Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Lord of the Flies

Two movies have been based on The Lord of the Flies (1954) by William Golding.

1. Lord of the Flies UK movie (1963). British Lion/Allen-Hodgdon/Two Arts. Pr Lewis Allen. Exec pr Al Hine. Assoc pr Gerald Feil. Dir Peter Brook. Screenplay Brook. Starring James Aubrey (Ralph), Tom Chapin (Jack), Hugh Edwards (Piggy), Tom Gaman (Simon). 91 mins. B/w.

An aircraft bearing schoolboys evacuated from London at the start of a war (perhaps WWIII) crashes on an Island. The survivors, from two schools, elect Ralph as their chief; the unsuccessful candidate, Jack, appoints himself head of the Hunters. Ralph, assisted by the asthmatic, myopic Piggy – the profoundly irritating voice of sweet reason – attempts to establish a workable community, with much effort directed towards the possibility of rescue; he bases his leadership on a fetish – a conch-shell which is generally agreed to permit whoever bears it to speak to the assembly. But Jack rebels against rationality, eventually setting up his own tribe, which thrives on totemism (see Totems), Sacrifice and Ritual, and is bound together by Jack's own manipulation of others' fear to create a crude Religion and a mythological (see Mythology) enemy, the Shapeshifting Beast supposed to inhabit the high rocks. Soon all but Ralph and Piggy are in Jack's tribe, and have become little more than wild animals – parasitic upon the other two, for Piggy's spectacles are their sole means of creating fire. At last the "tribesmen" murder Piggy, and hunt down Jack with the intention of killing him also – for he is the last reminder of their conscience. Rescue arrives just in time to save his life.

TLOTF is not easy to watch: it offers a deeply depressing view in microcosm of the cultural evolution of humankind towards the bestial. In the course of that evolution the central characters develop into symbols of societal functionaries: they become, in effect, representatives of stock characters used by High Fantasy. Simon, both mystic and scientific inquirer, represents the Magus (his given name can be no accident); Jack is the barbarian warrior; Piggy is the stolid chronicler; and Ralph is Everyman. An austere movie, shot in b/w, TLOTF is powerfully affecting: the killings of Simon and Piggy are two of the most shocking and poignant moments in Cinema. The image of Piggy's myopic scowl, one spectacle lens broken by the bullying Jack, is almost a cultural Icon signifying human despair in the face of humanity's own Evil. The movie is technically not well made, yet watching it remains an acutely unnerving experience.

TLOTF is one of a clutch of movies concerned with the origins of Fantasy through the evocation of childhood: others include Whistle Down the Wind (1961), The Spirit of the Beehive (1973) and Celia (1988). [JG]

2. The Lord of the Flies US movie (1990). Castle Rock/Nelson/Jack's Camp/Signal Hill. Pr Ross Milloy. Exec pr Lewis Allen, Peter Newman. Dir Harry Hook. Screenplay Sara Schiff. Starring Badgett Dale (Simon), Chris Furrh (Jack), Balthazar Getty (Ralph), Michael Greene (The Pilot), Daniel Pipoly (Piggy). 90 mins. Colour.

The story is roughly as in 1, but modernized and Americanized: the schoolboys are here teenaged US military cadets. The pilot is found not dead but alive, though so evil-minded because of injury that he comes to be regarded as a supernatural creature whose wrath must be assuaged through sacrifice. This is technically better made than 1, but out with the amateurishness goes any sense of mythopoeia: what we have is an adventure tale, almost an anti-fantasy. [JG]


This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.