Inside the Lord of the Flies Survival of 6 Tongan Boys 54 Years Ago: 'The Story We Need Now'





The boys' story was tucked into Warner's 2016 memoir Ocean of Light: 30 Years in Tonga and the Pacific, but didn't get widespread attention until Dutch historian Rutger Bregman stumbled upon a brief mention of the Tongan boys' adventure in an obscure old newspaper clip. Bregman had been looking for a real-life Lord of the Flies to include in his new book Humankind.

"We've been telling ourselves cynical stories about humanity for decades," Bregman tells PEOPLE. "A more hopeful view of human nature is exactly what we need right now. We can't allow ourselves to be cynical these days; the challenges are too big."

Sione remains close to one of the "boys" — Luke Veikoso, now 72, who relocated to the U.S. after retiring as the Pacific Heavyweight boxing champion. He moved in with Sione in Oakland, California, two years ago. Of retiring from his work managing 16 congregations and leading services in his own, Sione says, "I always say that God kept me alive, so I'll work for Him for the rest of my life."

Unable to travel because of the coronavirus, he and Luke recently joined a Zoom call with Warner, Bregman and the only two other castaways still living, Tevita Siola'a and Mano Totau, to give Hollywood studio New Regency the movie rights to their story.

Sione says he waited 54 years for that story to become famous — and 2020 turned out to be the perfect time: "If people today had the mindset of the '6 Tongan Castaways' — if we all help each other, not be greedy, care for each other — we can all survive what is happening in the world."

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