Lord of the Flies

Lord of the Flies has entered the culture. Ralph, Jack and Piggy are archetypes of human fallibility, but most of all they are real characters, fully imagined and leaping to life off the page.

Lord of the Flies 60th anniversary book

For the 60th anniversary of the publication of Lord of the Flies, we asked Golding fans from around the world to submit their words, artwork, or projects on what Lord of the Flies means to them. The result is this beautiful ebook , designed by James Colman.


As Lord of the Flies was being written…

In 1951 Golding was living in Salisbury with his wife Ann, and two children, David and Judy. Golding and Ann read to their children and the books were often island-based adventure stories. While sitting in front of the fire in their flat Golding said ‘Wouldn’t it be a good idea if I wrote a book about children on an island, children who would behave in the way children really would behave?’ This idea grew into Lord of the Flies.

The novel was rejected by a number of publishers before finally being published by Faber and Faber in 1954.

Peter Brook

In 1963 Peter Brook directed the first film adaptation of Lord of the Flies.


The Inheritors

A powerful and savage story about the struggle between Neanderthals and modern humans. This is Golding at his most imaginative.

Did you know?

The Inheritors was Golding’s favourite out of all his novels. He wrote the first draft of the manuscript in 29 days, and abandoned another novel he was writing at the time, In Search of My Father, to concentrate on The Inheritors. He wrote to his editor: ‘I haven’t done any research for the book at all – just brooded over what I know myself’.


Golding’s vision of the Neanderthals’ world being disrupted, and eventually destroyed by the ‘New People’ (Homo Sapiens) has been proven to be accurate. Recent scientific discoveries have confirmed that the Neanderthals died out within a few thousand years of the arrival of Homo Sapiens, and DNA analysis has shown that Neanderthals did interbreed with the New People.

Savernake Forest

The landscape in The Inheritors was inspired by Golding’s visits to Savernake Forest, Wiltshire.


Pincher Martin

Christopher ‘Pincher’ Martin is drowning. Drowning in the Atlantic Ocean, and in the polyphonic memories of his deceptive past. This desolate and powerful novel still has the power to shock.

Disaster at sea

Pincher Martin features a shipwreck and in a strange twist of fate, Golding suffered a disaster at sea just after writing the novel. Golding, his wife Ann, and children David and Judy were sailing on the family boat, Wild Rose. During a storm on the English Channel, the boat was battered by fierce waves and the family drifted helplessly for three days. Golding wrote that they ‘were lucky’ to survive.

Did you know?

The title of the American edition of Pincher Martin is The Two Deaths of Christopher Martin. Golding’s American publishers were concerned that ‘Pincher’, a term used in the British Navy for anyone with the surname Martin, would be incomprehensible for an American audience. Golding came up with a number of alternate titles which were rejected, including The Chinese have X-Ray Eyes and Perchance to Dream.

Pincher Martin: An Opera by Oliver Rudland

Pincher Martin was adapted for the first time in 2014, into an opera by Oliver Rudland. Performed at the Britten Theatre, Royal College of Music, the opera combined music, video, and everyday sounds to create an unforgettable narrative.


Free Fall

A novel that interrogates what it means to be human.

Alec Golding

Golding’s father (Albert) Alec Golding was the basis for the character of Nick Shales in Free Fall. Alec died in December 1958 after Golding wrote the first draft of the manuscript, and he later revised the ending of the novel. The new final chapter featured Shales dying in hospital, being visited by the protagonist Sammy Mountjoy. There are some autobiographical elements in Free Fall, although the novel is by no means an autobiographical portrait of Golding.


At this stage in Golding’s career, he began writing journalistic pieces. The first of these to be published was his childhood memoir ‘Billy the Kid‘ in The Spectator, a tribute to his mother who died in 1960. Many of these pieces have been collected in The Hot Gates (1965) and A Moving Target (1982).

End of teaching career

Shortly after the publication of Free Fall, Golding was finally able to give up his job as a teacher at Bishop Wordsworth’s School, Salisbury, due to the success of his writing, and an invitation to lecture at American universities. Golding was nicknamed ‘Scruff’ by his pupils.


The Spire

Rich in symbolism and with a beautifully realised setting, The Spire reveals the cost and sacrifice of one man’s obsession.

The Spire read by Benedict Cumberbatch

Benedict Cumberbatch provides the narration for the first ever unabridged audiobook of The Spire. Cumberbatch is exceptional in portraying Dean Jocelin’s descent into madness, and brings the medieval world to life. The audiobook was released in 2014 and is available to buy or download.

Dedication to Judy Golding

The Spire is dedicated to Golding’s daughter, Judy, who in her memoir The Children of Lovers, recalls that she and her family often visited Salisbury Cathedral. She remembers seeing the ‘awkward sight’ of some of the tombs, although her ‘parents must have distracted [her] as [they] passed the cadaver tomb, with its collapsed, decaying body’. Golding uses this tomb in The Spire as inspiration for Jocelin’s monument.

Judy is the CEO of William Golding Ltd, and is married with three children.

Inspiration for The Spire

Golding was a schoolmaster at Bishop Wordsworth’s School in Salisbury, and the window of his classroom looked directly out onto the spire on Salisbury Cathedral. During restructuring work at the Cathedral, Golding began to imagine how the majestic spire could have been built, and the result was The Spire.


The Pyramid

Featuring love, lust and rebellion, The Pyramid is a comic coming-of-age tale in small-town England.

Gaia hypothesis

Around the time of writing The Pyramid, Golding became friends with James Lovelock who also lived in Bowerchalke, Wiltshire. Lovelock’s theory, the Gaia hypothesis, argues that the Earth is a self-regulating complex system, which is regulated by the presence of life. Lovelock told Golding his idea, who suggested he name it ‘Gaia’, after the Greek goddess of the earth.

Dedication to David Golding

The Pyramid is dedicated to Golding’s son, David. David was born in 1940, shortly before Golding reported for duty in the Second World War. Like his father, David attended Brasenose College,  Oxford, but David read History, rather than literature. In addition to the dedication for The Pyramid, it is probable that David’s strong religious beliefs and medical history influenced the character of Matty in Darkness Visible.

David lives at Tullimaar and is a director of William Golding Ltd.


During childhood, Golding lived in Marlborough, Wiltshire, in the double-gabled white house at the centre of the picture. His experiences here inspired parts of The Pyramid.


The Scorpion God

Three witty novellas revisioning space, time and history, uniquely imaginative in Golding’s inimitable style.

Three stories

The Scorpion God is a collection of three novellas, including The Scorpion God (1971), Envoy Extraordinary (1956) and Clonk Clonk (1971). The novellas are all very different from each other, stretching from ancient Egypt, to Imperial Rome.


At this time, Golding was experiencing a number of difficulties. He began writing his dream diary in 1971, and an undated entry was entitled ‘History of a Crisis’. Golding began to find life pointless and turned to alcohol in a misguided attempt to remedy this. He found it impossible to write at this time.

Dream Diaries

Golding initially called his journals his dream diaries, and he used them to reflect on, and analyse his dreams. He kept these journals for over 22 years, and they contain over a million words. The journals are unpublished but were used by John Carey in his biography of Golding.


Darkness Visible

A surprisingly modern novel mixing terrorism, religion, and sexual power. A masterpiece.

James Tait Black Prize

Golding was awarded the James Tait Black Prize for fiction for Darkness Visible in 1980. This prize was the first of many for Golding in the 1980s.

Did you know?

Golding famously refused to discuss Darkness Visible, either in private, or in public. It was written after a long period of writer’s block, and the development of the book is recorded meticulously in Golding’s journal, from 1975–1979.


During the writing of Darkness Visible, Golding bought an early chess computer, a Chess Challenger, which proved a ‘welcome distraction from the agonies of writing’. Golding was a frequent chess player, both in person, and by post. Darkness Visible features a chess player – Sophy and Toni’s father, Mr Stanhope.


Rites of Passage

A story of the sea, travel, tension, and the ultimate power of shame…

Booker Prize

In 1980, Golding was awarded the Booker Prize for Rites of Passage. Other books nominated that year were Anthony Burgess, Earthly Powers; Anita Desai, Clear Light of Day; Alice Munro, The Beggar Maid; Julia O’Faolain’s No Country for Young Men; Barry Unsworth, Pascali’s Island; and J L Carr, A Month in the Country.

While Rites of Passage was being written…

Golding was also writing Darkness Visible! The two novels are extraordinarily different, and it is hard to imagine how Golding was able to juggle both these books.

According to John Carey, Golding was inspired to write Rites of Passage after reading Elizabeth Longford’s biography of Wellington, in which a chaplain got drunk and disgraced himself…

Nobel Prize for Literature

In 1983, Golding was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.


The Paper Men

A thrilling chase between subject and biographer. A must-read in our time of self-portrayal and disruption of privacy.


Inspiration for the novel came from reading Baker’s biography of Hemingway. Golding imagined ‘the idea of a writer watching his biographer come apart at the seams’ and in The Paper Men this idea was demonstrated through Rick Tucker’s obsessive pursuit of Wilf Barclay.

Golding had a difficult relationship with critics and there are elements in his character that are reflected in Barclay. Golding would sometimes respond to letters with the following:

‘William Golding regrets that he is unable to answer any questions about his books. If he did so he would have no time for anything else.’


Royal Society of Literature

In 1983, Golding was made a Companion of Literature by the Royal Society of Literature. At any one time there are only ten Companions so this was an extremely prestigious award. Samuel Beckett and Graham Greene were also appointed Companions at this time.


While writing The Paper Men, Golding developed a new hobby –  horse riding. Golding was 71 years old but took lessons three times a week. He eventually bought his own horse, Cobber, and took great pleasure in riding around the Wiltshire countryside, exploring ancient burial mounds and forgotten orchards.


Close Quarters

Half-mad with fear, with drink, with love and opium, everyone on this leaky, unsound hulk is ‘going to pieces’…


In the summer of 1988 William Golding was knighted by the Queen at Buckingham Palace. He was particularly struck by two aspects of the process. First, the lowlier the order the more the Queen talked to you. Secondly, she knew in each case why the order was awarded. After tapping him on the shoulder with the sword, she gave him his order and ribbon, and then asked him as she shook his hand, ‘And are you still writing?’ ‘Oh yes, Marm’, he replied, with dutiful brevity. ‘Oh good’, she said, and with just the suspicion of a slight push made him aware that he was ‘done’.


Golding and Ann visited Canada for the first time in 1985, embarking on a reading tour arranged by the British Council. Golding was impressed by Canada, particularly for its ‘wonderful sense of endless space’.

While on tour, they met a whole host of writers, including Les Murray, Julia O’Faolain, Brian Aldiss, Malcolm Bradbury and Alison Lurie.


In 1985, Golding and his wife Ann moved to a house in Cornwall called Tullimaar, near Perranworthal. The house is surrounded by stunning gardens, which was rather like a wilderness when they arrived. Golding  was delighted by the space and quiet. The first novel to be written there was Close Quarters.


Fire Down Below

Golding’s characters at last reach Australia … as their ship smoulders threateningly to their near-destruction.

John Carey

Golding’s eventual biographer, John Carey, met Golding shortly after the publication of Fire Down Below and asked him if Edmund’s vision of the Prettimans at the end of the novel were based on memories of Golding’s own parents. Golding replied instantly that Carey was right.

Carey was given unprecedented access to Golding’s unpublished papers and journals by the Golding estate, and his biography, William Golding: The Man Who Wrote Lord of the Flies, was published in 2009 by Faber and Faber.

Jane Austen

The novels of Jane Austen were a source of inspiration for The Sea Trilogy. During the writing of Rites of Passage he re-read all six of her novels, and read Emma three times.

In his review of Fire Down Below, W L Webb praised the ‘magnificent sea pictures’, and suggested that the pastiches of Jane Austen’s social comedy made it ‘almost post-modern’.

Golding writes about Austen in the essay ‘Rough Magic’ from A Moving Target and refers to her as ‘the novelist’s novelist’.

To the Ends of the Earth BBC Adaptation

The BBC adapted the three novels of The Sea Trilogy – Rites of PassageClose QuartersFire Down Below into a TV mini-series in 2005. Benedict Cumberbatch portrayed Edmund Talbot, with Sam Neill as Mr Prettiman and Jared Harris as Captain Anderson. To the Ends of the Earth marked the first time Cumberbatch was involved with Golding’s works as he would go on to read passages and extracts from novels and journals in the BBC Arena Documentary, The Dreams of William Golding, and also narrated Canongate’s audiobook of The Spire.


The Double Tongue

Set amidst the gradual domination of Greece by the Roman Empire, Priestess Arieka struggles with religion, and with what it means to be a woman.

Dedication to Faber and Charles Monteith

The Double Tongue was dedicated to Faber and Faber, the UK publisher for all of Golding’s novels, and Charles Monteith, editor at Faber. Monteith was responsible for rescuing the manuscript of Lord of the Flies from the reject pile in 1953, and thus began one of the most important author-editor relationships in British literary history. Golding and Monteith became great friends, and Monteith was devastated by Golding’s death. Monteith himself died in 1995.

Female narrator

The Double Tongue is Golding’s first novel with a solely female narrator, told in the first person. Although Part Two of Darkness Visible is about Sophy, Golding tells her story through omniscient narration.

In this final novel, Golding beautifully captures the voice of Arieka, an unloved daughter of a Greek noble, who becomes a priestess of Apollo:

‘I understood a little more of what a girl was’ – Arieka.

Death of William Golding

Golding died on 19th June 1993, while at home in Cornwall. His final novel, The Double Tongue was left in draft at his death. It was published posthumously.