King Kong (1932 novelization)

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King Kong
The front cover of the original edition of the novelization
Author(s) Delos W. Lovelace
Publisher Grosset & Dunlap
Publish date December 27, 1932,
October 1, 1976 (re-release),
August 25, 2005 (re-release)
Genre Media tie-in, fiction
ISBN 2005 re-release:
ISBN-10: 0448439131
ISBN-13: 978-0448439136

King Kong is a novel written by Delos W. Lovelace in 1932 at the request of his friend Merian C. Cooper based on Cooper's then-upcoming film King Kong to serve as part of the film's advertising. As a result of the copyright not being renewed and subsequently expiring, the novelization has entered the public domain. Because of this, numerous publishers have re-released the novel over time, particularly during the buildup to the 1976 and 2005 remakes of King Kong. In 1976, an abridged version with illustrations by Richard Powers was released with the names The Illustrated King Kong, and King Kong: A Picture Book. Some editions of the novel have followed suit, and include original illustrations or stills from the film, to set themselves apart from other versions. To this end, an edition originally published by Modern Library in 2005 includes a foreword by Merian C. Cooper biographer Mark Cotta Vaz.

The novelization's public domain status has allowed authors and filmmakers to create adaptations or new stories using characters and elements specifically from the novel, such as the 1998 animated film The Mighty Kong and the 2005 sequel novel Kong Reborn. Through cooperation with Merian C. Cooper's estate, Joe DeVito and Brad Strickland created a rewrite of this novelization titled Merian C. Cooper's King Kong in 2005 which serves as the basis for DeVito ArtWorks' King Kong of Skull Island media property.


An ancient evil waits in the jungle...Carl Denham is determined to make the greatest movie ever seen, no matter how dangerous it may be to film. Denham and his crew sail to Skull Island in search of Kong, a legend neither man nor beast. But no one is ready for what they discover when they venture deep into the island to rescue Denham's leading actress, Ann Darrow. Kong's world of prehistoric creatures is devastating to the crew, but Denham refuses to stop his pursuit, and instead manages to unleash the horror of Kong into the world.


On a winter's night in New York City, the Wanderer is boarded by 35-year-old filmmaker Denham's casting agent, who comes with bad news. Weston, the agent, reveals to Denham that no actress in the city wanted to work with him, for his infamous reputation for taking casts and crews into dangerous situations. Weston tries to minimize his shortcoming by pointing out that Denham had never used a woman in a film before, but Denham scoffs him away, telling him that crowds were complaining that his films needed a leading lady to truly enjoy and appreciate his films. On the question of safety for his cast and crew, Denham points out that they have sleeping gas bombs aboard powerful enough to incapacitate an entire herd of elephants. When Denham refuses to disclose the location where such precautions need to be taken, Weston runs off, glad he had not found him a girl. Denham then searches New York from top to bottom to find the perfect girl for his picture, and when he runs out of cigarettes, he discovers Ann Darrow being wrongfully accused of theft at a corner vendor's stand. He pays for the apple she did not steal, and invites her over dinner to work on his picture and takes her out to buy clothes for the trip. Aboard the Wanderer, Ann makes the acquaintance of a sailor named Lumpy and his pet monkey Ignatz, who takes a particular liking to Ann, as pointed out by Denham after being called to the deck during the mild commotion that ensued after the bashful-yet-proud Jack Driscoll, first mate of the ship, accidentally struck Ann's face after she got too close behind him as he gave orders, and noticing that in Ann's presence Ignatz was the quietest he had ever been. This causes Denham to joke about how Ann and Ignatz form a nice "Beauty and the Beast" type pair, a motif he planned to use in his film. After six weeks at sea, Jack and Ann, who have grown quite close, spy fog from the crow's nest and Denham informs the crew they have discovered Skull Mountain Island. As they prepare to go ashore, Jack urges Ann to stay behind, admitting that he loves her in the process. Denham puts an end to this notion and the crew splits up into two boats that would go ashore while the others stay behind. The rowers paddle into a narrow strait where they discover a sprawling deserted village and hear ceremonial drums. They also spy an enormous wall which reminds Englehorn of another mysterious wall he had seen in Angkor. Denham then leads the group on foot into the native ceremony. They are quickly discovered by the Chief, who, upon spying Ann, offers to trade six of their women for their "woman of gold" to make Kong's bride. The group is able to politely decline, but promises to negotiate the following day. Back on board they speculate as to what Kong might be, with Ann scoffing at Denham's guess that he could be a giant dinosaur, after her idea that Kong was the native Chief himself was shot down by the fear pointed out to have been exhibited in the bride. Out on deck, Ann discusses Kong with Lumpy, who jokes to her that Kong is an idol made of wood or mud, which he notes that most tribes have, and that the girls go to the Witch-Doctor's harem in the jungle. However, Lumpy's monkey Ignatz begins to run amok, and he leaves Ann unattended. While chasing Ignatz he discovers a native bracelet, and it is deduced that Ann was kidnapped by natives. Englehorn orders an armed assault on Skull Mountain Island.

Ann is too stricken with fear to resist being carried and passed off through the jungles to Kong's altar, where the gargantuan ape takes her away into the jungle. Denham then gets the crew into longboats, and after passing through the wall in the dead of night, Driscoll discovers Kong's tracks and they follow them until a dinosaur comes out of the brush in the misty dawn. They incapacitate it with a gas bomb, and Denham puts two shots into the beast's heart and one into its head while it is down. They track Kong to a river, which they build a raft to float across, but halfway through the lagoon a dinosaur rises up beneath them and destroys it. Most of the party gets to shore and continues to follow Kong's tracks to the edge of a large asphalt flat, where Denham begins to feel guilt for Ann's capture and the deaths of the two crewmen. They notice Kong running across the flat with Ann in hand before he is attacked by three Triceratopses, two of which Kong kills with slabs of hardened asphalt. The surviving Triceratops then chases the fleeing sailors, not understanding that they had not caused his wounds. They come to a ravine, and Denham decides to break away to get more rifles and gas bombs.

As the sailors cross the log bridging the ravine, they see an enormous spider attempt to eat an enormous lizard, before settling for an octopus-insect in the slimy depths while the large lizard sunbathes on an outcropping rock. Driscoll, from the front of the party, sees Kong approaching, trapping the men between him and the Triceratops, and is able to hide in a cliffside cave before Kong arrives and the monster begins to shake the sailors off the log and into the mud below. The first to fall dies on impact and is eaten by the lizard, while the second falls into the mud pit and is instantly devoured by a swarm of spiders. Kong then shakes the remaining men off before allowing the log to fall and crush them. The spiders, lizards, and octopus-insects then begin to fight for their newfound carrion.

Kong then squats at the cliff's edge and tries to grab Driscoll, who stabs Kong's hand until he is distracted by Ann's endangerment by a meat-eater. During the ensuing battle, the tree that Kong had lain Ann in fell down, pinning her beneath it until Kong breaks the meat-eater's jaw and large vultures and the lizards come to feast on its corpse, at which point Kong takes her away as Jack tails them into the jungle. After climbing up the path to Skull Mountain, Jack finds himself in an open area below Kong's lair, where a sea serpent rose out of a spring to attack Kong. It coils around him, but Kong crushes its head between his massive hands. At the top of the lair, Kong tears off Ann's clothing and sets her down as a pterodactyl descends, attempting to rid Kong of his prize, but he quickly tears it to pieces. Jack had contacted Ann while this was happening, and on seeing the two hugging on turning back from his victory, Kong gives chase. Luckily, Driscoll had noticed that the spring fed the river that would take them back to the altar, and the two jump together into its warm waters. After drifting for some time, and reaching the lagoon where the dinosaur had destroyed their raft, they hear Kong following them in the distance. At the Plain of the Altar, Lumpy spies them from the top of the wall.

After Denham had returned from the jungle, he told the truth about the horrors of the island, and had gotten new volunteers to enter the jungle, better prepared than their ill-fated predecessors, but they had to wait to time their journey for it to be light out when they reach the ravine so as to follow Jack's trail. Englehorn remarked to them that Ann was lucky to be alive, as the natives had never seen Kong take such care with a girl in the past. Before the party sets out, Jack and Ann return. The heavily wounded lovers rest awhile, but it is short-lived, as Kong begins to ram the gate, and quickly breaks through, crushing natives under the fallen doors. He begins to rip the roofs off of the huts and slaughter the inhabitants in search of Ann, who was safely being smuggled to the ship. Denham, who had voiced desires to re-enter the wall to capture Kong, throws gas bombs at the charging giant with the aid of Lumpy, until he falls unconscious. Denham then orders for a raft to be constructed to carry Kong back to New York.

After returning to New York, Kong's arrival brings the whole city to see him on stage under the name King Kong: The Eighth Wonder. Ann and Jack anxiously wait to be photographed in one of the stage wings while Kong sits chained and caged behind them. However, when the curtains rise and the photo shoot begins, Kong believes that the cameramen are attacking Ann, causing him to roar and stand up rapidly, breaking his chains. Jack and Ann run with the crowd to his hotel room across the street, and see Kong breaking out of the building as their elevator doors close. Up in Jack's room, he attempts to console the frightened Ann, but Kong manages to reach into the room and takes Ann away. Outside, Driscoll finds Denham and a group of police officers, and the group follows Kong's trail of sightings until they lose him in the city. Remembering his mountain lair, Driscoll theorizes that Kong finds security in heights, and suggests that Kong will be at the top of the highest building around, which is the Empire State Building. When they reach it, they see Kong leap from a nearby building onto its side and quickly climb up. Noting that they will not be able to shoot Kong at that altitude, and if they did they would risk harming Ann, Denham suggests that they call in the Army planes from a nearby airfield to try. After the party reaches the top floor of the tower, Driscoll waits on the roof for the planes to finish the job. As they fly in, one of the six planes attempts to graze Kong with its wing, but he rests Ann at his feet and tears it out of the sky. On their second pass, the planes fire their machine guns into Kong's chest, fatally wounding his heart and lungs. Kong begins to cough uncontrollably before looking down at Ann and jumping off the building in an attempt to grab another plane; however, he misses and plummets to the street below. Jack immediately goes to Ann, but Denham and the police look down at Kong's body, causing Denham to remark that the aviators had not killed him, but that Beauty had killed the Beast, leaving the policeman thoroughly puzzled.




Weapons, vehicles, and races

Differences from the film

  • In the novel, the character Carl Denham is only ever referred to as "Denham" or "Mr. Denham;" his first name is never revealed.
  • The ship the characters take to the island is called the Wanderer rather than the Venture. Skull Island is also called "Skull Mountain Island."
  • Most notably, the novelization features the infamous lost spider pit scene, which features the Octopus-insect and huge spider, who do not appear in the film.
  • Much of the trip from New York City to Skull Mountain Island that is not documented in the film is covered here. The supporting character Lumpy, who is absent from the original film but later added to the 2005 remake, appears during this part of the novel. The monkey who Ann Darrow befriends is called "Ignatz," while in the film he is only referred to as "Iggy."
  • The character Jimmy has a supporting role in the novel, but in the film his dialogue is spread to other sailors, and he is reduced to an incidental character.
  • Shortly before his death, the damage to Kong's heart and lungs is emphasized in the form of violent coughing, which is absent in the film.
  • In the film, Kong falls off of the Empire State Building, while in the novel he jumps off to grab at one of the airplanes, fighting to the end.




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