I read this in an old sci-fi short story collection. For some reason I have it in my head that it was titled "the folk" but that hasn't turned up any hits on the great Google machine.

In the story, these slow moving creatures all have sections of territory they move over. I think they harvest minerals (or something) with their snouts to survive.

There are "bull" creatures who are in better status in the hierarchy, which I believe means they get a better or larger territory.

This story stands out. No humans or even humanoids. Just, plop, you're on a distant world with strange creatures, with strange goals and strange lives. Strange to a human anyway. Please help me find this story. Please please. I loved it

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    I think I recognize the story, but I can't recall author or collection at the moment. Before I go searching, do you recognize the following? * the protagonist was one of a race of aliens that had to keep moving slowly forward to eat a type of lichen, their only food source * each alien had a certain width of "territory" that was theirs over an indefinite length, each having neighbors to either side that would like to get part of their territory * the food situation is very precariously balanced -- any interruption in the food supply is a major danger to an alien * an obstacle appears in front
    – user15140
    Commented Jun 9, 2013 at 14:59
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    Yep. That is exactly right. Much better description than mine. I know it was part of a short story collection. My guess is from the 50s or 60s but Im not certain. Let me know if you come up with anything! Good to know that someone else at least has read it.
    – Jonny O
    Commented Jun 10, 2013 at 19:02
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    The title is not "The Folk" but the critters in the story (which Imaginary Events identified) call themselves "the Folk".
    – user14111
    Commented Dec 6, 2013 at 3:07
  • probable duplicate of scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/187353/… (which is newer but has an accepted answer)
    – Otis
    Commented May 9, 2018 at 18:45

1 Answer 1


I can't confirm it, but I think this is "On the Fourth Planet" (1963) by J. F. Bone. I read this in a collection more than forty years ago, forgive me if I'm totally wrong. I don't have a copy of the story to check. The anthology was Twelve Great Classics of Science Fiction ed. Groff Conklin.

The obstacle Random Passerby mentioned captures the protagonist, who is despairing because he will starve without advancing with the rest. Attached to a sticky rope-like appendage from the massive cylinder, he is drawn inside...

  • I pulled out this anthology and you are correct, this is the story described by the OP. The obstruction is the planned but never launched Mars lander Gulliver books.google.com/… Commented Feb 20, 2015 at 23:57

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