11

When the sentient aliens reach adolescence they mentally block out the rest of the tribe and die crossing a desert in a futile attempt to reach — we later learn — a similarly isolated female tribe and tree. Humans provide a waterway or divert a river across the desert to enable the offspring of the male and female free to meet and mate. The story ends with the first of the new seeds produced germinating.

I read it in an anthology before 1976. I imagined the aliens as small and frog-like, but whether that was just my imagination, I am not sure. The tree itself is non-sentient. The story is initially told from the POV of the tribal leader, who is trying to understand the mystery of why his people are compelled to die crossing the desert when they mature. The humans are mostly interstellar scientists and explorers.

  • 5
    Sounds a little like the "little brothers" from Orson Scott Cards Speaker For The Dead. Could it have been an earlier work by him? – Binary Worrier Jul 18 at 7:42
  • 1
    Unlikely, but possible. – Michael C Price Jul 18 at 9:37
  • 1
    Good question. The telepathy doesn't seem required for the story.. except perhaps to lure them across the desert. IIRC the alien who departed across the desert, at the beginning of the story, is described as having closed off his mind. My memory is that this was in reference to others trying to establish telepathic communication..... But you are making me wonder. – Michael C Price Jul 18 at 20:51
  • 1
    This is reminiscent of The Word for World is Forest by Ursula K. LeGuin, which first appeared in Again, Dangerous Visions, but the humans in that story are not beneficent by any stretch of the imagination. – Spencer Jul 18 at 21:42
  • 1
    The humans were definitely beneficent - a bit like patronising colonial masters. I don't recall much of them,.except that they supplied the fix at the end, with the river or canal across the desert. It was the alien biology that stuck in my mind. – Michael C Price Jul 19 at 3:06

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.