There are countless books and movies based on real events, but how about a real event that took place after the novel and the movie were made?
One of the top 100 most read books in Western literature is Lord of the Flies, a 1951 novel by Nobel Prize winning British author William Golding. The book is about a group of British schoolboys stranded on an uninhabited South Pacific island and their ultimately disastrous attempt to govern themselves. Themes include the tension between groupthink and individuality, between rational and emotional reactions, and all shades of morality. The film employed untrained child actors who had not read the book. As several of the kids are killed by the other boys, they were in for quite a surprise.
The book and the film were banned in some places because English schoolboys could never be such bullies. Not in England, no. It was banned in Texas. You would think that bulling would be OK in Texas.
It was also a no-go in South Dakota and North Carolina. And this as recently as the year 2000! In Terminator 2 and The Bible nearly everyone is brutally killed, but we can’t have boys being boys now can we?
In England many boys in the 1950s and long before were sent away to school at the age of seven, and being stabbed with a sharpened toothbrush was good training for future leaders to order sailors aloft in a hazardous gale or command troops out of the trenches into withering machine gun fire. A little bullying toughens the little bastards right up.
The book begins with the boys arriving on the island after their plane has been shot down during what seems to be part of a nuclear World War III. The book portrays their descent into savagery; left to themselves on a tropical island, far from modern civilization, children of the aristo-class regress to a primitive state.
In 1966 the story was acted out with real schoolboys, but the results were entirely different. The actual island is named Ata Island, which is an uninhabited rock between Tonga and well, basically nowhere. Six teenage schoolboys attending a Catholic school in Tonga were so bored with school that they decided to ‘borrow’ a boat and sail to Australia or New Zealand. They took a few provisions but none were skilled sailors, and after falling asleep they found themselves drifting at sea—their sail having shredded in a squall. For 7 days they drifted and nearly died of thirst until they landed on a tiny, rocky island.
They immediately formed a pact to support one another, and when they were rescued 15 months later, they had built a house, planted a garden, and even built a guitar out of parts from the boat. Like the boys in Lord of the Flies they started a signal fire, but unlike the lads in the book, they kept it going.
An Australian fisherman saw the fire and found the six castaways in perfect health, including one who had broken his leg badly but had made a full recovery. The boys and their rescuer have remained friends for life, and the story is widely known in the Western Pacific.
This short documentary is reenacted by the actual boys and is a beautiful and touching testament to resilience and good luck.
This second video is more recent and features a reunion of the rescuer and the boys now in their 70s: