The Iron Man masterfully mixes science fiction with a modern fairy tale and remains among Ted Hughes’s best known books for children.
What happens in The Iron Man?
The poet and children’s writer Ted Hughes was born in Yorkshire, in 1930. His writing is immensely varied, but often concerns the relationship between nature and industry.
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 a young boy called Hogarth, who becomes his friend. The Iron Man proceeds to devour farm machinery, until the farmers rise up against him and threaten to bring in the army. Hogarth comes to his rescue and suggests that the monster should be left in peace to feed from the scrap metal yard.
But the Iron Man isn't the only strange creature to visit Earth. The story continues with appearance of the ‘Space-Bat-Angel-Dragon’, an alien monster from outer space. Will the Iron Man defeat him? Is he a friend or foe? Will there ever be lasting peace on Earth and harmony between man and nature?
Popularity and legacy
Hughes first created his classic tale The Iron Man as a bedtime story for his own children, giving it the title The Iron Man: A Story in Five Nights. It has been enduringly popular with children since it was first published in 1968. In 1993, twenty-five years later, Hughes even published a sequel called The Iron Woman. This book carries a stronger ecological message about pollution.
Hughes's vivid imagery and poetic use of sound are also key to The Iron Man's popularity. The opening image of the metal giant is iconic: 'Taller than a house, the Iron Man stood at the top of the cliff, on the very brink, in the darkness'. As ‘the Iron Man stepped forward, off the cliff, into nothingness’, readers are visually alerted to the loud ‘CRRRAAAASSSSSSH!’ that occurs!
This is the first edition, published in 1968 by Faber & Faber, with drawings by George Adamson. Adamson was born in 1913 and held dual British and American nationality. He was an experienced illustrator, a cartoonist for Punch, and had served as an official war artist during World War Two. He worked on several of Hughes’s books for children, including The Iron Man.