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I read this short story many years ago and forgot the name, I am hoping people can help me remember it!

An astronaut is stranded on a strange planet. Something terminal happened to his teammates and he’s lost them on the planet or they’ve died - either way he is alone for most of the story. As he explores the planet for signs of life he begins to notice strange signs of civilization. He hears odd painful noises in the air, he finds a strange abandoned village, and finds disgusting slop that’s completely inedible.

As time goes on he thinks he finds new discoveries or actively engineers changes to his own environment. Slowly over time, the painful noises become beautiful music and the disgusting slop becomes incredibly appetizing and delicious.

It’s revealed at the very end of the story that despite the narrators own perspective that he has been the engineer of these ingenious changes, it turns out that the planet has changed him into a native of its own terrain, and he himself has become an alien life form adapted to the conditions of the planet. He sprouts a tail or something like that and he has physical changes that are briefly mentioned at the end.

Any ideas?!

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  • probable duplicate of scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/37853/…
    – Otis
    Aug 1, 2016 at 1:51
  • Sounds like a bit like a story by Ray Bradbury where Earth colonists on Mars slowly become Martians. Aug 2, 2016 at 0:46
  • I almost thought this was Solaris. You should probably edit the title to make it clear that the man stranded becomes the alien — not the planet. Jun 17, 2017 at 4:58

1 Answer 1

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"Enchanted Village" by A. E. van Vogt, first published in Other Worlds Science Stories, July, 1950, available at the Internet Archive. A popular story, we've gotten questions about it before. Maybe you will recognize one of these covers. Here is the ending:

Ecstatically, Jenner wriggled his four-foot tail, and, lifted his long snout to let the thin streams of liquid wash away the food impurities that clung to his sharp teeth.

Then he waddled out to bask in the sun, and listen to the timeless music.

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  • I found this story poignant SPOILER: the lonely town does its best to try to help the human and it sort of understands what to do; but, for example, in providing water for the human, the town must sacrifice a part of itself, all the moisture it can find is just a mouthful and part of the material the town is made of crumbles into dust. So apparently it considered all options before figuring out what it must do -- now the man survives and the town has a purpose again.
    – releseabe
    Oct 13, 2022 at 5:51

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