Which SF short story had a man marooned on a planet with blind telepathic animals and he had to think his way out of trouble? For example, to escape predators he pretends to be a tree but then a woodpecker attacks him...

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Which sf short story

"The Odo[u]r of Thought" by Robert Sheckley, first published in New Worlds Science Fiction #25, July 1954 which is available at the Internet Archive.

had a man marooned on a planet

Cleevy stared for a moment, turned, and sprinted to the radio.

"No more fuel," he said. "Catalytic actions, I think. I told you we needed new tanks. I'm putting down on the first oxygen planet I can find."

with blind telepathic animals

Neither animal had eyes or ears. How did they track each other? Smell? If so, why did the wolf have so much trouble finding the squirrel?

He heard a low growl and turned. There, not fifty feet away, was something that looked like a panther. A yellow-brown, eyeless, earless panther.

Damned menagerie, Cleevy thought, and crouched down in the tall grass. This planet was rushing him along too fast. He needed time to think. How did these animals operate? Instead of sight, did they have a sense of location?

The panther began to move away.

Cleevy breathed a little easier. Perhaps, if he stayed out of sight, the panther . . .

As soon as he thought the word 'panther', the beast turned in his direction.

What have I done? Cleevy asked himself, burrowing deeper into the grass. He can't smell me or see me or hear me. All I did was decide to stay out of his way . . .

Head high, the panther began to pace towards him.

That did it. Without eyes or ears, there was only one way the beast could have detected him.

It had to be telepathic!

and he had to think his way out of trouble?

All he had to do, Cleevy thought, was not to think of—was to think of something else. In that way, perhaps the—well, perhaps it would lose the scent. He started to think about the girls he had ever known, in painstaking detail.

The panther stopped and pawed the ground doubtfully.

Cleevy went on thinking; about girls, and ships, and planets, and girls, and ships, and everything but panthers . . .

The panther advanced another five feet.

For example, to escape predators he pretends to be a tree

Cheevy backed towards the wolves, wishing he had something to climb. What he needed was a cliff, or even a decent-sized tree . . .

But there were shrubs! With inventiveness born of desperation, Cleevy became a six-foot shrub. He didn't really know how a shrub would think, but he did his best.

He was blossoming now. And one of his roots felt a little wobbly—the result of that last storm. Still, he was a pretty good shrub, taking everything into consideration.

but then a woodpecker attacks him...

A little bird landed on his shoulder.

Isn't that nice, Cleevy thought. He thinks I'm a shrub, too. He's going to build a nest in my branches. That's perfectly lovely. All the other shrubs will be jealous of me.

The bird tapped lightly at Cleevy's neck.

Easy, Cleevy thought. Wouldn't want to kill the tree that feeds you . . .

The bird tapped again, experimentally. Then, setting its webbed feet firmly, proceeded to tap at Cleevy's neck with the speed of a pneumatic hammer.

A damned woodpecker, Cleevy thought, trying to stay shrub-like.

  • Thanks very much for your answer! I don't need to check it, the title and author rang a bell immediately :-)
    – Testcase
    Aug 18, 2013 at 1:44

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