The Day of the Triffids

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
The Day of the Triffids
JohnWyndham TheDayOfTheTriffids.jpg
First edition hardback cover
Author John Wyndham
Country England
Language English
Genre Science fiction, Post-apocalyptic science fiction
Publisher Michael Joseph
Publication date
December 1951
Media type Print (hardback & paperback)
Pages 304 pp (first edition, hardback)
ISBN ISBN 0-7181-0093-X (first edition, hardback)
OCLC 152201380
Preceded by Planet Plane
Followed by The Kraken Wakes

The Day of the Triffids is a 1951 post-apocalyptic novel about a plague of blindness that befalls the entire world, allowing the rise of an aggressive species of plant. It was written by the English science fiction author John Wyndham Parkes Lucas Beynon Harris, under the pen name John Wyndham. Although Wyndham had already published other novels using other pen name combinations drawn from his real name, this was the first novel published as John Wyndham. It established him as an important writer and remains his best known novel.

The story has been made into the 1962 feature film of the same name, three radio drama series (in 1957, 1968 and 2008), and two TV series (in 1981 and 2009). It was nominated for the International Fantasy Award in 1952,[1] and in 2003 the novel was listed on the BBC's survey The Big Read.[2]


The protagonist is Bill Masen, a biologist who has made his living working with triffids – tall, venomous carnivorous plants capable of locomotion and communication, whose extracts are superior to fish or vegetable oils. Due to his background, Masen suspects they were bioengineered in the USSR and accidentally released into the wild. The result is worldwide cultivation of triffids. The narrative begins with Bill Masen in hospital, his eyes bandaged after having been splashed with triffid poison. During his convalescence he is told of an unexpected green meteor shower. The next morning, he learns that the light from the unusual display has rendered any who watched it completely blind (later in the book, Masen speculates that the "meteor shower" may have been orbiting weapons, triggered accidentally). After unbandaging his eyes, he wanders through an anarchic London full of blind inhabitants, and he later becomes enamored of wealthy novelist Josella Playton, forcibly used as a guide by a blind man. Intrigued by a single light on top of Senate House in an otherwise darkened city, Bill and Josella discover a group of sighted survivors led by a man named Beadley, who plans to establish a colony in the countryside, and decide to join the group.

The polygamy implicit in Beadley's scheme appalls some group members, especially the religious Miss Durrant, but before this schism can be dealt with, a man called Wilfred Coker stages a fire at the university and kidnaps a number of sighted individuals, including Bill and Josella, each of whom is chained to a blind person and assigned to lead a squadron of the blind, collecting food and other supplies, while beset by escaped triffids and rival scavengers. When Masen's followers are dying of an unknown disease, he attempts to find Josella, but his only lead is an address left behind by Beadley's group. Joined by a repentant Coker, Masen drives to the place, a country estate called Tynsham in Wiltshire, but finds neither Beadley nor Josella. After some days, Masen finds Josella at her friends' country home in Sussex, while Coker returns to Tynsham and later rejoins Beadley. En route, Masen is joined by a young sighted girl named Susan. Along with other refugees, some of them blind, they attempt to establish a self-sufficient colony in Sussex, menaced chiefly by triffids. Years pass until a helicopter pilot representative of Beadley's faction reports that his group has established a colony on the Isle of Wight. Masen and his followers are reluctant to leave their own colony but are provoked to do so by soldiers of a despotic new government. After feigning agreement with the latter's plans, the Masens disable the soldiers' vehicle and flee to the Isle of Wight, determined to destroy the triffids and reclaim Earth.

Publication history[edit]

In the United States, Doubleday & Company holds the 1951 copyright. A 1961 condensed version of the book also appeared in Colliers Magazine. An unabridged paperback edition was published in the late 1960s, in arrangement with Doubleday, under the Crest Book imprint of Fawcett Publications World Library.[3]


Wyndham frequently acknowledged the influence of H. G. Wells' The War of the Worlds (1897) on The Day of the Triffids.[4]

In regard to the triffids' creation, some editions of the novel make brief mention of the theories of the Soviet agronomist and would-be biologist Trofim Lysenko, who eventually was thoroughly debunked. "In the days when information was still exchanged Russia had reported some successes. Later, however, a cleavage of methods and views had caused biology there, under a man called Lysenko, to take a different course" (Chapter 2). Lysenkoism at the time of the novel's creation was still being defended by some prominent international Stalinists.


The novel contains many themes which are common in Wyndham's work: a depiction of the Soviet Union as an opaque, inscrutable menace is presented in Chapter 2, a central problem made worse by human greed and bickering, and a firm determination on the part of the author to not explicitly detail the origin of the threat faced by the protagonists. Other themes include the dissection of human nature from a range of standpoints, and male and female gender roles.

Wyndham's narrative also focuses on the pragmatic issues of self-sufficiency facing survivors of such a catastrophe. Simply living off of scavenged canned food from London shops is not a viable survival strategy on a scale of years. Nor can the enclaves survivors set up in the countryside to attempt to rebuild civilisation simply use scavenged ploughs forever; they eventually need to develop the capacity to build their own.

Critical reception[edit]

Karl Edward Wagner cited The Day of the Triffids as one of the 13 best science-fiction horror novels.[5] Arthur C. Clarke called it an "immortal story".[citation needed]

In his book Billion Year Spree: The History of Science Fiction, Brian Aldiss coined the term cosy catastrophe to describe the subgenre of post-war apocalyptic fiction in which society is destroyed save for a handful of survivors, who are able to enjoy a relatively comfortable existence. He specifically singled out The Day of the Triffids as an example of this genre.

Anthony Boucher and J. Francis McComas praised it, saying "rarely have the details of [the] collapse been treated with such detailed plausibility and human immediacy, and never has the collapse been attributed to such an unusual and terrifying source."[6] Forrest J Ackerman wrote in Astounding Science Fiction that Triffids "is extraordinarily well carried out, with the exception of a somewhat anticlimactic if perhaps inevitable conclusion."[7]

However, Groff Conklin, reviewing the novel's initial book publication, characterised it as "a good run-of-the-mill affair" and "pleasant reading... provided you aren't out hunting science fiction masterpieces."[8]

Allusions in other works[edit]

  • The short story "How to Make a Triffid" includes discussions of the possible genetic pathways that could be manipulated to engineer the triffids from Wyndham's story.[10]
  • The web series Welcome to Sanditon references triffids numerous times, in particular the novel and 1981 BBC adaptation.


Film adaptations[edit]

  • London-based film producers Albert R. Broccoli and Irving Allen purchased the film rights and in 1956 hired Jimmy Sangster to write the script.[11] Sangster believed that Wyndham was one of the best science fiction novelists writing at the time and felt both honoured and "a little bit intimidated" that he was about to "start messing" with Wyndham's novel. Sangster claims he was paid for his work but never heard from the producers, and the film was not made. He has since admitted that he doesn't think his script was any good.[12]
  • In September 2010, Variety announced that a 3D film version was being planned by producers Don Murphy and Michael Preger.[14]

Game adaptations[edit]

  • Prázdninová škola Lipnice, a non-profit organization that pioneered experiential education summer camps in Czechoslovakia during the 80's, developed an outdoor game based on the story.[16]

Print adaptations[edit]

Radio adaptations[edit]

Character 1957 1968 2001
Bill Mason Patrick Barr Gary Watson Jamie Glover
Josella Playton Monica Grey Barbara Shelley Tracy Ann Oberman
Coker Malcolm Hayes Peter Sallis Lee Ingleby
Col. Jacques Arthur Young Anthony Vicars Geoffrey Whitehead
Michael Beadley John Sharplin Michael McClain
Ms. Durrant Molly Lumley Hilda Krisemon Richenda Carey
Dr. Vorless Duncan McIntyre Victor Lucas
Susan Gabrielle Blunt Jill Carey Lucy Tricket
Denis Brent Richard Martin David Brierly
Mary Brent Shelia Manahan Freda Dowie
Joyce Tailor Margot Macalister Margaret Robinson
Torrence Trevor Martin Hayden Jones
  • There were readings of the novel in 1953 (BBC Home Service – 15 x 15 minutes, read by Frank Duncan)
  • The Powell radio version identifies the day after the blinding as being "Wednesday 8th May", which is consistent with the year it was broadcast - 8 May in 1968 was a Wednesday.[citation needed]
  • It was adapted in Germany in 1968 by Westdeutscher Rundfunk (WDR) Köln (Cologne), translated by Hein Bruehl, and most recently re-broadcast as a four episode series on WDR5 in January 2008.[citation needed]
  • It was adapted in Norway in 1969 by Norsk Rikskringkasting (NRK), translated by Knut Johansen, and most recently re-broadcast as a six episode series on NRK in September and October 2012. The Norwegian version is also available on CD and iTunes.[17]
  • A 20-minute extract for schools was first broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on 21 September 1973, adapted and produced by Peter Fozzard.[citation needed]
  • There were readings of the novel in 1980 (BBC Radio 4/Woman's Hour – 14 x 15 minutes, read by David Ashford
  • An adaptation by Lance Dann in two 45-minute episodes for the BBC World Service was first broadcast on 8 and 22 September 2001. It was directed by Rosalind Ward, with music by Simon Russell. Episode 2 was originally scheduled for 15 September 2001, but was rescheduled due to the September 11 attacks. Each episode was followed by a 15-minute documentary on the book.[citation needed]
  • There were readings of the novel in 2004 (BBC7 – 17 x 30 minutes, read by Roger May)

Television adaptations[edit]


Simon Clark wrote a sequel, The Night of the Triffids (2001), set 25 years after Wyndham's book. Big Finish Productions adapted it as an audio play in 2014.[citation needed]


  1. ^ Locus Index to SF Awards
  2. ^ The Big Read, BBC, April 2003, retrieved 31 October 2012 .
  3. ^ Wyndham, John (April 1970), The Day of the Triffids (449-01322-075) (paperback ed.), Fawcett Crest, title page , 6th printing.
  4. ^ Morris, Edmund (2003), Introduction .
  5. ^ Christakos, NG (2007), "Three By Thirteen: The Karl Edward Wagner Lists", in Szumskyj, Benjamin, Black Prometheus: A Critical Study of Karl Edward Wagner, Gothic Press .
  6. ^ "Recommended Reading", F&SF, August 1951: 83 .
  7. ^ "Book Reviews", Astounding Science Fiction, August 1951: 142 .
  8. ^ "Five Star Shelf", Galaxy Science Fiction, August 1951: 99 .
  9. ^ Kermode, Mark (6 May 2007). "A capital place for panic attacks". The Guardian (London: Guardian News and Media). Retrieved 12 May 2007. 
  10. ^ How to make a triffid, Tor, November 2012 .
  11. ^ Meikle, Denis (2008). A History of Horrors: The Rise and Fall of the House of Hammer (revised ed.). Scarecrow Press. p. 49. ISBN 9780810863811. 
  12. ^ Sangster, Jimmy (1997). Do You Want It Good or Tuesday?: From Hammer Films to Hollywood! : A Life in the Movies : An Autobiography. Midnight Marquee Press. pp. 43–45. ISBN 9781887664134. 
  13. ^ "The Day of the Triffids". IMDB. 22 May 2013. Retrieved 22 May 2013. 
  14. ^ McNary, Dave (23 September 2010). "3D triumph for 'Triffids'?". Variety. Retrieved 24 June 2011. 
  15. ^ "Cinema Today Review" (in Japanese). 
  16. ^ Zapl, Miroslav; et al. (1990). Zlatý fond her [Golden collection of games] (in Czech) 1. Prague: Mladá fronta. 
  17. ^ Barratt-Due, Else; Myhre, Nan Kristin (6 September 2012). "Nostalgisk grøss" (in Norwegian). NRK. Retrieved 1 October 2012. 
  18. ^ "Coming to the BBC in 2009... The Day of the Triffids". BBC. 27 November 2008. Retrieved 21 December 2009. 
  19. ^ "The Day of The Triffids attracts all-star cast to BBC One". BBC Press Office. 11 February 2009. Retrieved 11 February 2009. 
  20. ^ Walker, Tim (3 January 2010). "The Day of the Triffids, BBC1/Tsunami: Caught on Camera, Channel 4". The Independent (London). Retrieved 12 August 2012. 
  21. ^ "'Triffids' remake brings in 6.1 million". TV News. Digital Spy. 3 January 2010. Retrieved 12 August 2012. 

External links[edit]