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It | Study Guide

Stephen King

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It | 10 Things You Didn't Know

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Stephen King's name is synonymous with horror fiction, and his 22nd book, It, published in 1986 achieved incredible popularity, haunting the imaginations of readers around the world.

Set in the fictional city of Derry, Maine, King portrays a town plagued by an incomprehensible evil, simply known to the book's protagonists as It. Usually taking the form of a diabolical clown, It haunts King's characters throughout the novel and symbolically represents the uncertainty and fear experienced universally during childhood. King describes the impact of this lurking evil on the city of Derry over the course of decades. Since its publication, It has become one of King's most acclaimed and frequently read novels, standing as a testament to his ability to portray the psychological roots of fear.

1. King roamed the streets of Bangor, Maine, searching for inspiration for It.

When King decided he wanted to set his novel in a working-class city in Maine, he chose the city of Bangor. The author spent weeks roaming the streets of Bangor and talking to locals in order to understand what the town was like. In an interview, King explained:

Before I started writing It ... I walked all over town. I asked everybody for stories about places that caught my attention. I knew that a lot of the stories weren't true but I didn't care. The ones that really sparked my imagination were the myths.

Bangor turned King's King's footsteps into a tour. The "SK Tours of Maine" shows visitors landmarks that inspired King's novels in Bangor, as well as the filming locations of screen adaptations.

2. King may have never written It if the transmission hadn't fallen out of his car.

King has cited an unfortunate breakdown on the side of the road as the experience that inspired him to write It. King was driving in Colorado when the transmission fell out of his car. Two days later, King went to go pick up his car from the mechanic, but he had to walk several miles to get there. King's eerie walk through the rural landscape led him to a bridge, where he was struck with memories of a haunting fairy tale, "The Three Billy Goats Gruff."

3. It was inspired by a fairy tale about trolls and goats, not kids and clowns.

King cited a classic fairy tale as the inspiration for It. In "The Three Billy Goats Gruff," a family of goats faces the challenge of crossing a bridge and outwitting the dangerous troll that lives beneath. King explained he suddenly remembered the story, as he was walking across a bridge in Colorado, and how it scared him as a child. King recalled:

All of a sudden I wanted to write a novel about a real troll under a real bridge ... I decided that the bridge could be some sort of symbola point of passing. I started thinking of Bangor, where I had lived, with its strange canal bisecting the city, and decided that the bridge could be the city, if there was something under it. What's under a city? Tunnels. Sewers. Ah! What a good place for a troll! Trolls should live in sewers!

4. King explained he wrote It "in a dream."

When asked about the composition of It, King noted the novel just came to him, and he was very unaware of the passage of time while writing it. Already an established horror author, King stated he wrote It to discuss the symbolism of monsters and the impact of fear in peoples' lives. He explained:

I worked on the book in a dream. I remember very little about the writing of it, except for the idea that I'd gotten hold of something that felt very big to me, and something that talked about more than monsters.

5. It features references to King's popular Dark Tower series.

King included subtle references to his extremely popular Dark Tower series, set in another world, in his uncanny depiction of Derry, Maine. The evil in Derry is explained as coming from "outside everything," which—many fans have speculated—indicates that it may have been born from King's Dark Tower universe, a world "outside" our own. In It, one character also speculates on an alternate universe in which "there might grow roses which sing," a direct reference to the singing flowers surrounding the Dark Tower itself.

6. King moved his family to write It.

In order to understand every aspect of Bangor, Maine—which King would fictionalize as Derry—King wasn't satisfied with simply visiting the city. The author moved with his family to Bangor in 1979 so he could write the novel there. In an interview, King explained his decision to move to the city, mentioning:

There came a time when I said to [my wife] Tabby, 'I want to write this book, but we live in the country, and I want to write about a city, a whole haunted city, so we ought to move to either Portland or Bangor.' And we looked at both, and I knew right away that Bangor, if Tabby agreed, would be the right place to go, because it was this hard town that had a real history.

King was intrigued by the blue-collar atmosphere of Bangor, and realized he made the right choice by avoiding Maine's capital, Portland, noting:

I didn't want it to be in Portland because Portland is a kind of yuppie town.

7. While filming a televised adaptation of It, one scene completely destroyed the set.

It was adapted as a televised miniseries in 1990. While filming a library scene in which dozens of objects were sent flying in tandem, the set was damaged beyond repair, with props broken and strewn about the floor. In addition to the destruction of the set, several actors received minor injuries. Reportedly, the scene only made it into the final cut because the crew was able to film the whole thing in one take.

8. King named It's setting Derry to pay homage to a city in Ireland.

Although King clearly intended Derry to represent Bangor, Maine, he changed the city's name in reference to another Bangor. There's a town named Bangor in County Derry, Ireland. Upon learning this, King decided to name his fictional town Derry to pay homage to the Irish locale. However, aside from the name, King changed very little in his depiction of Bangor, Maine, and has stated simply, "Derry is Bangor."

9. Fear of clowns—or coulrophobia—is incredibly common.

When King decided to depict the evil of Derry as a terrifying clown, he capitalized on a very common phobia. Fear of clowns, known as coulrophobia, is quite prevalent, with clowns' manic behavior contributing to the perception of danger and unpredictability. Despite their intention to entertain, clowns are feared by many adults and children alike. This fear may date back to British author Charles Dickens's edited biography of 18th-century English actor and performer Joseph Grimaldi, who is often recognized as the first modern clown. Grimaldi was a penniless alcoholic whose odd and troubled life gave rise to the concept of the "dark clown."

Coulrophobia was awakened in 2016 when a craze of costumed clowns began appearing across the United States. Police were called to deal with random sightings of eerie clowns threatening bystanders.

10. After nearly dying in a car accident, King purchased the car that struck him.

In 1999 King was struck by a van while on a morning walk along Route 5 in Maine. The author was critically injured, and he endured a lengthy recovery process. In order to cope with the incident psychologically, King decided to purchase the van that hit him when the damaged vehicle was put up for sale. Initially, King wanted to smash the van to pieces, as he explained:

For about six months, I did have these, sort of, fantasies ... of smashing the van up. But my wife [said] the best thing to do would be to very quickly remove it from this plane of existence, which is what we did.

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