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Much of the island's history is provided within The Wicker Man, particularly by the character of Lord Summerisle (Christopher Lee) during a dialogue with the character of Sgt. Howie (Edward Woodward).
According to the film, Summerisle lies off the western coast of Scotland. [The "Summer Isles" are a group of islands just north-west of Ullapool]. It once earned a pittance through fishing and sheep farming. In 1868, the (presumably) first Lord Summerisle came to the island, attracted by the volcanic soil and the warm gulf stream surrounding Summerisle, utilising it to grow certain types of fruits and vegetables. In doing so, Lord Summerisle attempted to win over the inhabitants by converting them from Christianity to "the old gods".
When the crops became successful, the inhabitants of Summerisle fully embraced paganism, and the Christian ministers were banished to the mainland. Summerisle continued to be fruitful and prosperous for several years, and the inhabitants continued to worship pagan deities, with particular emphasis on fertility rituals.
The principal events of the film describe the failure of Summerisle's crops, and how the inhabitants lure an outsider from the mainland under false pretences to be sacrificed to their gods in a giant Wicker Man, in the hope that the crops will prosper once again.
In the 2006 remake, the island is renamed Summersisle, and is changed from a remote island off the west coast of Scotland to a private island situated in the Puget Sound region of Washington state in America.
In the remake, Summersisle is made prosperous by the production of honey, introduced by a local landowner. Like the original film, the inhabitants of Summersisle were convinced to revert to paganism when the island produced high yields of honey. In the remake, however, the inhabitants also adopted a strict form of matriarchy, and the men of Summersisle were kept solely for breeding or to be sacrificed in giant Wicker Man statues annually to ensure successful harvests of honey each year.
For reasons that go unexplained in the remake, the yield of honey inexplicably drops, and the matriarchs of Summersisle are forced to sacrifice a male from the mainland in the hope of increasing their next yield of honey.
Other fictional locations with pagan connotations appear elsewhere in The Wicker Man Trilogy, all of which are similar to Summerisle in the sense that they are isolated communities whose inhabitants are non-Christian polytheists.
In the novel Cowboys for Christ by Robin Hardy (later adapted as the film, The Wicker Tree), Summerisle is replaced with the fictional village of Tressock, which is located somewhere in the Scottish lowlands. As in The Wicker Man, the inhabitants of Tressock practice a modern form of Celtic paganism, but have also devised their own unique ritual of "hunting the Laddie" in which they hunt down a victim and devour him upon capture.