News for Nov. 15, 2005

A Real Kong Story?

11/15/05, 10:00 am EST - Xoanon

Dan writes: In all this hooplah about the new Kong film, one thing seems to have been overlooked, the fact that the original King Kong movie was based on a true story.

I lived for one year on the Indonesian island of Komodo, and, am to this day, still based in Bali.

When I was on the island, I had read stories about how the makers, or at least one of them, had been to Komodo on one of the earliest expeditions to this 'uncharted' island in the late '20's. He had been so inspired by the primeval nature of the place, surrounded as it is by vast and tempestuous whirlpools, and populated by giant lizards (the so-called 'dragons'), that, upon his return to the west, he set about the story of King Kong.

What was missed in these earlier reports on this story is that, at the time of the Burden expedition, there was in fact, living in the jungled mountains of Komodo, a giant ape man.

During the time that I was on the island, I heard many stories of the 'original' people of Komodo, earlier settlers than the people who now live there. Together with an anthropologist that visited the island, we pieced together a picture of the last of these people from the last of the village elders that still remembered him.

Although later in his life this solitary individual had some contact with the coastal villagers, for many years, and in particular, prior to the Douglas Burden expedition, he lived away from the village, and would often only come down at night to steal livestock. In an attempt to protect themselves, the new arrivals would often leave chickens outside of the village baricade, hoping that that would assuage his appetite.

When we tried to piece together a picture of this person from eye-witness accounts, the character that emerged was very ape-like. He was described as tall and strong, well over 6 foot, with thick, straight, orange-tinged hair and a hunched appearance. It's seems most probable that these original inhabitants of the island (who were decimated by disease, some weird child-birthing practices and the the attacks of off-islanders) were descendants of early chinese voyagers (evidence for this includes 10th century coins in the vicinity of grave-sites, as well as other physical remains). However, to the later settlers of the coastal areas (who arrived around the late 19th century/ early 20th), who were terrified of the island interior because of the giant lizards that roamed there, and barricaded themselves against the wilderness of the island, this last remaining jungle man sufficiently terrified them that to this day they still tell stories of the giant ape man.

It was to this place that an expedition of westerners came in the 1920's - to a primitive island, inhabited by terrified people who have barricaded themselves against a wilderness of giant lizards and an ape-like monster, to whom they made sacrificial offerings. Has a familiar ring to it, doesn't it.

It was also interesting that, in the 70's remake of King Kong, the islanders, whilst ostensibly polynesian in appearance, seemed to be speaking Indonesian, though for no apparent reason. Also intriguing that, at the most northerly end of the bay in which the National Park headquarters is now situated, is a 2 headed mountain that looks somewhat similar to Kong's lair from the remake. You can see pictures of at at my website,

Anyway, thought you might appreciate the tale.