Is Where the Crawdads Sing a true story? All your questions about the movie answered

Is Where the Crawdads Sing a true story? Everything you need to know about the movie.
Was Where the Crawdads Sing a true story? Everything you need to know about the movie. (Image credit: Sony Pictures)

Where the Crawdads Sing was one of the most highly anticipated movies for 2022, having been adapted by Reece Witherspoon's production company Hello Sunshine from Delia Owen’s novel of the same name. 

Book and movie fans headed to theatres in July 2022 to see Normal People star Daisy Edgar-Jones play the lead role of Kya in Where the Crawdads Sing, and now you can watch from the comfort of your own home on Netflix.

But fans have got lots of questions including whether it is a true story, and what exactly is a crawdad?!

Is Where the Crawdads Sing a true story?

Where the Crawdads Sing movie

Daisy Edgar-Jones as 'Marsh Girl' Kya.  (Image credit: Sony Pictures)

No, Where the Crawdads Sing is a fictional story not based on a real-life woman living alone in the marshes in North Carolina who was accused of killing her former love interest. Instead, the movie's based on a novel by Delia Owen, also called "Where the Crawdads Sing". 

Is Kya black or white in Where the Crawdads Sing?

While it is sometimes assumed by Where the Crawdads Sing readers that Kya is black, we know that Kya and her family are actually white because the character refers to herself as "white trash". 

How old was Kya when her dad left in Where the Crawdads Sing?

By the time Kya reaches double digits in childhood, all of her family have abandoned her. After her mother and siblings leave, Kya is left living with her father, who is a violent alcoholic. However, he starts to spend more and more time away and eventually abandons her at the age of 10. By this point, Kya has become thoroughly self-sufficient, living on the land and occasionally trading in the local town for supplies.

What is Where the Crawdads Sing about? 

Where the Crawdads Sing movie

Where the Crawdads Sing is about Kya who lives alone in the marshes after her family abandon her.  (Image credit: Sony Pictures)

Set in North Carolina in the 1950s and 1960s, Where the Crawdads Sing follows Kya, a young girl branded 'Marsh Girl' by locals after she learns to live independently after being abandoned by her family as a child.

After fending for herself and getting to know the ecosystems in the marshlands like no one else, Kya starts putting her knowledge down on paper and illustrating her own books. But her lonely existence leaves her an outcast in the local town, and so when a man is found murdered, Kya quickly finds herself the prime suspect for the crime. 

What does the phrase Where the Crawdads Sing mean?

Where the Crawdads Sing movie

Where The Crawdads Sing is an old-fashioned saying.  (Image credit: Sony Pictures)

Where The Crawdads Sing is an old saying and is something Delia Owen's own mother used to say. Fans who have also read the book will remember it is also a phrase that Tate says in chapter 17 of the novel.

While talking about finding a place they can go away from the crowds, Tate says: "Well, we better hide way out there where the crawdads sing."

“What d’ya mean, where the crawdads sing? Ma used to say that.” Kya then replies in the novel, explaining that her mother was always encouraging her to explore the marsh and "Go as far as you can — way out yonder where the crawdads sing.”

What are crawdads in Where the Crawdads Sing?

Where the Crawdads Sing movie

Crawdads are little lobster creatures that live in rivers.  (Image credit: Sony Pictures)

Where the Crawdads Sing is a best-selling novel and now a box-office hit, but what actually is a crawdad and where does it live? A crawdad is a word used in some parts of the US to describe a crayfish, which is a small shellfish-like creature, similar to a lobster, which lives in rivers. 

Why is it called Where the Crawdads Sing? 

Where the Crawdads Sing movie

Delia Owen discovered that crawdads don't actually sing!  (Image credit: Sony Pictures)

The title of the novel and movie is taken from the old saying from Delia's childhood, but while the saying is something that is still used today, Delia admitted that she discovered from a book that crawdads don't actually sing in real life. As with a lot of old-fashioned sayings 'Where the Crawdads Sing' doesn't actually make much sense! 

Where the Crawdads Sing movie ending explained

*WARNING — spoilers for the book and movie below*

In both the film and the book, Kya is found not guilty in Where the Crawdads Sing

One morning in 1969 the body of Chase Andrews is found and the police believe Andrews was pushed and thinks that the wild and mysterious "Marsh Girl" was the one who did it. 

Even with a lack of fingerprints and footprints to suggest foul play and a verifiable alibi (she was in Greenville meeting with a book publisher), Kya is taken into custody by police 

Despite testimonies like one from Chase's mother, who claims that the shell necklace that Chase wore every day — one that Kya personally gave him — was missing when his body was discovered, as well as clues including red wool fibers from Kya's hat that are found on Chase's jacket, Kya's defense attorney Tom Milton successfully argues that the prosecutor's case is based less on evidence and more on the town's prejudice against Kya. 

Concluding that Chase's death was an accident, the jury finds Kya not guilty and she is allowed to walk free.  

Claire Crick
Assistant Managing Editor at What To Watch

Claire is Assistant Managing Editor at What To Watch and has been a journalist for over 15 years, writing about everything from soaps and TV to beauty, entertainment, and even the Royal Family. After starting her career at a soap magazine, she ended up staying for 13 years, and over that time she’s pulled pints in the Rovers Return, sung karaoke in the Emmerdale village hall, taken a stroll around Albert Square, and visited Summer Bay Surf Club in sunny Australia. 

After learning some tricks of the trade at websites Digital Spy, Entertainment Daily, and Woman & Home, Claire landed a role at What’s On TV and writing about all things TV and film, with a particular love for Aussie soaps, Strictly Come Dancing and Bake Off

She’s interviewed everyone from June Brown — AKA Dot Cotton — to Michelle Keegan, swapped cooking tips with baking legend Mary Berry backstage at the NTAs, and danced the night away with soap stars at countless awards bashes. There’s not a lot she doesn’t know about soaps and TV and can be very handy when a soapy question comes up in a pub quiz! 

As well as all things soap-related, Claire also loves running, spa breaks, days out with her kids, and getting lost in a good book.