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Stig of the Dump – Clive King

May 7, 2015

SOTDA boy explores a forbidden mine shaft and discovers a stone-age man living there. They strike up a friendship, communicating by gestures. Fantasy – explores theme of friendship and also questions whether the 20th Century was civilised.

(King based Barney’s experiences in the chalk pit on his own explorations of the dump by his parents’ home close to the village of Ash on the North Downs of Kent in the 1930s, and watching his own son, nicknamed Barney, do the same two decades later. “My experience of the chalk pit was doubly enforced – I saw it through my own eyes and I saw it through the eyes of my children,” he says. “Of course there wasn’t actually a stone-age man living in a cave at the bottom of it, but Ash was a very boring place to live and I thought what it needs is something to wake it up, so I invented Stig.”

“I have travelled quite a lot and I have met so-called ‘primitive’ people abroad. They are not primitive people, they are not so different from us,” he says. King studied 10 languages during his career and perhaps he also mastered the inner language of children – and stone-age man.

The ultimate symbol of the way so much of our wild landscape is closed off to children now is the fate of King’s old chalk pit. It is now a golf course – another slice of wild land, another potential playground for the imagination, sealed off and sanitised. “I’ve not been back for a long time,” says King, firmly. “I don’t want to go back.” )

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