prejudice known to modern white Western man.’
BABAR THE ELEPHANT
Babar’s Travels, in which one of the cartoon elephant’s adventures finds him faced with ‘savage cannibals’, has also come under fire for exposing children to ethnic stereotypes
The Babar the Elephant series by French novelist Jean De Brunhoff has come under fire for offensive, racist images of black people in both illustrations and text.
It tells the story of a young elephant who leaves Africa for Paris after his mother is killed by a cruel hunter and is taken in by a wealthy old woman who promptly begins to teach him how to live as a human.
Critics have argued that the book celebrations of colonialism because of how the title character leaves the jungle and later returns to ‘civilize’ his fellow animals.
Another book in the series, Babar’s Travels, came under fire for exposing children to ethnic stereotypes when one of the cartoon elephant’s adventures finds him faced with ‘savage cannibals’.
It was removed from a library in East Sussex in 2012 after staff upheld a complaint that it contained offensive stereotypes of black Africans.