I was watching the movie Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and saw that Willy Wonka employed a race of short humanoids with burnt orange skin. It was implied that they are not human, but never stated for sure that I can recall. So are these supposed to be humans of short stature, or another species?

  • In the Tim Burton movie one of the children asks whether they're humans and Wonka says of course they are.
    – Wingfoot
    Apr 20 at 13:52

2 Answers 2


In the books and the films, the Oompa-Loompas have always been human. However, their illustrated appearance has changed over time. The book "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" was first published in 1964. Space/time travel elements such as aliens were not really introduced into the series until the book "Charlie and the Glass Elevator".

According to Wikipedia:

Oompa-Loompas are known for their short stature, green hair, orange skin and white pants with protruding knees. In early editions of the novel, Oompa-Loompa are shown as African pygmies. Following growing controversy and criticism, in later editions of the book, Oompa-Loompa are white skinned and golden haired.

Oompa-Loompa come from Loompaland, which is a region of Loompa, a small isolated island in the Atlantic Ocean. ... Oompa-Loompa are only knee-high, with astonishing haircuts, and are paid in their favourite food, cacao beans, which were extremely rare in their island. Oompa-Loompa insist on maintaining their native clothing: men wear skins, women wear leaves, and children wear nothing (in the 1971 film, the Oompa Loompas wore Germanic clothing with stripped shirts and baggy lederhosen-like pants, in the 2005 film, the Oompa Loompas wore tribal clothing in their native Loompaland and typical factory worker uniforms in the factory). In the 1971 film the male Oompa-Loompas are seen working in the factory, in the 2005 film only one female worker, a secretary Mr. Wonka addresses as Doris (when the Great Glass Elevator passes through the administration offices) is seen, though in Quentin Blake's illustrations both male and female Oompa-Loompas are shown rolling away Violette Beauregarde after her transformation into a blueberry. Presumably the females remain in the village seen briefly from the Great Glass Elevator.

From an article on Oompa Loompa Evolution:

original Oompa Loompas

"In the version first published, [the Oompa–Loompas were] a tribe of 3,000 amiable black pygmies who have been imported by Mr. Willy Wonka from 'the very deepest and darkest part of the African jungle where no white man had been before.' Mr. Wonka keeps them in the factory, where they have replaced the sacked white workers. Wonka's little slaves are delighted with their new circumstances, and particularly with their diet of chocolate. Before they lived on green caterpillars, beetles, eucalyptus leaves, 'and the bark of the bong–bong tree.'"

Source: Jeremy Treglown's Roald Dahl: A Biography

Their appearance changed in the 1970's:

revised Oompa Loompas

It wasn't until 1972, nearly a decade later, that a wide–ranging attack on the book was published by American writer Eleanor Cameron and the political agenda of the story finally began to be debated.

After Dahl and Cameron had many public back–and–forths in various American literary journals (over much more than just charges of racism - see the Horn Book's excellent virtual exhibit to read the letters for yourself), Dahl's publishers decided that "to those growing up in a racially mixed society, the Oompa–Loompas were no longer acceptable as originally written. The following year, to accompany its new sequel, Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator, a revised edition of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory appeared, in which the Oompa–Loompas had become dwarfish hippies with long 'golden–brown hair' and 'rosy–white' skin."

Source: Jeremy Treglown's Roald Dahl: A Biography

The link to the above mentioned letters was broken but the Wayback Machine still has a copy of them.

  • Does the fact that they are from an island in the Atlantic prove they are humans? I don't think so. Apr 20 at 17:45
  • @ThePopMachine the point being in the books there is nothing alien or unhuman about them - they are merely pygmies. (In the movies that may not be the case.) Apr 21 at 1:17

Though I can't find a direct quote in the book, Wikipedia refers to them as "pygmy like men", so I am assuming they are humans.

Roald Dahl originally referred to them as black African pygmys, but then later changed it to creatures from Oompaland to prevent any racial accusations. So I would say that they are human, but just from oompaland, a mythical place.

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