Hidden Treats in the Chocolate Factory

Posted by
Stephanie Cornwell, Archive Assistant at the Roald Dahl Museum
Posted on
11:30am, 7th April
Charlie, Museum
Roald Dahl archive material copyright RDNL

Discover some secrets from the early drafts of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was inspired by Roald Dahl’s life-long passion for chocolate but more directly, from his childhood experience of taste testing new chocolates for Cadbury’s and dreaming of becoming an amazing chocolate inventor. 

The story actually began life as Charlie’s Chocolate Boy, with up to fifteen children visiting Wonka’s factory, and involved Charlie accidently becoming encased inside a chocolate mould. The earliest surviving draft in Roald Dahl’s archive is considerably longer than the final version and is filled with delicious details of unseen Wonka creations.

In the first few pages of this draft, Wonka’s genius abilities are made clear with descriptions of large sculptures and buildings crafted from chocolate, sweets and icing. As well as an early version of the chocolate palace story that Grandpa Joe tells Charlie, Dahl writes about Wonka’s design of an extraordinarily large Easter egg with a miniature village hidden inside. The tiny town may well have been inspired by the Bekonscot Model Village & Railway in Beaconsfield, close to Great Missenden where he worked and lived.

Later in the story, there is a room full of enormous chocolate sculptures of people and animals of all kinds including ‘fierce-looking tigers’ and ‘enormous snow-white polar bears made out of white chocolate’. It is also in this room that Charlie becomes accidently trapped inside the chocolate boy mould.

Roald Dahl archive material

Some of Roald Dahl’s wonderful inventing rooms were also removed from the final version; ‘The Vanilla Fudge Room’ contained ‘a colossal jagged mountain as high as a five-storey building…made of pale brown, creamy, vanilla fudge’, and ‘The Warming Candy Room’ described as ‘like the engine room of a gigantic old-fashioned ship’, created red sweets that will ‘warm your entire body even on the coldest of days’.

As the story was gradually refined, the details of Wonka’s big projects were removed to focus on the chocolate bars and sweets every child could enjoy. However, glimpses of these rooms can be found in the chapter ‘Along the corridor’ where Willy Wonka rushes the children past a series of tantalising inventing rooms. Charlie sees ‘A great, craggy mountain made entirely of fudge’ through a door, and a reference to the warming candies is made in Wonka’s invention of hot ice cream and ice cubes for cold days.

Ideas from these early drafts can even be seen in other books with the story for The Giraffe, the Pelly and Me, being directly descended from Charlie’s Chocolate Boy. The original ending involves Charlie being taken to Mr Wonka’s home, foiling a burglary and being given a chocolate shop by Willy Wonka as a reward; a clear inspiration for Billy and his animal friends stopping a thief and being gifted ‘The Grubber’ sweet shop. Billy’s shop even stocks new Willy Wonka inventions such as ‘Stickjaw for talkative parents’ and Rainbow Drops which allow you to ‘spit in seven different colours’.  

The original concepts of the amazing treats to be found in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory demonstrate how Roald Dahl cleverly reworked some of his best ideas, whilst others would remain unseen, like the tantalisingly ‘delicious smells wafting through the keyholes’ and down the factory’s endless pink corridors.