THE PLOT OF THE WICKER MAN Neil Howie is a devoutly Christian policeman and lay minister, still an unmarried virgin though middle-aged and is mocked for such by his assistant, Mc Taggart.
He anonymously receives a photograph of a girl, Rowan Morrison, in the post with a note stating that she has mysteriously vanished.
Mrs Morrison's young daughter shows Howie a picture she has drawn of the supposed missing girl, but the drawing is that of a hare.
Howie takes a room at a pub run by Alder Mac Gregor and his daughter, Willow.
He is shocked by the ribald songs sung by customers of the pub and even more so when he observes couples making love in a cemetery as he takes an evening walk.
On his return, Howie is further shaken when he sees Lord Summerisle, the lord of the island, bringing Willow a teenage boy for sexual initiation.
He surmises that these pagan people have kidnapped Rowan and are going to sacrifice her in May Day festivities.
As he lies in bed wondering about what to do, he is disturbed to find out that Willow is parading naked around her bedroom singing a love song to him.
Working himself into a frenzy, Howie eventually collapses exhausted.
The following morning Howie returns to his plane intending to fetch help from the mainland.
The next morning Howie heads to the local school in search of Rowan.
There he finds the children being taught about phallic symbols and participating in a phallic maypole dance.
Howie finds Rowan's name on the school register and Miss Rose, the teacher, explains that the girl has died but returned in another form.