Trying to recall an old pre-1960s short story. Some sort of interstellar criminal or villain crashlands into a seemingly endless forest on a remote planet. Blasting a path through the forest with his disintegrator, he finds a house in a clearing inhabited by a man and a woman. Moving on, he finds what appears to be the same clearing, house, and couple - but the couple have a completely different temperament. This repeats until the protagonist goes mad. A short postscript reveals that the houses and couples were set up as some sort of isolated experiments.

I was convinced it was by A.E. van Vogt but a look through his bibliography hasn't turned up anything.


1 Answer 1


Fritz Leiber not Van Vogt. It's the story The Enchanted Forest published in 1950. I read it so long ago I forget which collection it was, but it's been collected dozens of times.

The criminal is Elven and he is the last of a group called the Wild Ones but as I recall he has the DNA of his (dead) colleagues in a locket and he plans to resurrect them. His disintegrator is called a dust gun and he uses this to blast his way through the forest.

user14111 points out this has been asked before in Man crashes on planet and is treated nicely by natives, then nastily by another group. Possibly Isaac Asimov story (which he answered!) so if you mark this as accepted we can flag it as a duplicate.

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    I wouldn't call Elven a criminal, though he is one from the viewpoint of the tyrannical Evil Empire that uses human beings as experimental animals.
    – user14111
    Nov 13, 2023 at 8:41

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