In Ender's Game, it's clear that the final battle was the first one staged around a planet:

"For this to be a fair test of your ability, not just to do what you have practiced many times, but also to meet challenges you have never seen before, today's battle introduces a new element. It is staged around a planet." (Mazer Rackham, chapter 14)

But at the same time, it's later made clear that the buggers had colonized other planets:

"As soon as we get the reports back on the bugger colony worlds. I mean, there they are, already fertile, with housing and industry in place, and all the buggers dead." (Graff, chapter 15)

And that there wasn't just one or two queens, but rather several:

"When he came to the tale of the great mother, the queen of all, who first learned to keep and teach the new queen instead of killing her or driving her away ... This was a new thing in the world, two queens that loved and helped each other instead of battling, and together they were stronger than any other hive. They prospered; they had more daughters who joined them in peace; it was the beginning of wisdom." (Chapter 15)

So how did the Third Invasion work? How were there no queens on any other planets? Were the buggers actually so stupid that all of their queens were on one planet (or on ships), even though inter-stellar communication seemed to work fine? And did the IF assume there was just one queen, or knew exactly where they all were, or something?

I've read a couple of the Ender sequels, and don't remember this being addressed, but it's been a while.

(Sorry for the sort of vague question title -- still trying not to spoil the story for those who haven't read it.)


3 Answers 3


Ender eventually figured out that the Formics - intentionally - pulled all of their queens (aside from the designated successor on what would become Sheakspeare colony) to their home planet. Basically, they committed "suicide by Ender".

I don't recall any mention of IF knowing this at all. They just wanted to wipe out as many Buggers as they could (if you defeat the star fleet defending a colony, you can then take over, the fact that the Buggers all died when their Queens did was just a cherry on the cake).

UPDATE: Here are the quotes:

Enter in Exile, Chapter 2:

(explaining what Ender was thinking about during Graff's trial) It made no sense, what the formics had done. They weren't stupid. Yet they had made the strategic mistake of grouping all their queens—not "their" queens, they were the queens, the queens were the formics—they had all gathered on their home planet, where Ender's use of the M.D. Device could—and did—destroy them utterly, all at once.

Mazer had explained that the hive queens must have gathered on their home planet years before they could have known that the human fleet had the M.D. Device. They knew—from the way Mazer had defeated their main expedition to Earth's star system—that their greatest weakness was that if you found the hive queen and killed her, you had killed the whole army. So they withdrew from all their forward positions, put the hive queens together on their home world, and then protected that world with everything they had.

Yes, yes, Ender understood that.

But Ender had used the M.D. Device early on in the invasion of the formic worlds, to destroy a formation of ships. The hive queens had instantly understood the capabilities of the weapon and never allowed their ships to get close enough together for the M.D. Device to be able to set up a self-sustaining reaction.

So: Once they knew that the weapon existed, and that humans were willing to use it, why did they stay on that single planet? They must have known that the human fleet was coming. As Ender won battle after battle, they must have known that the possibility of their defeat existed. It would have been easy for them to get onto starships and disperse from their home planet. Before that last battle began, they could all have been out of range of the M.D. Device.

and, most importantly, his main realization:

So in his mind he now asked the hive queens, over and over, though he knew they were dead and could not answer: Why?

Why did you decide to let me kill you?

He elaborated on that later, when Petra came to talk to him:

"I keep asking them, 'Why did you die?' "

Petra searched his face for . . . what, a sign that he was joking? "Ender, they died because we—"

"Why were they still on that planet? Why weren't they in ships, speeding away? They chose to stay, knowing we had that weapon, knowing what it did and how it worked, they stayed for the battle, they waited for us to come."

"They fought us as hard as they could. They didn't want to die, Ender. They didn't commit suicide by human soldier."

"They knew we had beaten them time after time. They had to think it was at least a possibility that it would happen again. And they stayed."

"So they stayed."

"It's not like they had to prove their loyalty or courage to the footsoldiers. The workers and soldiers were like their own body parts. That would be like saying, 'I have to do this because I want my hands to know how brave I am.' "

and finally, once Petra left:

I can't believe you gave up, Ender said silently to the picture. I can't believe that a whole species lost its will to live. Why did you let me kill you?

  • 1
    This is.. uh.. wow. It seems to me like it's all speculation on Ender's part. I wonder if this is one of the loose ends that Shadows Alive will tie up. Thanks for the quotes -- I should read Ender in Exile, I suppose.
    – Plutor
    Commented Oct 23, 2013 at 13:37
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    Didn't he have a conversation with hive queen about this at some point? When they were both on Lusitania I think.
    – terdon
    Commented Oct 24, 2013 at 3:17
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    There's also this quote from the Epilogue to Ender's Game: "[Ender] felt then what the hive-queen felt, watching through her workers’ eyes as death came to them too quickly to avoid, but not too quickly to be anticipated. [...] What the hive-queen felt was sadness, a sense of resignation. She had not thought these words as she saw the humans coming to kill, but it was in words that Ender understood her: They did not forgive us, she thought. We will surely die."
    – C.B.
    Commented Nov 6, 2013 at 2:07
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    This is all kinds of dumb. Why, if they had a death-wish did they defend the planet so hard?
    – Valorum
    Commented Jun 23, 2017 at 17:21
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    My recollection (I believe from later books) is that the queens never realized during the initial invasions that the humans they were encountering were like the queens - sentient. Queens fought with each other but only killed their soldiers, not the other sentient queens. They were aghast at what they'd done, and retreated. They were trying to communicate with Ender. They hoped he would understand, and stop. It didn't work, as the nature of the final battle wasn't clear to him until it was over. Commented Jun 25, 2017 at 16:06

This is strictly interpretation on my part, but from the later books I got the distinct impression that the intention was to allow the humans to take their revenge, almost completely, and then give the humans, Ender, specifically, a way to redeem themselves by rebuilding the alien race.

They knew that if they spread out, it would be war for millenia as the humans kept coming, and coming, and coming, trying to eliminate the future possibility of war by simply fighting an endless war.

So they peeked into Ender's mind, found out that he was likely the solution to the entire problem of existing without surviving, and chose to gamble on giving him one Queen and the opportunity to sue for peace after the war, and thus both win the war and permit the existence of both civilizations.


From the Buggers' point of view, they already tried the scattering technique, and it didn't work. The humans were somehow (how is a question in and of itself) able to track down all 70 or so of the bugger worlds.

So I'm imagining that the queens decided that sending out hidden colonies wouldn't work, and would just dilute their strength. The humans would be able to defeat them piecemeal. (Could be that the queens were being a little irrational about the humans' supposed tracking techniques, but I don't blame them from being scared.)

They must have figured that their best bet was to fortify their one system so hard that it wouldn't be possible to attack it. They weren't that far from being right...

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