In the newest collector’s edition of «Where’s Wally?» you can see comprehensive changes, all related to Arabs and/or Islam.
Many people born in the 1980s and 1990s have a nostalgic relationship with the cartoon figure Wally (or Waldo in the U.S. and Canada), created by Martin Hanford. During childhood we tried to find the spectacled dude with red and white striped clothes in a number of books, among big crowds in all sorts of places: From cities and campsites in the first release to still more imaginative areas in recent books, such as ancient Egypt, the castle of Dracula, Hollywood studios, fantasy lands and much more.
I was thoroughly pleased when I recently received the fairly new collection «Where’s Wally? The Totally Essential Travel Collection» as a gift. However, when I browsed through what I thought would be nice childhood memories, I got a bad taste in my mouth: at least four of the scenes have been radically changed!
Out with the Arabs
Over the years the Wally books have had a few minor changes in the name of political correctness, primarily the introduction of a bra to a topless lady on a beach and underwear for a streaker at a sports stadium. The changes in the «Totally Essential Travel Collection», on the other hand, are significantly bigger and, in my opinion, shocking.
As far as I can see, four scenes have been changed from including Arabs and/or Muslims to replacing them with something else. The scenes involved are:
- The End of the Crusades in «Where’s Wally Now?»
- The Carpet Flyers in «The Fantastic Journey»
- Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves in «Where’s Wally in Hollywood?»
- The Beat of the Drums in «Where’s Wally?: The Ultimate Fun Book»
The End of the Crusades
The changes in this particular scene primarily consist of three elements: The locale is moved from the Middle East to Europe (although the sand in the desert stays), the crusaders have had their red crosses replaced with several blue coats of arms, and the Muslims are switched with some other, western soldiers.
The Carpet Flyers
This scene consisted of a classical adventure world with Arab architecture and flying carpets. Now, however, the world features «dragon flyers» and building styles no longer reminiscent of Arabic domes and aesthetics.
Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves
In the original Wally-Hollywood version of this classical folk tale from «One Thousand and One Nights», Ali Baba and his forty thieves were comically misinterpreted as Ali Barber and the forty thousand thieves. This pun has been completely lost in what has become just a cove with a bunch of pirates and ghosts, instead of Arabs and genies.
The Beat of the Drums
This scene was originally featured in «The Ultimate Fun Book» and depicted a military parade with what looked like Arab soldiers. In the revised edition the Arabs have been replaced with what looks like Renaissance style western soldiers. (The revised scene first appeared in «The Incredible Paper Chase»).
Oddly enough, the Muslim bedouins/nomads have been kept in the scene containing the French Foreign Legion in «Where’s Wally in Hollywood». I guess it was impossible to switch these guys with something meaningful.
No other scenes have been altered as dramatically as these four, as far as I can tell. All the scenes mentioned included brown people apparently of Arab/Muslim origin, and in all of the scenes these elements have been removed. This leaves grounds to be concerned.
What is the cause?
I have searched the web, but I haven’t found anything commenting these edits, and certainly no information on why the revisions were enforced. If you have some knowledge on the matter, please send an email.
If I’m going to speculate on the cause of the changes, it must be due to someone at the publisher or possibly Martin Hanford himself thought the old scenes were «culturally insensitive» toward the Arab world. As the conflict with Islam has grown the last decades, I think the publisher don’t want to kindle «hate and fear» toward the religion. I don’t agree with the decision no matter what the cause, but the possible explanation can be understandable in today’s climate of political correctness and in a world where comic artists are shot down with machine guns for insulting the Profet.
The changes are a symptom of something ominous: The destruction of free thought, free exchange of opinions, and free speech – one of the important pillars of the Western civilization. Self-imposed silencing due to fear of repercussions is still silencing. In an era where classical works are increasingly censored and politicians apologize for free speech in the face of blood thirsty mobs, this is something you should be concerned about.
Don’t take our freedom for granted.