Skull Island is the name most often used to describe a fictional island that first appeared in the 1933 film King Kong and later appearing in its sequels, the three remakes, and any other King Kong-based media. It is the home of the eponymous King Kong and several other species of creatures, mostly prehistoric and in some cases species that should have been extinct long before the rise of mammalian creatures, along with a primitive society of humans.
In the 1962 film King Kong vs. Godzilla and the 1967 film King Kong Escapes, the comparable islands are called "Farou Island" and "Mondo Island", respectively. Kong plays a similar role in these islands as the god-like being of the land, a role he plays in all versions of the King Kong story. Skull Island's origins are unknown, but Kong appears to be the only giant gorilla known to exist on the island. However, the 2005 remake shows other skeletons of Kong-sized gorillas, indicating that there was once a group of such creatures of an unknown number living on the island. Additionally, 2017's Kong: Skull Island depicts the skeletons of Kong's parents.
Appearance in the 1933 films
In King Kong, the island is never mentioned by name and is located at approximately 12°S 78°E – somewhere off the coast of Periuk, Indonesia. There is a distinctive rocky knoll in the center of the island that is shaped like a human skull, which is referred to as "Skull Mountain".
According to the first film, the captain of a Norwegian barque discovered a canoe blown off course with only one native left alive. Before the native died, the captain of the barque was able to get a rough location of the island and some details on it, including its most distinctive feature - a huge wall built by the ancestors of the natives back when they had high civilization. When the protagonists of the picture arrive at the island and examine it they find, in addition to the expected superstitious natives, prehistoric creatures of all sorts and one extremely large ape, known by those on the island as "Kong".
Other than being the descendants of a high civilization, the ancestry of the natives is never explained.
In the sequel film The Son of Kong, Carl Denham returns to Skull Island when there was a mention of some treasure that was hidden there. He also encounters a large white gorilla who is the son of King Kong. Skull Island sinks into the sea during a powerful earthquake. Kong's son drowns while holding Carl Denham above the water. Denham survives unscathed, while the treasure is claimed by him and the other three survivors.
The term "Skull Island" is never used in the original films. In King Kong, only "Skull Mountain" is named, while in the sequel Son of Kong, its simply referred to as "Kong's island". In the novelization of King Kong by Delos Lovelace, it is called "Skull Mountain Island", but RKO referred to it as "Skull Island" in some of their publicity materials.
In the 1976's King Kong, Skull Island is mentioned as being "the beach of the skull". It is located somewhere in Indian Ocean south of Java, covered by a permanent cloud bank. Various people are said to have visited the island through the centuries but returned with no clear proof. By the 1970s, it is an urban legend whose only evidence is in government secret files. It is also revealed to have a huge deposit of oil, which led a greedy oil company executive to go in search of it. Besides featuring a primitive native tribe and the giant, bipedal gorilla Kong, there is also a giant snake who appeared in Kong's lair and wanted to kill him and Dwan, but it was killed by the former.
In 1986 sequel film King Kong Lives, Skull Island does not appear but it was mentioned by adventurer Hank Mitchell (mistakenly calling it Kong Island) who believed that the islands Borneo and Skull Island were once a part of the same landmass in the past. The fate of this incarnation is unknown.
Kong: The Animated Series
In Kong: The Animated Series, the island was named Kong Island. Unlike previous incarnations, Kong Island was situated in the infamous Bermuda Triangle, not the Indian Ocean. Although various prehistoric creatures are seen living there, Kong Island also contains some ruins where one of them serves as the prison of the demon Chiros.
It is also where Jason Jenkins and his grandmother Dr. Lorna Jenkins also live along with Jason's friend Tan. Another human inhabitant is Lua, the sole survivor of the native people of the island and a female shaman.
Kong: King of Skull Island
A 2004 illustrated novel that serves as both prequel and sequel of the original "King Kong" story, conceived by Merian C. Cooper and novelized by Delos Lovelace in 1932, and authorized by the Cooper family.
Created and Illustrated by Joe DeVito [and novelized by Brad Strickland and DeVito, with John Michlig], Kong: King of Skull Island depicts a Skull Island far larger than originally thought. It is either the last vestige of a volatile volcanic series of islands or the remnant of a larger landmass. Skull Island is located in the Indian Ocean, west of Sumatra, and has several much smaller islands in various locations around its perimeter, with the most prevalent of these off a small peninsula on its southeastern corner.
Skull Island contains two main mountains, the larger being shaped in the visage of a human skull. Skull Mountain is riddled with caves and passageways carved out by natural erosion, but also man-made. In earlier times, these were often used by islanders to avoid the monsters on the surface, but proved to have a multitude of dangerous denizens of their own. These include previously unknown species such as snake-like amphibians with enormous heads capable of swallowing a human whole; foot-long creatures that combine squid and crustacean characteristics with bio-luminescent sails tipped with poisonous stingers; giant spiders with 7-foot bodies and 8-foot-long legs ending in hand-like appendages.
The human civilization that inhabits Skull Island at least through the 20th century is the last remnant of a previously unknown super-race called the Tagatu (a combination of two formerly separate tribes: the Tagu and the Atu). The original culture is believed to have Asian origins that bled into an island group west of Sumatra that no longer exists. As a result of a natural disaster, they were forced to migrate to Skull Island untold millennia ago. Drawn to its spectacular makeup by their insatiable curiosity, the Tagatu believed their mastery of biological and organic sciences could overcome Skull Island's dangers. It was they who originally brought the gigantic simian Kongs there for protection and who, with the help of the Kongs, built the iconic wall across the Skull Island’s peninsula for protections against Skull Island’s prehistoric denizens.
Among the many mysteries revealed in the work is the reality that on Skull Island the dinosaurs never died out, but continued to evolve over the intervening 65 million years. This has resulted in strange variations on previously known species, as well as many new ones. Chief among the latter is a race of sentient dinosaurs, called Deathrunners. Bipedal, extremely aggressive and 6 to 9 feet tall, they once ruled the island and were at war with the Tagatu and the Kongs. Their race is propagated every few generations by one queen that grows to gigantic size. It is one of these, called “Gaw”, that ruled Skull Island when King Kong was born and who Kong had to defeat in order to become a king.
In the story, Carl Denham's son, Vincent (now a paleontologist), and an older Jack Driscoll return to Skull Island in 1957 to discover pieces of the earlier civilization’s history and relationship to the island through an enigmatic Tagatu elder simply called the “Storyteller”, as well as in the form of archaeological discoveries such as specially pigmented paintings in underground passageways that move when illuminated by torchlight to reveal past events on Skull Island. Primary among these is the discovery of remnants of “the Old City”, which was established by the Tagatu at the zenith of their civilization in the center of the island in an ideal valley between the two mountains. The Storyteller's tale, along with Vincent and Driscoll's findings, suggest that the eerie skull visage that gave the island its name may have been the work of human hands. These and other discoveries hint that the true extent of Skull Island’s secrets have yet to be revealed.
In Peter Jackson's remake, Skull Island's position west of Sumatra remains the same, in a region afflicted by magnetic anomalies and violent sea storms. According to the book The World of Kong: A Natural History of Skull Island, Skull Island was geologically unstable and has been slowly sinking into the sea for the past thousand years. By 1933, the island was on the verge of destruction. Fifteen years after its discovery to the modern world, Skull Island finally sank into the ocean.
In its prehistory, Skull Island was a refuge for a variety of prehistoric creatures. Over time, more and more species arrived either by swimming, flying, rafting, or migrating through temporary land bridges. As the island slowly receded into the sea, life was forced to adapt, resulting in an ecosystem of bizarre and nightmarish creatures.
Three thousand years before, an advanced civilization from Southeast Asia migrated to Skull Island, bringing with them domesticated animals such as Gaur and the giant ancestors of Kong. This culture eventually died off, leaving behind only gigantic eroding ruins scattered around the island (such as the enormous wall) and a small society of primitive people that became the Skull Island natives.
Skull Island is the main setting of Kong: Skull Island, which is set in the same universe of Gareth Edwards' 2014 film Godzilla. Kong is 104 feet (31.7 m) tall in the film and there is evidence that more of Kong's species once existed on the island. The island is located in the South Pacific and sits in the eye of a massive swirling storm system that has enabled its concealment from the outside world. This version of the island resembles a human skull when seen from the air. The island is situated atop an entrance to the Hollow Earth, which is home to large, bipedal, lacertian predators that have come to be known as "Skullcrawlers" that are referred to as the island's "devils". The Skullcrawlers wiped out King Kong's family, making him the last of his kind.
There is also evidence of dinosaurs living, or having lived, on the island, in the form of a Triceratops skull found in the "graveyard" of the island. A number of other species are referred to as "florafauna" for displaying physiological traits of plants. Similar to previous incarnations, there is a human native tribe present (characterized as Iwis) who are much less hostile than in previous versions, mainly because a stranded air pilot from World War II named Hank Marlow makes peace between them and modern-day humans. The film sees an expedition in 1973 landing upon the island after Skull Island is detected by Landsat.
During the credits of Godzilla: King of the Monsters, a newspaper clipping states that the awakened Titans are beginning to converge on Skull Island, which is starting to become unstable. It is also revealed in the film that Monarch has an outpost on Skull Island. Between the events of the film and Godzilla vs. Kong, the island's climate deteriorated, with a remnant of King Ghidorah's global superstorm merging with Skull Island's pre-existing storm system causing it to move inwards and make it uninhabitable, save for a domed habitat created to contain Kong.
Characters who visited Skull Island
- Jack Driscoll
- Ann Darrow
- Carl Denham
- Captain Englehorn
- Ben Hayes (Deceased)
- Lumpy (Deceased)
- Choy (Deceased)
- Briggs (Deceased)
- Bruce Baxter
- Herb (Deceased)
- Mike (Deceased)
- Hilda Peterson
- Nils Helstrom (Deceased)
- Jack Prescott
- Fred Wilson (Deceased)
- Roy Bagley
- Captain Ross
- First Mate Carnahan (Deceased)
- Joe Perko (Deceased)
- Garcia (Deceased)
- Timmons (Deceased)
- King Kong
- Kiko Kong
- Lady Kong
- Baby Kong