Mind-controlling aliens are science fiction's staple and have been like that for quite some time. There even is a recent Hot Question about one of the most popular and respected sci-fi franchises that asks just how many times was protagonist's mind taken over.

Now, my question is not about the earliest work that features mind-controlling aliens, since that trope can trace its roots back to stories about possesion by devil/demons/faerie/gods, and the answer would probably include line "which was popularised by H.P. Lovecraft, of course", of course.

You see, the trope is so well-established, that it seems creators don't feel obliged to justify its use in the story. And I've never seen someone else wondering how psychic powers of, say, a crustacean linked to a hive mind, or an emotionless grey-skinned ship-dweller with no digestive tract, can be compatible with an average human mind.

But there's bound to be some author who also thought about that.

Therefore, my question is: what's the earliest work of fiction depicting a race of psychic aliens failing to mind-control humans at all, due to theirs and human's mind being too different?

(I can also accept the reverse: psychic humans failing to mind-control aliens.)

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    I don't think this is quite what you're looking for (which is why I'm leaving it as a comment), but in Ursula Le Guin's Hainish books telepathic lying is impossible — except for the Shing from City of Illusions (1967), who are so alien that this rule doesn't apply to them. (But mind control is still possible in both directions, and a major part of the plot.)
    – Micah
    Sep 10, 2016 at 21:25

1 Answer 1


John Carter of Mars (1912) features this for telephaty. Martians can't read John Carter's mind while he can read theirs just as easily as they can each other. No explanation is ushered that I know of.

In Larry Niven's Known Space universe (1964-1975) Pak Protectors are immune to Thrintun mind control, due to their multilobed brain structure.

An earlier example, but not exactly what you're asking, appears in The Jungle Book (1894) where Mowgli as a human is the only creature in the jungle who's immune to Kaa's hypnosis.

  • That's pretty much a perfect answer. An early-but-not-so-good example, an explicit early example and a pre-sci-fi example that counts in spirit, but not in technicality.
    – Dragomok
    Sep 17, 2016 at 12:58

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