You might get pushed around. In fact, you will get pushed around. And when you do, don't come crying to me. Got it? This is Battle School, not nursery school."

"What are we supposed to do, then?" asked a boy, a really small black kid who had a top bunk near Ender's.

It cannot be Shafts, because as he was already mentioned by name prior to this quote.

I'm thinking that it might be Alai, based on the passage found in the original 1985 edition:

They grinned. Then Ender said, "Better invite Bernard."

Alai cocked an eyebrow. "Oh?"

"And Shen."

"That little slanty-eyed butt-wiggler?"

Ender decided that Alai was joking. "Hey, we can't all be niggers."

Alai grinned. "My grandpa would've killed you for that."

"My great great grandpa would have sold him first,"

"Let's go get Bernard and Shen and freeze these bugger-lovers."

The main objection I have to this is the following passage:

Ender smiled, "Missed you at practice, Alai."

"I was there. But they had your army in a separate place. Looks like you're big time now, can't play with the little boys anymore."

"You're a full cubit taller than I am."

Any thoughts?

  • I am not sure if Bean ever got a skin color mentioned. But really small, do we know it's not Bean? (I have not seen the movie, so it's a wild guess)
    – Andrey
    Jun 27, 2017 at 18:29
  • @Andrey - Bean wasn't in Ender's Launch group. (The movie is nonsense.)
    – ibid
    Jun 27, 2017 at 18:32

2 Answers 2


This is possible but not likely.

  1. We know Alai is black, from Africa from the sequel novels (Shadow series), where that becomes a big plot point (in terms of resentment Arab rulers have for him)

    We brought Nubia on ourselves, thought Alai. The ancient Muslim contempt for blackest Africa still seethed under the surface; if Alai had not been a member of Ender's Jeesh, it would have been inconceivable for him, as a black African, to be named Caliph. (Shadow of the Giant)


    "You are no Caliph!" gasped Alamandar. "The Hindu woman is more of a Caliph than you are, you black dog" {{note: if you think this is an unusual wording or sentiment, read "1001 Nights" for historical Arab sentiments towards Africans. Or study Darfour genocide, which evolved from the exact conflict Alai mentioned.}}.

  2. However, he did NOT seem to have a "top bunk near Ender's", though that's not certain:

    When they got to the barracks, Ender squatted down by his bed and said, "Get your desk and bring it over here, I'll show you how." But when Alai brought his desk to Ender's bed, Ender was just sitting there, his lockers still closed.

    This isn't 100% clear but it seems that Ender's bunk would be further away from Alai's for this to be meaningful - if it was close, there was no reasonable expectation that Ender would have opened his locker already.

  3. Alai wasn't likely to be short: he was Bernard's close friend...

    And right after him, Bernard's best friend, Alai....

    ... and it seems Bernard's initial circle of friends was large boys:

    Ender felt the fear growing in his belly. The kid whose arm he broke, Ender didn't feel sorry for him. He was a Stilson. And like Stilson, he was already gathering a gang. A little knot of kids, several of the bigger ones.

    This actually tracks with the later banter, once Ender was made a commander; about being a "cubit shorter" than Alai.

  4. Final piece of evidence that it wasn't Alai:

    Alai was a brilliant kid. One of the top. He was elected their Launch leader. He ended up one of Ender's closest friends and one of his Jeesh. He ended up a Caliph, one of the 3-4 most powerful rulers of Earth in Shadow of the Giant.

    All this points to a child who is really really going to be out of character asking "Mom Dap" a question of "What are we supposed to do, then? If we are pushed around".

  • So how do you explain the height difference? (To go from being "really small" compared to Ender to being "a full cubit taller" than Ender in a span of 3 years)?
    – ibid
    Nov 22, 2015 at 0:01
  • 1
    Alai most probably changed a lot from his first day in Battle School, (when he was 6 or 7,) to when he became Caliph 8 or so years later.
    – ibid
    Nov 22, 2015 at 4:18

The only named characters from Ender's launch group were Alai, Bernard, Shafts and Shen. The description matches best with Shen, who was small, had a bed near Ender and really didn't get along with Bernard:

Ender, watching, knew who resented Bernard. Shem was small, ambitious, and easily needled. Bernard had discovered that quickly, and started calling him Worm. "Because he's so small," Bernard said, "and because he wriggles. Look how he shimmies his butt when he walks."

Eventually, though, Shen glanced around. Ender nodded to him, pointed to his desk, and smiled. Shen looked puzzled. Ender held up his desk a little and then pointed at it. Shen reached for his own desk. Ender sent the message then, Shen saw it almost at once. Shen read it, then laughed aloud. He looked at Ender as if to say, Did you do this? Ender shrugged, to say, I don't know who did it but it sure wasn't me.

The black kid was obviously not Bernard. Alai is rather tall, easily gets along with others and his bed was further away from Ender's. Shafts is never mentioned again after the shuttle launch. If not Shen, then the really small black kid is unnamed.

The revised edition (1991) modified the dialogue between Ender and Alai about Shen, which removed the only reference to Shen's ethnicity.

  • 1
    The 1985 edition had Shen as explicitly not black. Alai makes fun of Shen for being Asian, and Ender retaliates by saying he'll make fun of Alai for being black if he doesn't cut it out. (At least that's how OSC explained the scene: If you're going to call my East Asian friend "slanty-eyed," then you choose to live in the kind of world where you would be called "n*." )
    – ibid
    Aug 11, 2020 at 18:18

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