Originally created as a bedtime story for his own children, The Iron Man is among Ted Hughes’s best known books for children. It was first published in 1968 as The Iron Man: A Story in Five Nights.
The Iron Man has been enduringly popular, and in the late 1980s was adapted into a ‘rock opera’ musical by Pete Townshend of The Who. This school exercise book was used by Hughes to record notes for the adaptation’s structure; Hughes breaks each chapter into a series of key scenes. The book also includes an early idea for how to stage the scene in which the Iron Man initially falls and breaks into pieces – Hughes suggests using separate actors for the different body parts.
The Iron Man: The Musical was released as a studio album in 1989, and premiered on stage in 1993.
What is the plot of The Iron Man?
Melding science fiction with fairy tale, The Iron Man tells the story of a gigantic metal robot who appears out of nowhere, crashing onto the beach and shattering into many parts. He is discovered by Hogarth, a young boy. The Iron Man proceeds to devour farm machinery, until the farmers rise up against him. There is an act of betrayal as Hogarth agrees to lure the monster into a trap where he is buried underground – yet the Iron Man breaks free. Against demands from the farmers to bring in the army, Hogarth speaks out and suggests that the monster should be left to feed from the scrap metal yard.
After a period of coexistence between the metal giant and humankind, the story concludes with a battle of strength between the Iron Man and the ‘Space-Bat-Angel-Dragon’, an alien monster from outer space. Defeated, the alien reveals that he is actually a peaceful ‘Star Spirit’ who sings the ‘music of the spheres’ that produces universal harmony and peace. The Iron Man orders him to sing to Earth and its warmongering people. The spirit lulls them with his music into a state of lasting peace, ending the story with total harmony between man, nature and culture.
- Full title:
- Edward James Hughes Papers: The Iron Man
- undated; whole volume 1988–30 November 1993
- Manuscript / Notebook / Draft
- Ted Hughes
- Usage terms
© The Ted Hughes Estate. No copying, republication or modification is allowed for material © The Ted Hughes Estate. For further use of this material please seek formal permission from the copyright holder.
- Held by
- British Library
- Add MS 88918/3/7
- Article by:
- Andy Armitage
- Fantasy and fairy tale, Literature 1950–2000
Andy Armitage explains how Ted Hughes used mythology to think and write about vitality and death. In doing so, Hughes drew not only on ancient myths but also on the work of previous writers influenced by mythology, such as Robert Graves, W B Yeats and Carl Jung.