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I remember reading this in a sci-fi anthology book I checked out from my library (I think the writer was Poul Anderson, but I could be wrong).

The summary of the story went like this: several children living on another planet are abducted by these non-sentient aliens who I think resembled dinosaurs. Those kids live with these aliens for several months before getting rescued by the adults. That, or they go back to civilization on their own.

The kids have mixed feelings about their experience. One kid I remember hated living with the aliens and wanted nothing to do with them, but another kid loved their time with them and even considered them family. So much so that she wanted to go back to them. I think the story ended with her doing just that.

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    What do you mean by "non-sentient?" How and why does a non-sentient being abduct a child? Do note that current thinking recognizes dogs and pigs as sentient (not to mention apes, dolphins, and whales, probably at least some birds, etc.).
    – DavidW
    Jun 20, 2023 at 15:44
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    Hi. Welcome to SF&F! Your title says that "alien children" are abducted. Your question text describes them as "kids". They are actually alien children? If so, what did they look like? Do? Breathe? Eat? Etc. If human children living on an alien planet, please clarify that.
    – Basya
    Jun 20, 2023 at 16:17
  • You could improve this question by going through the checklists here and editing in any relevant info you can think to add.
    – Valorum
    Jun 20, 2023 at 17:06
  • A lot of this happens in 40,000 in Gehenna by CJ Cherryh.
    – Spencer
    Jun 20, 2023 at 22:25
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    How do you define "sentient"? This matters because it is almost a tradition of science fiction writers to misuse the word "sentient" to mean "intelligent".
    – user14111
    Jun 20, 2023 at 23:15

1 Answer 1

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I think the closest story match I know is "The Queen of Air and Darkness", indeed by Poul Anderson.

several children living on another planet are abducted by these non-sentient aliens

"Aliens" -- natives on their own white-sun planet, do steal, or tempt away, human children living on the planet.

They seem very sentient, though, and some of them have some telepathic capacity.

Those kids live with these aliens for several months before getting rescued by the adults. That, or they go back to civilization on their own.

Some of the younger ones are rescued and deprogrammed.

The kids have mixed feelings about their experience. One kid I remember hated living with the aliens and wanted nothing to do with them, but another kid loved their time with them and even considered them family.

One boy who goes by his fantasy name "Mistherd" and an older girl called "Shadow-of-a-Dream" are older, live naked and free and play music and recite poetry in their illusion of a landscape, and the boy especially hates being brought back to the human settlement.

The aliens/natives generate an illusion of an apparently beautiful human form to interact with the children, and an illusory landscape.

but another kid loved their time with them and even considered them family

The human boy thought of the "aliens"/natives, who projected illusions telepathically drawn from human folklore as his true people:

“So you see I’m not afraid to die,” Mistherd declared, though his lips trembled a bit. “If I let you come in and do your man-things to my people, I’d have naught left worth living for.”

Their fantasy world generated by the "aliens"/natives is beautiful. The children recite a poem about

"The Queen of Air and Darkness, with starlight in her glance.

The dance weaves under the firethorn."

It has been years; time for a fourth or so reading for me to re-call the details, remember the aliens'/natives' motives for luring human children, and to experience Poul Anderson's lyrical writing.

Will look for an online archive.

And -- Found It. The perfect eponymous book,

"The Queen of Air and Darkness and Other Stories" all by Poul Anderson.

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