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Charlie and the Chocolate Factory | Study Guide

Roald Dahl

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Charlie and the Chocolate Factory | Chapter 16 : The Oompa-Loompas | Summary



Mr. Wonka explains he brought the Oompa-Loompas all the way from Loompaland, a terrible country inhabited by dangerous beasts: "hornswogglers and snozzwangers and those terrible wicked whangdoodles." All the Oompa-Loompas had to eat was green caterpillars. The food they loved most was cacao beans, which were almost impossible to find.

Mr. Wonka goes on to say that when he told the Oompa-Loompas they could have all the cacao beans they wanted if they'd come and live in his factory, they couldn't wait. So he smuggled them over in packing cases, "and they all got here safely. They're wonderful workers ... love dancing and music ... They like jokes."

At this point Veruca Salt interrupts to say she wants her father to get her an Oompa-Loompa to take home with her. While Veruca is shrieking, Augustus Gloop sneaks down to the edge of the river and kneels on the bank, "scooping hot melted chocolate into his mouth" as fast as he can.


Hornswogglers and snozzwangers: great examples of Dahl's invented words, a trademark of his humor. Although the grass called "swudge" was featured in a previous chapter, this is the first time in the book Dahl uses real attention-grabbers.

The Oompa-Loompas have a troubled history—not only inside the pages of the book, but in the real world. As Dahl conceived them in the book's first edition, the Oompa-Loompas were African pygmies. "Smuggled" overseas in packing crates, kept inside the factory fulltime, paid in cacao beans, and used as test subjects for new products, the childlike and dependent Oompa-Loompas were problematic even in the early 1960s. Modern readers will be shocked at the fact that Dahl's publishers didn't realize the Oompa-Loompas were essentially portrayed as African slaves. Even the fact that Charlie will "inherit" these workers from Mr. Wonka is troubling.

At first Dahl claimed not to have noticed anything amiss with the portrayal of what he called his "little fantasy creatures." After all, he pointed out, most of the white people in the book are unlikeable. Still, he came to agree with the allegations of racism and revised the first edition. The new version was published in 1973. In Chapter 17 the new Oompa-Loompas had "rosy-white" skin and long golden-brown hair" and were from "Loompaland."

Interestingly, the 2005 film Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, directed by Tim Burton, emphasizes the servile quality of the Oompa-Loompas. In the movie they are brown-skinned and—like cattle—are branded with Mr. Wonka's initials. Burton's intent is to make the viewer uncomfortable about the Oompa-Loompas' relationship with Mr. Wonka, and the effort succeeds.

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