David Eddings was a bestselling fantasy author. Yet few fans know that in 1970, David and his wife, Leigh Eddings, were jailed for child abuse.
Many fans learn about it for the first time through Internet discussion boards. Some refuse to believe it. But this case isn’t as well-known as some.
Content Warning: This article contains details about child neglect and physical child abuse.
The Dark Truth Obscured
David and Leigh Eddings were married in 1962, but they didn’t enter the world of fantasy fiction until the 1980s. During the 1960s, Eddings was an assistant professor at Black Hills State College (now Black Hills State University) in South Dakota.
So why did he go from a tenured teaching position to working at Safeway? Eddings often said he quit teaching in protest of college policies.
But the truth is darker.
The Truth Emerges
It was not until after David Eddings’ death that most learned about the truth. In the 1960s, the Eddings (who lived in Spearfish, South Dakota) adopted two children: a two-month-old boy and a young girl.
As you can see from newspaper coverage of the trial, on December 16, 1969, utility workers went to the couple’s basement to take readings and found the boy in a cage, wearing just an undershirt. (Keep in mind that the average temperatures in Spearfish for December range from a high of 38° Fahrenheit to a low of 17° Fahrenheit.)
Leigh Eddings claimed that the boy was put in the basement because he refused to eat his food. The boy had some physical injuries, including a swollen hand and bruises on his leg. After an investigation, the couple was arrested on January 22, 1970. They also lost custody.
In March 1970, in separate trials, the couple went to trial for child abuse. Witnesses such as the utility employees described what they had found. Both were sentenced to a year in jail.
Just one year?!
While he was in jail, David Eddings wrote what would become his first published novel. He later said he wrote the book together with Leigh. But as Professor James Gifford points out in On Reading Monsters, that’s not possible. They were, of course, held in different prisons.
From Jail to Fantasy Bestsellers