If you’ve been through high school English class you’ve most likely encountered the deceptively dark novel that is William Golding’s Lord of the Flies. It’s the story of a group of British schoolboys who get stranded on a remote island and, relatively quickly, devolve into violence and pain. It’s taught as a classic tale peering into the savageness of human nature; a bleak and unrelenting warning about how selfish human beings can be, even at such a young age.
What you may not know, however, is that in 1966, fifteen years after the novel was written, six schoolboys were rescued after being stranded on the remote island of ‘Ata in the Tonga archipelago for over a year!
The schoolboys had been bored with life at the strict Catholic boarding school they attended in Tonga’s capital in Nuku’alofa and so, desiring a bit more excitement, stole a boat from a local fisherman and set sail for adventure in Fiji, about 500 miles away.
Predictably, however, things didn’t go according to plan and the six boys were eventually marooned on the island of ‘Ata, some 200 miles away from where they started their trip!
It is here that the real-life story seriously deviates from the novel, for rather than being consumed by selfishness and violence, the boys banded together to make the most of their situation. They kept a fire continuously burning for almost a full year and collected and portioned out food (mainly seabird eggs, fish, and fruit) and rainwater. Once, one of the boys broke his leg, and the others were able to set it with leaves and sticks so well that it completely healed!
A little while into their entrapment on the island, the boys discovered a village at the top of the island which had been deserted for almost a century and found bananas and chickens.
They were then able to construct a garden, a makeshift gym with weights, a chicken pen for those chickens they found, and even a badminton court.
Finally, on September 11, 1966, Peter Walker, the son of a wealthy Australian businessman, was out with his fishing fleet when he took a detour and discovered ‘Ata island. Suddenly, he saw six boys with very long hair shouting and swimming towards his boat. Upon reaching it, one of the boys said, “My name is Stephen. “There are six of us and we reckon we’ve been here fifteen months.”
Turns out, Stephen and his friends were just a little off, having been lost at sea for two days under fifteen months. They were welcomed home with glee, and Peter became a national hero.
So, there you have it! That’s the real story of what happens when a group of schoolboys get stranded on an island for a very long time. Might you give the novel a reread soon? Let us know in the comments!
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