Is ‘Where the Crawdads Sing’ a True Story?

After watching the movie Where the Crawdads Sing, everyone has the same question: Is Where the Crawdads Sing a true story? A lot of similarities exist between the movie and author Delia Owens’ life. The similarities are tantalizing.

Let’s start with the plot, a little SparkNotes for your memory in case you don’t fully remember the movie.

Spoilers ahead!

What is plot of Where The Crawdads Sing?

Where the Crawdads Sing tells the story of Kya. Kya’s mother abandons her at age 6. As a result, Kya is forced to raise herself in the isolated North Carolina marshes.

Residents of Barkley Cove come to call Kya “Marsh Girl.” This alienates her even more.

Kya then meets a boy named Tate and they fall in love. However, Tate moves off to college, never to return. It’s here that Kya meets Chase, Barkley Cove’s most popular football star.

However, Chase is mysteriously found dead. The community immediately suspects Kya, the abandoned girl from the marshes.

The last part of the book turns into a court mystery centered around Kya.

The reveal is pretty shocking. We don’t want to spoil everything (in case you haven’t seen it).

Is Where the Crawdads Sing a true story?

This is where it’s tricky. Are all the characters in Barkley Cove the exact same people in real life? No.

Yet, the similarities between author Delia Owens and Kya are quite strong. Both grew up in the South. While the book takes place in a fictional North Carolina town, Owens grew up in Georgia.

Owens is intimately familiar with lands such as marshes. She wrote three non-fiction books about Africa’s ecology. She also directed conservation efforts in Africa.

Both Kya and Delila grew up isolated, more comfortable with animals than humans.

Now is when things get eerily similar and the controversy from Where the Crawdad Sings intertwine with whether or not the movie and book are true stories.

Owens may have been involved in a murder in 1995. However, this is not proven, only suggested through news articles.

In 1995, an ABC News crew traveled to Zambia. They intended to film Delia and husband Mark Owens’ conservation project in the country. The show was titled “Deadly Game: The Mark and Delia Owens Story”, as part of the “Turning Point” series.

At the time, poaching was a significant issue. Mark Owens told scouts, whose job was to find poachers, to “shoot at them first… when you see the whites of his eyes.”

In the footage that you can see below, a scout comes upon an alleged poacher lying face down in the forest. Then, off-camera come three shots. The body slowly moves, then stops. The man is dead. The narrator then explains that poachers are left dead in the forest for animals to eat.

Many questions remained. There’s no camera shot of the actual shooter. Yet, for a news magazine in the mid-90s, to show a man shot dead on broadcast TV with no context was shocking.

For instance, was that really a poacher who was shot dead? Who shot the poacher? Why was he alone?

ABC, as part of their agreement to film, “were allowed to accompany patrols in Zambia after we agreed not to identify those involved, should a shooting occur.” This is according to Meredith Viera.

The Zambian government began an investigation after the episode aired. The American Embassy encouraged the Owenses to leave, which they did. The Owenses have never returned.

Witnesses have come forward. Cameraman Chris Everson, the one who filmed the shooting, claims the Owenses’ son, Christopher Owens, pulled the trigger (Christopher was stepson to author Delila Owens.)

The detective investigating claims Mark Owens got rid of the body using his personal helicopter.

Delila Owens disputes that Christopher had any involvement. She claims he was not even in Zambia at the time.

The case does not appear to have been solved.

The identity of the man shot in the forest that day is unknown. The shooter’s identity is also unknown.

So is Where the Crawdads Sing a true story? You have to ask yourself: what makes a true story, true. That is your answer.

After watching the movie, you likely have even more questions beyond was Where the Crawdads Sing a true story. Books and movies like these capture you and make you seek out all the information you can about them.

Who is the cast of Where The Crawdads Sing?

A great movie deserves to have their cast recognized. The cast did an amazing job with the material.

Daisy Edgar-Jones (Normal People) as “Kya Clark,”

Taylor John Smith (Sharp Objects) as “Tate Walker,”

Harris Dickinson (The King’s Man) as “Chase Andrews,”

Michael Hyatt (Snowfall) as “Mabel,”

Sterling Macer, Jr. (Double Down) as “Jumpin’,”

David Strathairn (Nomadland) as “Tom Milton.”

Reese Witherspoon produced the movie after selecting the book in her Hello Sunshine Book Club in September 2018.

Taylor Swift also provided “Carolina”, a very dark song that runs over the credits (it’s also a song Taylor Swift wrote to possibly reveal her bisexuality). The chorus also paints a very dark portrait of Barkley Cove, one where secrets stay buried. Much like the man shot dead, whose identity we’ll never know, whose killer has yet to be revealed.

“Carolina”‘s chorus:

Into the mist, into the clouds

Don’t leave

I make a fist, I’ll make it count

And there are places I will never, ever go

And things that only Carolina will ever know


What does where the crawdads sing mean?

In the book, Tate basically says to go so far out that it’ll be where the crawdads sing.

“Well, we better hide way out there where the crawdads sing. I pity any foster parents who take you on.” Tate’s whole face smiled.

“What d’ya mean, where the crawdads sing? Ma used to say that.” Kya remembered Ma always encouraging her to explore the marsh: “Go as far as you can—way out yonder where the crawdads sing.”

“Just means far in the bush where critters are wild, still behaving like critters. Now, you got any ideas where we can meet?”

The movie just had its New York premiere. Where the Crawdads Sing national release date is set for July 15, 2022.

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments