It is a 1986 horror novel by American author Stephen King. It was his 22nd book and the 17th novel written under his own name. The story follows the experiences of seven children as they are terrorized by an evil entity that exploits the fears of its victims to disguise itself while hunting its prey. "It" primarily appears in the form of Pennywise the Dancing Clown to attract its preferred prey of young children.

First edition cover
AuthorStephen King
Cover artistBob Giusti (illustration)
Amy Hill (lettering)
Dark fantasy
Coming-of-age story
Publication date
September 15, 1986
Publication placeUnited States
Media typePrint

The novel is told through narratives alternating between two periods and is largely told in the third-person omniscient mode. It deals with themes that eventually became King staples: the power of memory, childhood trauma and its recurrent echoes in adulthood, the malevolence lurking beneath the idyllic façade of the American small town, and overcoming evil through mutual trust and sacrifice.

King has stated that he first conceived the story in 1978, and began writing it in 1981. He finished writing the book in 1985.[2] He also stated that he originally wanted the title character to be a troll, like the one in the children's story "Three Billy Goats Gruff", who inhabited the local sewer system rather than just the area beneath one bridge. He also wanted the piece to interweave the stories of children and the adults they later become.

The novel won the British Fantasy Award in 1987, and received nominations for the Locus and World Fantasy Awards that same year.[3] Publishers Weekly listed It as the best-selling hardcover fiction book in the United States in 1986.[4] It has been adapted into a 1990 two-part miniseries directed by Tommy Lee Wallace, a Hindi 1998 television series directed by Glen Baretto & Ankush Mohla, and a film duology directed by Andy Muschietti. Muschietti's It was released in September 2017 and It Chapter Two was released in September 2019.



During a rainstorm in Derry, Maine, a six-year-old boy named Georgie Denbrough sails a paper boat along the rainy streets before it washes down into a storm drain. Looking in the drain, Georgie encounters a clown who introduces himself as Pennywise the Dancing Clown. Georgie, despite knowing he should not talk to strangers, is enticed by Pennywise to reach into the drain and retrieve his boat. It then rips his arm off, and Georgie dies.

The following June, an overweight eleven-year-old boy named Ben Hanscom is harassed by a bully named Henry Bowers and his gang on the last day of school, escaping into the marshy wasteland known as the Barrens. There, Ben befriends an asthmatic hypochondriac named Eddie Kaspbrak and "Stuttering Bill" Denbrough, Georgie's elder brother. The three boys later befriend fellow misfits Richie Tozier, Stanley "Stan" Uris, and Beverly Marsh, and refer to themselves as "The Losers Club". As the summer draws on, the Losers each encounter Pennywise in terrifying manifestations: a mummy on a frozen canal to Ben, a fountain of blood (that only children can see) from Beverly's sink, a rotting leper to Eddie, drowned corpses to Stan, and a frightening phantom of Georgie to Bill. Meanwhile, an increasingly unhinged and sadistic Bowers begins focusing his attention on his African-American neighbor, Mike Hanlon, and his father. Bowers kills Mike's dog and chases the terrified boy into the Barrens, where he joins the Losers in driving Bowers' gang off in a rock fight, leaving a humiliated Bowers to vow for revenge. Mike becomes a member of the Losers Club after revealing his own encounter with Pennywise in the form of a flesh-eating bird. From Mike's historical scrapbook, the Losers realize that "It" is an ancient monster with a hold on the town. Following further encounters, the Losers construct a makeshift smoke hole that Richie and Mike use to hallucinate It's origins as an ancient alien that came to Earth, beginning a cycle of feeding on children for a year followed by a 27-year-long hibernation.

Soon, Eddie is hospitalized by Bowers and several of his friends, and Beverly witnesses one of the bullies, Patrick Hockstetter, kidnapped by It in the form of a mass of flying leeches. The Losers discover a message from It in Patrick's blood, warning them that It will kill them if they interfere. In hopes that silver can wound It, Ben makes two silver slugs out of a silver dollar, and the Losers enter an abandoned house where Eddie, Bill, and Richie had previously encountered It to attempt to kill It. They manage to wound It with the silver while It is in the form of a werewolf. Deeming the Losers a threat, It manipulates Bowers into murdering his abusive father and chasing the Losers into the sewers to kill them, where his accompanying fellow bullies, Victor "Vic" Criss and Reginald "Belch" Huggins, are both killed by It. This leads Bowers to become lost in the sewers, traumatized.

In the sewers, Bill performs the "Ritual of Chüd" in an attempt to face It in the Macroverse, the alternate universe where It is from, where he meets the monster's antithesis, Maturin, an ancient turtle that created the universe. Bill learns that It can only be defeated during a battle of wills, and sees It's true form, the "Deadlights", before Bill defeats the monster with Maturin's help. After the battle, not knowing if they killed It or not, the Losers get lost in the sewers. To try and regain a sense of direction, Beverly has intercourse with each of the boys to bring the unity back to the group.[5] Once they are safely out, the Losers swear a blood oath to return to Derry should It resurface. Bowers, having lost his sanity by the time he washed out of the sewers into a nearby river, is institutionalized after being blamed for the town's child murders.


In July 1984, three youths brutally attack a young gay man named Adrian Mellon and throw him off a bridge, where both a bully and Adrian's boyfriend then see a clown appear. Adrian is found mutilated, and the teenagers are arrested and charged with his murder.

When a string of violent child killings begins in Derry again, an adult Mike Hanlon, now the town's librarian, calls up the six former members of the Losers Club to remind them of their childhood promise to return if the killings start again. Bill is now a successful horror writer living with his actress wife, Audra; Beverly is a fashion designer, married to an abusive man named Tom Rogan; Eddie runs a limousine rental company and has married a hysterical codependent woman similar to his hypochondriac mother; Richie Tozier is a disc jockey; Ben Hanscom is now thin and a successful but lonely architect; and Stan Uris is a wealthy accountant. Prior to Mike's phone calls, all of the Losers had completely forgotten each other and the trauma of their childhood, burying the horror of their encounters with It. All of the Losers agree to return to Derry, except for Stan, who kills himself in terror of facing It again.

The Losers meet for lunch, where Mike reminds them that It awakens roughly every 27 years for 12–16 months at a time, feeding on children before going into slumber again. The group decides to kill It once and for all. At Mike's suggestion, each person explores different parts of Derry to help restore their memories. While exploring, Eddie, Richie, Beverly, and Ben are faced with manifestations of It (Eddie as Belch Huggins and childhood friends in leper and zombified forms, Richie as a Paul Bunyan statue, Beverly as the witch from Hansel & Gretel in her childhood home, and Ben as Dracula in the Derry Library). Bill finds his childhood bicycle, "Silver," and brings it to Mike's. In the meantime, Audra, who is worried about Bill, travels to Derry; Tom arrives as well, intending to kill Beverly; and Henry Bowers escapes from the mental asylum with help from It.

Henry confronts Mike at the library, but Mike escapes alive. It instructs Henry to kill the rest of the Losers, but Henry is killed while attacking Eddie. It then appears to Tom and orders him to capture Audra, bringing Audra to It's lair, where Audra becomes catatonic, and Tom drops dead in shock. Bill, Ben, Beverly, Richie, and Eddie learn that Mike is near death and realize they are being forced into another confrontation with It. They descend into the sewers and use their strength as a group to "send energy" to a hospitalized Mike, who fights off a nurse that is under the control of It. They reach It's lair and find that It has taken the form of a giant spider. Bill and Richie enter It's mind through the Ritual of Chüd, but they get lost in It. Eddie injures It by spraying his asthma medication down It's throat, but It bites off Eddie's arm, killing him. It runs away to tend to its injuries, but Bill, Richie, and Ben chase after and find that It has laid eggs. Ben stays behind to destroy the eggs, while Bill and Richie head toward their final confrontation with It. Bill fights his way inside It's body, locates It's heart, and destroys it. The group meets up to head out of It's lair, and although they try to bring Audra and Eddie's bodies with them, they are forced to leave Eddie behind. They realize that the scars on their hands from their blood pact have disappeared, indicating that their ordeal is finally over.

At the same time, the worst storm in Maine's history sweeps through Derry, and the downtown area collapses. Mike concludes that Derry is finally dying. The Losers return home and gradually begin to forget about It, Derry, and each other all over again. Mike's memory of the events of that summer also begins to fade, as well as any of the records he had written down previously, much to his relief, and he considers starting a new life elsewhere. Ben and Beverly leave together and become a couple, and Richie returns to California. Bill is the last to leave Derry. Before he goes, he takes Audra, still catatonic, for a ride on Silver, which awakens her from her catatonia, and they share a kiss.


In 1978, King and his family lived in Boulder, Colorado. One evening, King ventured alone to pick up his car from the repair shop and came across an old wooden bridge, "humped and oddly quaint". Walking along the bridge caused King to recall the story of "Three Billy Goats Gruff", and the idea of transplanting the tale's scenario into a real-life context interested him. King was further inspired by a line by Marianne Moore—“imaginary gardens with real toads in them"—which in his mind came out as "real trolls in imaginary gardens." King would return to the concept two years later and gradually accumulated ideas and thoughts, particularly the concept of weaving the narratives of children and the adults they become. King began writing It in 1980,[6] and finished the book five years later.[7] King found influence in the mythology and history surrounding the construction of the sewer system in Bangor, Maine.[8]


It thematically focuses on the loss of childhood innocence[7] and questions the difference between necessity and free will.[1] Grady Hendrix of described the book as being "about the fact that some doors only open one way, and that while there's an exit out of childhood named sex, there’s no door leading the other way that turns adults back into children".[8] Christopher Lehman-Haupt of The New York Times noted that It "concerns the evil that has haunted America from time to time in the forms of crime, racial and religious bigotry, economic hardship, labor strife and industrial pollution", and that the novel's setting "is a museum filled with the popular culture of the 1950s: brand names, rock 'n' roll songs and stars, the jokes and routines of childhood in that era".[1] James Smythe of The Guardian opined that "Pennywise isn't the novel's biggest terror. The most prominent notions of fear in the novel come from the Losers Club themselves: their home lives, the things that have made them pariahs."[7]


On December 13, 2011, Cemetery Dance published a special limited edition of It for the 25th anniversary of the novel (ISBN 978-1-58767-270-5) in three editions: an unsigned limited gift edition of 2,750, a signed limited edition of 750, and a signed and lettered limited edition of 52. All three editions are oversized hardcovers, housed in a slipcase or traycase, and feature premium binding materials. This anniversary edition features a new dust jacket illustration by Glen Orbik, as well as numerous interior illustrations by Alan M. Clark and Erin Wells. The book also contains a new afterword by Stephen King discussing his reasons for writing the novel.[9]

Reception and legacy

It received a mostly positive critical reaction when it was released.

Christopher Lehman-Haupt perceived a lack of justification in Stanley Uris' death and the reunion of the group.[1]

Grady Hendrix described the book as "by turns boring and shocking" and "one of King's most frustrating and perplexing books", and described the behavior of the child characters as idealized and unnatural.[8]

The book's sexual content is controversial among critics and readers.[8] James Smythe considered the book's descriptions of childhood sexuality to be "questionable", and was particularly "shocked" by a scene of the Losers Club engaging in an orgy.[7] Grady Hendrix identified this moment as "in a sense, the heart of the book" and a thematic demonstration of the crossing from childhood to adulthood, and concluded that it is "a way for King to tell kids that sex, even unplanned sex, even sex that's kind of weird, even sex where a girl loses her virginity in the sewer, can be powerful and beautiful if the people having it truly respect and like each other".[8]

The novel has been noted for its exceptional length. Publishers Weekly expressed particular indignation: "Overpopulated and under-characterized, bloated by lazy thought-out philosophizing and theologizing there is simply too much of It."[8]

The character Pennywise has been named by several outlets as one of the scariest clowns in film or pop culture.[10][11][12][13]

In 2003, It was listed at number 144 on the BBC's The Big Read poll—one of three King novels on the list.[14]


In 1990, the novel was adapted into a television miniseries starring Tim Curry as Pennywise the Clown/It,[15] John Ritter as Ben Hanscom, Harry Anderson as Richie Tozier, Richard Masur as Stan Uris, Tim Reid as Mike Hanlon, Annette O'Toole as Beverly Marsh, Richard Thomas as Bill Denbrough, Olivia Hussey as Audra Phillips, Dennis Christopher as Eddie Kaspbrak, and Michael Cole as Henry Bowers. The younger versions of the characters were played by Brandon Crane (Ben), Seth Green (Richie), Ben Heller (Stan), Marlon Taylor (Mike), Emily Perkins (Beverly), Jonathan Brandis (Bill), Adam Faraizl (Eddie), and Jarred Blancard (Henry). The miniseries was directed by Tommy Lee Wallace and scripted by Wallace and Lawrence D. Cohen.

In 1998, the novel was adapted into a television series set in India, starring Lilliput as Pennywise the Clown/Vikram/Woh/It, and Ashutosh Gowarikar (Ashutosh), Mamik Singh (Rahul), Anupam Bhattacharya (Sanjeev), Shreyas Talpade (Young Ashutosh), Parzan Dastur (Young Siddhart), Manoj Joshi (Amit), and Daya Shankar Pandey (Chandu), the series' equivalent of the Losers Club. The series was directed and written by Glen Baretto and Ankush Mohla.

The first of a two-part feature film adaptation, It, was released on September 8, 2017.[16] It is directed by Andy Muschietti, with a screenplay by Chase Palmer, Cary Fukunaga and Gary Dauberman. Instead of a dual narrative, the first film is solely an adaptation of the section that features the characters as children, though the setting has been updated to the late 1980s. It stars Bill Skarsgård as Pennywise and Jaeden Martell as Bill Denbrough. Supporting roles are played by Finn Wolfhard as Richie Tozier, Sophia Lillis as Beverly Marsh, Jack Dylan Grazer as Eddie Kaspbrak, Wyatt Oleff as Stanley Uris, Chosen Jacobs as Mike Hanlon, Jeremy Ray Taylor as Ben Hanscom, Owen Teague as Patrick Hockstetter, Nicholas Hamilton as Henry Bowers, Logan Thompson as Vic Criss and Jake Sim as Belch Huggins.

The second film, It Chapter Two, adapted the "adult" section and updated the setting to the 2010s, specifically 2016. It starred James McAvoy (Bill), Bill Hader (Richie), Jessica Chastain (Beverly), James Ransone (Eddie), Andy Bean (Stan), Isaiah Mustafa (Mike), and Jay Ryan (Ben). Skarsgård reprised the role of Pennywise and the younger actors returned as well. Principal photography wrapped in 2018, and it was released on September 6, 2019.[17]

On March 21, 2022, Variety reported that Muschietti, along with his sister and Jason Fuchs, was developing and executive producing a prequel series for HBO Max, titled Welcome to Derry. The show is said to take place in the 1960s, before the events of It: Chapter One, and will reportedly include the origin story of Pennywise the Clown. Muschietti will direct the first episode, with Fuchs writing all of the episodes for the series.[18]


  1. ^ a b c d Christopher Lehman-Haupt (August 21, 1986). "Books of the Times: It". The New York Times. Retrieved May 13, 2019.
  2. ^ King, Stephen (1986). It. New York, NY: Viking. p. 1153. ISBN 0670813028. OCLC 13497048.
  3. ^ "1987 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved July 22, 2009.
  4. ^ Monaghan, Charles (March 29, 1987). "BOOK REPORT". The Washington Post. Retrieved June 19, 2019.
  5. ^ Rouner, Jef (September 18, 2012). "Top 5 Sickest Stephen King Sex Scenes (NSFW)". Houston Press. Retrieved March 30, 2017.
  6. ^ "Horror writer Stephen King is afraid there's something awful under his bed". The Toronto Star. October 5, 1980.
  7. ^ a b c d James Smythe (May 28, 2013). "Rereading Stephen King, chapter 21: It". The Guardian. Retrieved May 13, 2019.
  8. ^ a b c d e f Grady Hendrix (September 25, 2013). "The Great Stephen King Reread: It". Retrieved May 13, 2019.
  9. ^ "It (25th Anniversary Special Edition)". Archived from the original on March 15, 2015. Retrieved March 30, 2017.
  10. ^ Glenza, Jessica (October 29, 2014). "The 10 most terrifying clowns". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved May 1, 2016.
  11. ^ "10 Most Terrifying Clowns in Horror Movies". Screen Rant. September 23, 2015. Retrieved May 1, 2016.
  12. ^ "The Scariest Clowns in Pop Culture". Nerdist. October 22, 2015. Archived from the original on June 2, 2016. Retrieved May 1, 2016.
  13. ^ Martin, Amy. ""Hey Kid, Want A Balloon?" – Horror's 5 Creepiest Clowns". Movie Pilot. Archived from the original on September 9, 2017. Retrieved May 1, 2016.
  14. ^ "The Big Read Top 100". BBC. April 2003. Retrieved October 19, 2018.
  15. ^ "Lilja's Library – The World of Stephen King [1996 – 2017]". Retrieved March 30, 2017.
  16. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony (April 22, 2016). "Warner Bros. Sets 'CHiPs', 'It' & Untitled PG-13 Comedy For 2017". Deadline.
  17. ^ "IT: Chapter Two Young Losers' Club Cast Has Wrapped Filming". ScreenRant. November 1, 2018. Retrieved February 18, 2019.
  18. ^ Otterson, Joe (March 29, 2022). "'It' Prequel Series in the Works at HBO Max". Variety. Retrieved March 30, 2022.