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I read this short story before 2005. The main character was an intelligent alien, one of the dominant race on his world. He was immature and learned about humans from his mother, who died protecting him from human hunters.

The creatures were large and strong, telepathic, and probably hairy. Their planet was being colonised by humans and they'd learned that humans had a vast empire and liked to dominate everything. The only thing humans would accept defeat from was a force of nature, so they carefully hid their intelligence and acted as indomitable wild beasts in the hope they'd be left alone.

The protagonist was captured by humans. A human leader knew or guessed he could understand them and tried to persuade him to admit his intelligence and work with the humans. He eventually agreed, and I don't remember the story making it clear whether that was a good move.

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I think this could well be a short story by A.E. van Vogt called "The Second Solution". I originally read it the the van Vogt anthology "Away and Beyond", but it is also one of the stories that van Vogt cobbled together to create his 1959 "fix-up" novel "The War Against the Rull".

The race of aliens is called the "ezwals", and are the indigenous race on Carson's Planet, which Earth is trying to colonize. They are having to fight against the ezwals though, who appear to be ferocious killing machines. A mother ezwal and her baby are captured and brought back to Earth by a team of scientists. The ship catastrophically crashes in the wilds of northern Canada. The mother is executed before the crash, but the baby manages to survive and escapes into the forest.

It is found by Caleb Carson, the grandson of the discoveror of Carson's Planet who has worked out that the ezwals' ferocity is a pretence. They are actually highly intelligent telepathic animals who are pretending to be wild and ferocious since men can stand to be defeated by blind nature, but not by intelligence.

The hope of our race is that men continue to think us beasts. If they suspect our intelligence, we are lost. And someone does suspect it. If that knowledge lives, our people die!"

Their hope is that they will make Carson's World untenable for humans, who will move to easier colonisation sites, leaving them free. Carson works out how to comuunicate with the young ezwal, allowing man and the aliens to collaborate.

He was suddenly feeling very young and very important and very humble. For there had come to him the first glimpse of the greatness that was to be his in the world of ezwals, in that world of titanic construction, the beginning of dynamic new civilization.

It can be read online here.

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    I'm surprised how much of that story I'd forgotten, but that's the one. Thanks, and well remembered. Apr 6 at 15:20
  • Van Vogt discussed intelligence and telepathy in many of his stories.
    – releseabe
    Apr 6 at 16:53
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    Another story with a similar theme is "Genius" by Poul Anderson. Apr 6 at 21:59
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    I enjoyed "Slan" as well Apr 7 at 0:29
  • It looks like there are some analogies here to the colonization of e.g. the Americas and/or the cracking of the Enigma code in WWII.
    – WBT
    Apr 7 at 14:18

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