The Children is a fanatical religious cult of young children that obsessively serve the supernatural dark entity known only as He Who Walks Behind the Rows and they are the supporting major antagonists in the Children of the Corn film series and the short story Children of the Corn by Stephen King.
Children of the Corn (1978 short story)
The greatest amount of detail on The Children is given in the original short story. Gatlin, Nebraska was just another rural farming town in Nebraska until August 1964. In response to some unknown motivation- possibly a drought and a series of bad harvests, making the already difficult life of a poor farming town nearly impossible and unbearable- an unspecified leader incited the children of Gatlin to rise up against the adults of the town. The uprising was swift and brutal; not one adult resident of Gatlin survived.
The Gatlin Police Chief and the minister of the Grace Baptist Church are implied to have survived longer than most, and managed to resist or at least come close to escaping. The children were unable to stop them, so the dark entity they called He Who Walks Behind the Rows killed them himself. "The Blue Man" and "the False Minister" were crucified and left in a clearing in the vast sea of cornfields surrounding the town and remained there even twelve years later.
The Children, guided by their Seer- the child chosen to lead them as the speaker for He Who Walks Behind the Rows- made a series of drastic changes to life in Gatlin:
- Electricity and all conveniences using it was shunned.
- Alcohol was banned, and devices dispensing it, like beer taps in the local diner, were destroyed.
- "Make no music except with human tongue saith the Lord God"- In accordance with this, the pipe organ in the local church was destroyed, its keys ripped up and its pipes stuffed with corn husks.
- Anything making use of an internal combustion engine was abandoned.
- The former Grace Baptist Church was reverently cared for inside and out, and houses in use and farming structures were maintained. All other buildings were abandoned.
- The New Testament was chopped out of any Bibles with scissors.
- Children alive before the uprising without given names from the Old Testament changed their names, and the first children born afterward (in 1965) were given acceptable names at birth. The first boy was named Adam, the first girl Eve.
- An "Age of Favor" was established. At the command of He Who Walks Behind the Rows, Children walked into the rows at night on their 19th birthday, never to be seen again.
- Signs and postings indicating the date were disregarded, but letters and numbers were updated to show the date on the signboard of the church.
Once the Children had secured full control of Gatlin, they severed all contact with the outside world. At some unknown point the electricity went off, phone lines went dead or were cut, and The Children lived without any contact with or from the outside world for twelve years.
That changed with the coming of the outsiders, Burt Stanton and Vicky Baxter, late in the summer of 1976. After running over a boy who had tried to flee the town- Joseph, who was renamed afterward by The Children as "Ahaz, Cursed of God"- the bickering couple reluctantly decided to make for the nearest town to turn in the body and report his murder, as evidenced by the fact that his throat had been cut by an unknown assailant before he ever got hit by Burt's Thunderbird. The couple found Gatlin silent and deserted, and after briefly exploring the town they stopped at the former Grace Baptist Church. Burt disregarded Vicky's rising panic and went inside, where he found the church's amended Bible, destroyed pipe organ, and a vulpine, demonic painting of Christ, His eyes showing a sinner burning in a lake of fire. Children arrived while Burt was inside, finding direct evidence and adding up implications that something had happened in Gatlin, "something having to do with religion, and corn... and children."
The Children attacked just as Burt came outside, losing one of their number to Burt while the Thunderbird was severely damaged. Vicky was hauled out and dragged away to a clearing in the corn, where her eyes were ripped out and she was put up on a cross beside the skeletal remains of the Gatlin Police Chief and the minister of the former Grace Baptist Church. Burt ran for his life into the corn with the Children in pursuit, but he evaded them until nightfall, when they gave up and went home. The corn was holy ground, and not even its tenders dared enter it after dark. Burt, however, stayed in the corn, thinking it offered him safety. He soon discovered how wrong he was, and briefly- very briefly- saw He Who Walks Behind the Rows after discovering his wife's body in the clearing.
Angered that His followers had failed Him, He Who Walks Behind the Rows directed the 9-year-old Seer, Isaac Chroner, to issue a command when the Children gathered in the clearing the next day, where Burt's body had joined the other three on a cross of his own. As they had failed to apprehend Burt and allowed him to defile holy ground, the Children were punished with the lowering of the Age of Favor from 19 to 18 years. All those 18 years old walked into the corn that night. Among them was Malachi Boardman, who was an expecting father, having gotten his girlfriend or wife Ruth pregnant several months ago. Ruth wished to destroy the corn but dared not, as she knew nothing in Gatlin escaped the sight of He Who Walks Behind the Rows.
Life went on in Gatlin much as it had before the arrival of the intruders, and the Children continued to live in obedience to the laws of He Who Walks Behind the Rows, in return for his favor, guidance, and protection.
Children of the Corn (1984 film)
In Gatlin, Nebraska, a rural town surrounded by a sea of cornfields, the locals turned to prayer after a drought caused the year's corn crop to fail. 12-year-old Isaac Chroner diverted the local children into the corn, where he began to convert them to following not the God of the Christian Bible, but a darker, bloodthirsty deity called He Who Walks Behind the Rows. Just after the Sunday service ended at the local Christian church, the children- all of whom had gone with Isaac save Job and his sister Sarah- launched a violent revolution, killing every adult in town as human sacrifices. After that day, Sarah began drawing ominous pictures in crayon, and the Children, at Isaac's direction, abandoned or destroyed all modern devices and conveniences, and severed all contact with the outside world. Gatlin existed in total isolation for the next three years.
With the arrival of the outlanders, Burt and Vicky, a couple on their way to Seattle, the greatest test of the Children was at hand. One had already failed it- Joseph, who briefly visited Job and Sarah before trying to flee the town through the corn. As Isaac relayed in a sermon later that day, "He said, "Joseph has taken his things and fled this happy place, because the worship of Me is no longer upon him. So take you his life, and spill his blood! But let not the flesh pollute the corn. Cast him instead upon the road!" Malachai, the strongest and fiercest of His followers, had carried out the deed himself and said, "And so it was done. Joseph the Betrayer was cast out."
He Who Walks Behind the Rows intended Burt and Vicky as a trial for His subjects: "I will send outlanders amongst you. A man, and a woman. And these outlanders will be unbelievers and profaners of the holy. The man shall surely test you, for he has great power- even greater than that of the Blue Man". Isaac relayed His command- that the unbelievers be apprehended and offered up as sacrifice unto Him.
Burt and Vicky briefly met with an elderly mechanic as they arrived at the edge of town, but he informed them that "Folks in Gatlin got religion" and that they would neither have a phone for the couple to call the police with, nor would they be at all willing to help. The man avoided mention of how the children had spared him from the slaughter three years ago, running his gas station and providing fuel to Gatlin as needed in exchange for his life. Disregarding the man as senile, Burt drove on into town. Malachai arrived soon after, and broke the pact with the mechanic and killed him and his dog.
Vicky was captured by the Children and Burt forced into hiding with Job and Sarah soon after the couple began searching the silent town. Isaac, incensed by Malachai's disregarding of His commands, began to curse him but Malachai staged a coup in response and took over. Isaac furiously warned that the Children had now broken their compact with He Who Walks Behind the Rows and would be severely punished, but Malachai refused to listen and pursued his own agenda, and decided to offer Isaac up instead of Vicky.
Malachai's leadership of the Children lasted less than one full day. Burt, Job, and Sarah freed Vicky and set the cornfields ablaze, an action implied to destroy or banish He Who Walks Behind the Rows. Before this happened, however, He claimed Isaac, resurrected him, and used him to kill Malachai by breaking his neck. The children scattered to the four winds as the cornfields burned, and Burt and Vicky left Gatlin with Job and Sarah.
Children of the Corn (2009 film)
In 1963, the town of Gatlin, Nebraska, suffered in the midst of a severe drought, which was devastating the crops upon which the poor rural town depended. A group of children gathered one night before a boy preacher, who told them that an Old Testament-era Canaanite God whom he called "He Who Walks Behind the Rows" had spoken to him in his dreams. He told the other children that the sinful adults were the reason for the drought, and that all above the age of nineteen must be put to death. This command is followed, and Gatlin sees a bloody uprising, after which no one lives past the age of nineteen and life is simple, strictly-ordered, and revolves around worship of a dark, bloodthirsty god: He Who Walks Behind the Rows.
Twelve years later, a bickering couple attempting their second honeymoon arrived in Gatlin, unaware that they were intruders in a town where they were far from welcome. Vietnam veteran Burt and his wife Vicky argued all the way towards town, and were distracted enough that they did not notice Joseph, a boy trying to flee Gatlin, until their car ran him over as he fled across a road, his throat already cut by Malachai while he was running through the corn. Determined to both spite his wife's increasing panic and follow the law by reporting the murder to the authorities, Burt drove on into Gatlin.
The Children, silent and unseen at first, knew Burt and Vicky had arrived almost immediately after they drove into town. Their Seer, 9-year-old Isaac, and devout follower and fighter Malachai, directed the Children to seize Vicky while Burt was inside the town church. Vicky managed to kill one of the Children with the shotgun that was stored in the car's trunk before the children captured her and destroyed the car. Standing atop a building, Isaac ordered the Children to attack Burt next. Burt killed two of them before running into the corn.
Isaac, turning to Malachai in anger, told him he had committed a blasphemy by slitting Joseph's throat while he was still in the corn. After leading Malachai in prayer, Isaac directed him to seek penance by ensuring Burt was caught and sacrificed. Groups of children began venturing in to the cornfields to find Burt, fearful of nightfall, as the corn belonged to Him at night.
One of the small boys accompanying Malachai, Nahum, told him as they searched for Burt that he had seen a vision from He Who Walks Behind the Rows one night, leading Malachai to believe Nahum may be intended as the next Seer when Isaac reaches the end of the Age of Favor at 18. The intense pressure he is under, combined with low-crawling through the cornfield, causes Burt to start having flashbacks. He sees fellow Marines engaging the enemy, and moves to flank the Vietcong firing their AK-47's at his own side. Only after Nahum and several other children are dead does Burt realize he wasn't actually in Vietnam. He returns to evading the children, who give up and go back to Gatlin as the sun sets.
The children hold a feast that night, prepared by the town's girls, despite concern about Burt's escape. Isaac later gathers the children for a sermon based on the tenet of "be fruitful and multiply", and proclaims that the time for fertilization has come. A teenage boy and teenage girl come up to the front of the church, disrobe, and have sex in front of the entire congregation. Though the strict, Old Testament order of life in Gatlin makes clear the sex is solely for the boy to get the girl pregnant, both visibly enjoy the act and the younger children find it exciting or even amusing.
Eventually Burt, who has become hopelessly lost and has started hallucinating, finds his way to the clearing where his crucified wife's body has been displayed by The Children as an offering to He Who Walks Behind the Rows. Her eyes have been ripped out and she is clearly dead, yet she seems to begin talking to him, explaining how "It's not so bad" to be made into a human sacrifice. Before long, the creature the Children worship and fear arrives, and the next day Burt has been crucified and left on a cross of his own.