The real story behind “Lord of the Flies”
If you have attended grade school in Canada, chances are you’ve read Lord of the Flies. But you might not know the true story about the book, its troubled author, and the actual tale it’s based upon.
Lord of the Flies is a 1954 novel by Nobel Prize-winning British author William Golding. The book focuses on a group of British boys stranded on an uninhabited island and their disastrous attempt to govern themselves.
But, as radio host Jim Hightower tells the story on the blog, Portside, Golding, “was an alcoholic prone to depression who beat his kids. ‘I have always understood the Nazis,’ Golding once said, ‘because I am of that sort by nature.’
Hightower describes how Dutch historian Rutger Bregman unearthed an actual incident of shipwrecked children: In 1965, six bored schoolboys from Tonga, ages 13 to 16, took a small fishing boat out on a lark, but they were caught in a sudden storm and drifted for days before washing up on a desolate rocky islet, where they were stranded for more than a year.
He learned that, far from devolving into barbarism, the inventive teenagers had set up a functioning democracy and communal economy. They split chores into teams of two, built sleeping huts and a kitchen, tended a garden, stored rainwater, created a gymnasium, fashioned a badminton court and got a fire going (taking turns protecting it so it never went out).
If there was an argument, the rule was that the quarrelers had to go to opposite ends of the island to cool down for a few hours before they were brought back to the group to apologize. “That’s how we stayed friends,” one former castaway told Bregman.
Read the whole story on Portside. And, by the way, sign up for a subscription while you’re there.