World War II - Pacific Theater - Farewell to the King


Farewell to the King - The Film

Written and directed by John Milius, who also wrote the screenplay for Apocalypse Now, this film (released in 1989) has interesting similarities to Apocalypse Now and some striking character reversals.

For example, Colonel Kurtz goes native in Cambodia during the Vietnamese War, but he is insane and or evil. On the other hand, Learoyd, an American soldier, shipwrecked and washed up on a Pacific island decides to desert.

He manages to escape the Japanese firing squads becoming the sole survivor of his ship’s crew and disappears into the jungle forest of Borneo. Hiding in the jungle Learoyd is found by a head-hunting tribe of Dayaks, who consider him "divine" because of his tattoos.

Learoyd also goes native and repudiates modern western society and culture, but unlike Colonel Kurtz, he is a generous and moral leader of the native tribes people, the Dayaks , and he wants above all things to live in peace in his new home and avoid any further contact with the conflicts and bloodshed of World War II.

Learoyd is the Dayak king when British advance commandoes approach him to lead the native peoples against the Japanese, Learoyd resists.

When his own tribe is directly threatened by the invaders, however, the "king" chooses to lead them and assist the British commandos in the war effort against the Japanese.

The film takes place in Borneo and the story unfolds between April 1942 and Fall 1945.

Actors and Characters:

  • Nick Nolte as Learoyd – American soldier shipwrecked on Borneo
  • Nigel Havers as Captain Fairbourne –British paratrooper sent in to pacify the natives
  • James Fox as Colonel Ferguson - seasoned British officer, Fairbourne’s superio
  • Frank McRae as Sergeant Tenga – Fairbourne’s radio man, Kikuyu African Rifle Corps
  • Aki Aleong as Colonel Mitamura – Phantom Japanese Colonel
  • Marius Weyers as Sergeant Conklin – Fairbourne’s “train the natives” team
  • William Wise as Dynamite Dave - Fairbourne’s “train the natives” team
  • Gerry Lopez as Gwai – Dayak royalty, Yoo’s sister, discovers Learoyd in the forest
  • Elan Oberon as Vivienne- Fairbourne’s fiancée, nurse in the British army
  • Choy Chang Wing as Lian – native troublemaker, headhunter
  • Richard Morgan as Stretch Lewis - Fairbourne’s “train the natives” team
  • John Bennett Perry as General MacArthur
  • Michael Nissman as General Sutherland
  • Wayne Pygram as Bren Armstrong Fairbourne’s “train the natives” team


Farewell to the King

Constructing an Analytical Essay

Directions: Using these questions and your film notes construct a 5-6 page Analytical Essay.

1) Do you see comments or behaviors that reveal racist, sexist, imperialistic or nationalistic attitudes, by the British or Americans? Describe and Discuss.

2) Compare and contrast the two “cultures” depicted in the film: “civilized” western nations, Britain and America and the “primitive/savage” natives of Borneo. What do the Stone Age people represent? Why are they important to King Learoyd?

3) What purposes does Lieutenant Tenga serve in the film? What concepts are illuminated by what he does and says? Is he more than just comic relief?

4) There are two descriptions, two sets if images of war, one at the beginning of the film and another at the end of the film. How do they differ? Use the characters words and metaphors.

5) Discuss the various kinds and levels of loyalty in the film. Who is loyal to who? Is loyalty more than just a character quality? Is it affected by nationality, cultural? Do loyalties change?

6) what roles do women have in these two cultures? How are they viewed and treated by men? What are “good” behaviors for civilized western women?

7) Note the use of, and purpose for, any striking metaphors or “sayings.” Discuss their meaning and purpose for the natives, for the white soldiers, for the film. Examples: “You can no longer avoid history.” and “What’s life without a little salt?”


Farewell to the King

NOTE: Most of us know very little about the white rajahs of Sarawak. Sarawak shares the island of Borneo with Indonesian Kalimantan and tiny, oil-rich Brunei. As recently as 1946, Sarawak was the private domain of a family dynasty and had been since 1841, when James Brooke, an Englishman, was named rajah by the Sultan of Brunei as a reward for having put down a local insurrection. The rajah ended piracy and headhunting in Sarawak.

Farewell to the King, however, is based on a 1970’s novel by Swiss writer Pierre Schoendoerffer, who combined the idea of a modern, but mysterious and cloistered white rajah with the actual historical facts and events of the allied efforts in the Pacific Theater of Operations near the end of World War II.


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Comments 19 comments

Kathleen Cochran profile image

Kathleen Cochran 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

Forget the movie. Look at that bird!

Would like to read some of your students' answers to question number six.

phdast7 profile image

phdast7 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

Well,not the reaction I was anticipating. :) But you are right, it is a pretty fabulous picture. I may have to rethink this Hub if the parrot is eclipsing the text about Farewell to the King. :)

RTalloni profile image

RTalloni 4 years ago from the short journey

Well, the shot of the bird is quite fabulous, but your look at and method of examining the movie is very interesting. Other teachers will find it very useful--I bet you earn some of them kudos for their work with it. The bird positioned at the end of your hub looks like he is saying, "Well who knew?!" :)

Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 4 years ago from Shelton

First, let me hand you and apple.. because every time I start one of your hubs I feel like I am back in school.. the difference.. the way you handle a lesson, a movie review, an assignment... others who teach should take note... bravo.. oh Farewell to the King? I thought it was a 1988 film based off the novel L'adieu au Roi by the French author Pierre Schoendoerfer.. a man gets lost in the woods and comes out a king.. a great Hub PHDAST7

phdast7 profile image

phdast7 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

Good Morning RT - It is so funny. I planned the Hub carefully, worked on it for awhile, and at the last minute found the parrot picture and decided to include and I do believe the parrot has become the "star" of the Hub.

This movie usually goes over well with the students and it goes get them to look at things from several perspectives, which is one of my goals of course. Thank you for stopping by, reading, and commenting. Have a wonderful week.

phdast7 profile image

phdast7 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

Good afternoon, Frank. Thank you for the apple. They are always welcome. :) I am glad that "going back to school" with me through a Hub is not an odious or distasteful experience. I am very fortunate bacause I good teaching role models.

It is not that I don't work at what I do or that it is effortless, because it is not. But both of my parents were verbaly gifted and teachers, although they were very different sorts of teachers and I think a lot of what I do, how I speak and write and how I interact with a class of students, I learned from them.

My father was a Polish immigrant who joined the Air Force when he was 20 - boisterous, an extrovert if there ever was one, and he was an instructor through most of his military career - physical education, water safety, first aid, small caliber pistols, the M-14 rifle, Insurgency training, and so forth. And for pleasure he read and studedied geography and history and grilled his children.

My mother was a gracious, soft-spoken, introverted, southern lady, who completed her four-year teaching degree in 1952. She taught middle grades for awhile and later in life she taught adult education classes to asian immigrants, women, in Califronaia. She exposed me to an incredible amount of greatr literature, and the Latin, Greek, and Germanic roots of words. I still say that in my next life I want to be an etymologist.

When I was in graduate school, I learned my subjects, I mastered certain areas of history, but the teaching skills and approaches came to me naturally the moment I was in front of a classroom. I also find myself doing a lot of things in the classroom that I enjoyed in various classes that I took. :)

Sorry for the mini-essay. Just thought I should give credit where credit is due. Thanks for your wonderful and encouraging comments. :) And actually you summed it up perfectly, a man does get lost in the woods and comes out a King. :)

ThoughtSandwiches profile image

ThoughtSandwiches 4 years ago from Reno, Nevada


So...did you notice the bird? :)

I have not seen this movie and, as such, I was unable to complete the homework assignment at the end which, quite frankly, caught me by surprise. I am unprepared for class...

I shall Netflix at the first opportunity...if only to see how tore back Nick Nolte is looking these days...


phdast7 profile image

phdast7 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

Thomas -

The very first thing you mention is the bird? :) What is really funny is that originally it was the last picture before the comments section. Because people kept mentioning it, I decided maybe it should be the lead picture, to catch people's attention as they scroll through the feed, so I moved it. :)

You know, there is simply no excuse for incomplete (or non-existent) homework assignments. :) The film is dated obviously (1989), but I really like it and students usually respond well.

Of course I am partial to films about war, the military, secret tribal peoples and Nick Nolte. Speaking of Nolte, from a female perspective he looks pretty damn good in this film, half naked and all. :) Once you get a chnace to see, let me know what you think.

Thanks for the always interesting and usually insightful comments. :) Have a great week.weekend/Easter. Well, you know. Theresa

ThoughtSandwiches profile image

ThoughtSandwiches 4 years ago from Reno, Nevada


Not sure if you were aware of the whole site that is stealing all our stuff...but...this one was taken and is in their "entertainment" section on the first page.


phdast7 profile image

phdast7 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

Thanks Thomas-

I had seen quite a few Hubs about it and read a few of them, but I wasn't aware that they had stolen any of my stuff. I appreciate you letting me know.


prasetio30 profile image

prasetio30 4 years ago from malang-indonesia

Very informative. I love your review and all stunning pictures here. Thanks for share with us. Good job and rated up!


phdast7 profile image

phdast7 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

prasetio- So glad you liked it. I have to admit I was very pleased with the pictures I found, It is a great film. Thanks for your comments and votes. Hope you are having a great weekend. :0

Faith Reaper profile image

Faith Reaper 4 years ago from southern USA

It is obvious the gifts of your parents were passed down to you. You seem to have extensive knowledge, and do the required research to present your information in a very well thought out manner. Great teachers such as yourself are few and far between nowadays, it seems. Voted up and awesome. Love the bird - Ha. Kidding -forget the bird! In His Love, Faith Reaper

phdast7 profile image

phdast7 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

Good Morning Faith Reaper - I think the different talents and interests of my parents certainly influenced and helped me. Thank you for noticing the research and effort needed to write on some topics. I love teaching and students certainly deserve good teachers, so I do try my hardest to be one. I appreciate your comments and your votes. Oh, that bird! :) It has become the running joke. :) Have a great week.

Natashalh profile image

Natashalh 4 years ago from Hawaii

Wow - I wish this hub had existed when I was in high school! It would have been beyond useful because I can never keep character's names straight.

phdast7 profile image

phdast7 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

Keeping names straight is hard for me to - that's probably why I put them in the study guide - as much for me as for the students. :) Thanks for reading and commenting. :)

xstatic profile image

xstatic 4 years ago from Eugene, Oregon

This is great Theresa. I missed the Hub and the movie too, but now am intrested in checking Netflix. Your writing is always interesting and informative too.

phdast7 profile image

phdast7 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

Thank you Jim. It is an older movie, but because it is set in World War II, I think it holds up pretty well. I would be interested to know what you think of the film once you have a chance to watch it. Thank you for the kind comments...that is my goal, informative and interesting whenever possible. :) Hope you have a great weekend. Theresa

MG Singh profile image

MG Singh 2 years ago from Singapore

Very interesting info. I have not seen the movie, but now I shall see it. Should be interesting.

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    Theresa Ast (phdast7)543 Followers
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    Theresa Ast earned a PhD (Emory) in European History and has taught history for 20 years. "Confronting the Holocaust" available at AMAZON..

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