What Is the Summary of “Leiningen Versus the Ants”?

“Leiningen Versus the Ants” tells the story of a man whose coffee plantation in Brazil is threatened by a large swarm of deadly ants. Instead of fleeing, he prepares elaborate defenses to fight the ants and save his plantation.

The district commissioner advises Leiningen to accompany his fellow settlers to safety, but despite the commissioner’s horrific tales of the ants stripping a stag or buffalo to the bone in minutes, Leiningen determines to stay and outwit the advancing horde. Although he gives his workers an opportunity to leave, some of them remain to help out of respect for their employer. Leiningen and his workers prepare an elaborate array of moats, levees, dams and canals. They also use gasoline to burn the ants. For days they persevere against the encroaching ants, killing many of them, but gradually Leiningen and his workers are forced back to the hill on which the plantation house sits. It appears as if the ants are going to overrun the plantation and obliterate the survivors.

Leiningen comes up with a desperate plan to flood the entire plantation with water from a dam 2 miles away. To get there, though, he has to run straight through the ants. He wraps himself in petroleum-soaked clothing and makes a run for the dam. After turning the wheel to release the river water, he makes it back to his workers, although he is badly wounded. In the final scene, Leiningen lies in bed recovering, and the ants are gone.