Robert Ardrey initially conceived of Thunder Rock while on an extended honeymoon on the edge of the North Atlantic, on the island of Nantucket. Across that ocean the European crisis was escalating; the major powers had just signed the Munich Agreement, acceding to Nazi Germany’s annexation of swaths of Czechoslovakia.
To Ardrey the agreement—which would indeed turn out to be a failed gesture of appeasement—was a sure harbinger of war.
Ardrey, who was committed to a socially engaged theater and viewed the looming conflict as a possible social catastrophe of unprecedented dimension, knew he had to write a call to arms to try to rouse the largely isolationist American public to action, but he was at a loss as to how.
Then one day, during a performance of Swan Lake, the play appeared to him.