“A place of inexhaustible mysteries”: The modern legendry of Skull Island in the King Kong films and related media texts


  • Philip Hayward University of Technology, Sydney




Abstract: The 1933 film King Kong established its giant ape as an enduring cultural figure. It also introduced the public to a strange tropical island where prehistoric animals existed alongside a giant primate and a small human community sheltering behind a wall on a tiny peninsula. During the 20th century the island was essentially a sub-feature within a number of King Kong-themed films and, indeed, was referred to under various names. In recent decades, this position has shifted. De Vito’s 2004 illustrated novel, Peter Jackson’s 2005 remake of the original film and associated print and video texts, have significantly enhanced the island’s profile, establishing it definitively as ‘Skull Island’, and have provided contextual rationales for its geology, biology and society. These, in turn, spurred the production of related texts that have embroidered Skull Island into popular culture as an entity in its own right. Most recently, the 2017 remake, Kong: Skull Island, has offered a significant re-imagining that reinstates elements of texts that preceded and influenced the imagination of the original 1933 film. This article charts the shifts in representation of the island, the geo-cultural imaginaries played out in its representation and the concepts of islandness and island biogeography involved.

Author Biography

Philip Hayward, University of Technology, Sydney

Philip Hayward is an adjunct professor at University of Technology and editor of Shima: The International Journal of Research into Island Cultures.