OK, so Stephen King’s Stand By Me was never a Stephen King book and it was never called Stand By Me.
The story that we are referring to here was Stephen king’s The Body, which was a short story that first appeared in the Different Seasons collection.
Stephen King’s Different Seasons collection was published in 1982 and it consisted of four stories; Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption, Apt Pupil, The Body, and The Breathing Method.
The Body was adapted to film by director Rob Reiner, for the 1986 film Stand By Me, which starred Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Corey Feldman, Jerry O'Connell and Kiefer Sutherland, and we are referencing the story here as Stand By Me, simply because that’s the name that most people know this story by. Stand By Me has also been cited as one of the inspirations for the hugely successful Duffer Brother’s Netflix TV series, Stranger Things.
As an interesting aside, Stephen King was accused of plagiarism over The Body. While King was still a struggling writer, he asked his friend and roommate, George McLeod, what he was working on. McLeod told King that he was working a story based on a true event from his own childhood, when he and some friends went looking for the body of a dead dog on some railway tracks. McLeod never finished his story, but when he saw that Stand By Me had been based on Stephen King’s The Body, which contained many similarities to his own story, McLeod sued King for a share of the royalties. Since then, King, who is said to soak up ideas for stories like a sponge, has refused to read or comment on any fan’s manuscripts, for fear of being accused of plagiarism again.
But, we digress! Stephen kings’ The Body is a novella set in one of the author’s favourite fictional towns; Castle Rock. Following the disappearance and the presumption of the death of a young boy from the neighbouring town of Chamberlain, Maine, four boys of the same age decide to set out into the woods to see if they can find the body. They tell their parents that they are going on a camping trip.
The story is told in the first person by Gordon (Gordie) Lachance, and it explores the truths about growing up, as well as some unsettling truths of the dysfunctional families that the boys all come from. The Body is a coming of age story and, through the course of the story, the boy’s painful transition from boys into men unfolds. They start their journey as modern day “heroes” on a noble quest, but when they are faced with the stark reality of “the body”, they are reminded of their own vulnerability and their own mortality. They end up finishing their journey with more questions about life than answers.
Stephen king’s The Body is not an easy read, by any means, because it is harrowing and you feel that, with the boys’ backgrounds, they have little chance of getting anywhere in life. Where they find their strength, though, is in their friendship.
The fate of the boys in adulthood, which is described in the last two chapters of the story, is not exactly going to lift your spirits though.
However, Stephen King’s The Body is a sentimental trip down a memory lane that will resonate deeply with many people and that’s probably why it became such a popular story. After all, we all have dreams of our childhoods, even if some of those dreams are not particularly pleasant ones.