Soils and Literature

Soil is an amazing inspiration to several of our literary greats and authors! A lot of permanent writings from our early societies were written on clay tablets. Laws, and other permanent wrtitings were written on a wet clay surface that was fired into records of law, trading documents, and ideas. This includes things like the Code of Hammurabi from 1750 BC. This is one of the oldest remaining examples of written laws.


Writers have used soil as a metaphor for birth, death, the life cycle, fertility, and rejuvination for centuries. In Bram Stokers Dracula (1897), in order for him to rest properly, he needed to have soil from his Translyvanian home. He had 50 boxes of soil shipped to England. The vampire hunter VanHelsing discovered this, and placed communion wafer on 49 of them, repelling Dracula with their holy nature. 

dust bowl Okie

John Steinbeck gave soil a prominent role in his book, Grapes of Wrath (1940). It examined life during the Dust Bowl. When small farmers were unable to buy equipment like tractors, or pay their mortgages, many familes were forced to leave their homes and travel westward to California, looking for work. In another of his novels, East of Eden (1952), he talks about the difficulties of people trying to survive on a less than fertile land. 

Real life soil scientists can also inspire science fiction writiers. Frank Herbert wrote the book Dune (1956). Herbert was researching a USDA dune stabilization project in Florence, Oregon for a magazine article, and became so inspired that he used a lot of these ideas in his fictional universe. The character Pardot Kynes is based on the work of the USDA scientist.