28

This is a story I read during the 90's but the actual story might be older. I don't remember the title nor the author but remember a good deal of the plot.


It started with the Earth and the Moon going around in their respective orbits in the Solar System, and they start bickering with each other. The Moon thinks he is more beautiful than the Earth because it looks whiter and brighter while the Earth is condescending towards the Moon because it is much smaller.

This leads to a round of insults going back and forth between them when suddenly a comet appears and the narrative of the story turns towards the dialogue between the Earth and the comet. The Earth and Moon have never seen someone like the comet, and the story's narration describes the comet as more of a visitor to the Solar System, who is only here for a short while.

The comet is very curious about the Earth and asks every thing about the mountains, the oceans, plants and animals.
At one point the conversation turns to Man and the comet asks what a man is. The Earth tells him that Man is like an insect living on your body; he drills holes on the ground, makes houses, makes noise, creates pollution, and it is apparently very annoying to the Earth.

I distinctly remember a line where the Earth says when Man gets too annoying sometimes he shakes his body to create an earthquake to teach Man a lesson. At the end the comet takes his leave and tells them he is not sure when he will be back again.

As the story closes the narrator asks the readers to imagine how much time must have elapsed on Earth, while this very brief astronomical event took place in our Solar System.


This is as much as I remember from the story, I might have got some of the details wrong but I think I managed to get the gist of it above.

Please note that I had read a translated version of the story so the actual story might not be English

Googling "Short story about a conversation between a comet and the Earth" did not show anything helpful

  • Poe wrote a story about a conversation about how Earth was destroyed or at least made uninhabitable by a comet, but this isn't what you describe here. I'm puzzled myself. – Covertwalrus Sep 5 '15 at 6:48
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    @user13267 I've set a bounty on this question as I'm interested in learning the answer myself. If you remember additional details, now would be the time to add them. – SQB Sep 24 '18 at 8:20
  • @sqb thanks a lot but this is as much as I remember. I don't think the book itself that had this story had any real title, it was just called story collections or something, and had a translation of a bunch of western stories like Tom Thumb, Thumbelina and Tom Sawyer. This was one of the stories in the book that I had never heard before, and haven't been able to find again since. – user13267 Sep 24 '18 at 12:05
  • @user13267 even that is useful additional information. No detail is too insignificant. – SQB Sep 24 '18 at 12:20
  • @SQB: have a look at my answer: scifi.stackexchange.com/a/196546/13716 – user13267 Oct 13 '18 at 1:28
4

I think I finally found the story

It is indeed by Carl Ewald as mentioned by sultanofswing in this answer and it is the story The Earth and the Comet as mentioned by Palliser in this comment. A user at the German Language stack exchange linked me this Hebrew translation of the story. On that page, go to Read this book online: Generated HTML (no images) and the story is there under the title Jorden og Kometen (use the browser text search function)

Using Google translate on this page returns the English translation of the Hebrew text. The resulting broken English is weird at places, but a lot of the things I remember from this story are there (in fact, re-reading this reminds me a lot of other things about the story I had forgotten). After running google translate, use the browser search function for the word "comet", and it will take you to the section of the text with the story. Here is a summary from the machine translated version:

Earth being condescending towards the moon and the two bickering with each other:

He was much smaller than the country, and in fact he should not have spoken against her. And therefore the earth used to speak to him as ruler and commandment, while the moon always provoked it with sarcastic remarks. .
.
.
.

But those who are condemned to rub shoulders together forever will not be surprised if they are a bit irritated and disgruntled. Every month for a few days the moon was full. Then he smiled in his round face, a smile of heavenly superiority, which the country was constantly rattling. "Look how he's shining, the poor satellite!" Said the country. "He thinks he's a Saturday star." The moon just smiled, as long as it went on. But it never lasted long. Every last night his face grew longer and longer and he looked as if he were suffering from excessive drinking. Finally he disappeared completely, But immediately after that he peered again, grew and grew until he was full again. "Can you run with me?" Asked the country. "Of course," replied the moon. "I hope you stand at your own times," continued the country. "Every time I circle the sun, you surround me thirteen times, remember it, or the almanac goes wrong." "I've been running around long enough to know what I should do, Planet Old Baggage!" The moon said, because it was exactly full, and these days he used to talk big. But he also had another way to upset the country.

(Here He refers to the moon and the earth has been translated as "the country" at multiple places, for some reason)

A comet suddenly appears and the narrative turns to conversation between the earth and the comet:

"In such frictions she ran year after year, and the years measured their regular orbits, and the other stars walked around them, each with its own worries and troubles. One day in March, a strange star appeared in the world, neither the earth nor the moon had ever seen it before, so they opened their eyes wide when they saw it, unlike the other stars, because it had a long, radiant tail "Is not that a guy, is it?" Said the earth, "I've never seen anything like this!" The moon said, both of them so surprised they almost stopped. When he was close to > reading, the earth shouted: "No! What are you looking for on my track? Who are you? where are you coming from? Where are you going? "" Many questions at once, "commented the foreign star." Who are you? "Asked the country again. I'm just a little comet, "replied the star," but who are you? "

Comet as more of a visitor:

"this area of ​​space is completely foreign to me; I have never been here before, and I have not made acquaintance with any of the stars yet. "

Comet asks questions about the earth:

The comet asked in disbelief. "I think you have a big ice cap on your pole." "Indeed," the country confirmed, "even on each pole, but I think it's harmless if your head and legs are cold, as long as you keep your stomach warm as it should." "Nu - and the fire?" Asked the comet. "She's inside me inside," she replied.

Earth complains about humans:

"Ugh!" Said the comet, and the country was quiet for a while, considering what to say, and then she said, "At least they're whispering and tapped me like that, That I almost go crazy sometimes. And the more they breed, the more and more they become a nuisance. They dig tunnels in all directions to find coal and metals and what they can still use. They lay railroad tracks and drive around me steamed, blowing holes in my biggest mountains and stretching bridges on my water. They say themselves, that they are my masters. "

Earth says she shakes her body and creates earthquakes to teach man a lesson:

When it seems to me that they are too much rubbing against me, I also shake off and make an earthquake. ""

There are a couple of things that re-reading this reminded me about the story.

Moon causing tides on the earth:

The moon said, because it was exactly full, and these days he used to talk big. But he also had another way to upset the country. He often pulled the water on her face as much as he could pull to one side, so there was a tide on that side, while on the other side the water became terribly shallow. Then the one side was flooded with floods and disasters, and on the other side the ships were broken on shoals.

Earth telling the moon to be careful about the speed at which it revolves around the earth:

"I hope you stand at your own times," continued the country. "Every time I circle the sun, you surround me thirteen times, remember it, or the almanac goes wrong." "I've been running around long enough to know what I should do, Planet Old Baggage!" The moon said, because it was exactly full, and these days he used to talk big.

Earth telling the comet to be careful not to crash into her:

" Promise me first of all that you will be careful not to clash with me, Said the country.

There are a bunch of other things as well that have jogged my memory. A difference I have seen though, is that at the end of this version of the story, it sounds like the comet came back to the solar system after 300 years, and crashed into the earth (or is it that the comet split into fractions and one of the fractions crashed into the earth? It's hard to tell from the broken English translation). I think the translator in the original version of this story that I read many years ago skipped this part considering it to violent, because I clearly remember that at the end, the comet went far away into the distance and the narrator told the readers to consider how much time must have passed on Earth while this brief event took place in space.

The complete text of the machine translated version of the story is given below for your reference:

 The Earth and the Comet 25 Jorden og Kometen   

Jorden og Kometen and the comet Jorden og Kometen will now tell you a strange story, and it will take several hundred years, and if any one of us appears in it, it will lay buried and buried long before the story ends. It takes place outside, in the space of the world, where all the stars are so cold and cold that the thickest winter sweater is no better than a short one, and the space is so great that no one can express its size in words. And even if one could express it, the others could not understand it. There, in the shadow of the world, the country has gone its course, as it has done for many years, many and still goes day after day. Around the sun she circled ceaselessly around, around, someone else must have long been spinning from it. But the country was not spinning, at last she was used to this round, which was, by the way, not so fast. Because it lasted an entire year at a time, and as soon as one coffee finished, she started the next. And as if she wanted to go crazy with force, she also kept turning on her leg, like a dog chasing its tail. But it did not take her more than a day, and she did it just to make the sun shine on all sides. Because on that side, which it turns from the sun onward, there is always a dark night. And if Earth always turned Europe, Asia, and Africa into the sun, they would never get out of bed in America. It was not so little at all, what Israel had to look after. And she had more than that. Because she had the moon. Indeed, the moon could have managed alone if necessary. For he had no other function than to turn around, just like the country, around himself, and in addition to surround the country, just as the earth surrounded the sun. He was much smaller than the country, and in fact he should not have spoken against her. And therefore the earth used to speak to him as ruler and commandment, while the moon always provoked it with sarcastic remarks. Maybe the years would not have been so many if they had not been so close together, and all the other stars were so far away that you could not talk to them. But those who are condemned to rub shoulders together forever will not be surprised if they are a bit irritated and disgruntled. Every month for a few days the moon was full. Then he smiled in his round face, a smile of heavenly superiority, which the country was constantly rattling. "Look how he's shining, the poor satellite!" Said the country. "He thinks he's a Saturday star." The moon just smiled, as long as it went on. But it never lasted long. Every last night his face grew longer and longer and he looked as if he were suffering from excessive drinking. Finally he disappeared completely, But immediately after that he peered again, grew and grew until he was full again. "Can you run with me?" Asked the country. "Of course," replied the moon. "I hope you stand at your own times," continued the country. "Every time I circle the sun, you surround me thirteen times, remember it, or the almanac goes wrong." "I've been running around long enough to know what I should do, Planet Old Baggage!" The moon said, because it was exactly full, and these days he used to talk big. But he also had another way to upset the country. He often pulled the water on her face as much as he could pull to one side, so there was a tide on that side, while on the other side the water became terribly shallow. Then the one side was flooded with floods and disasters, and on the other side the ships were broken on shoals. And the people in some of whom have fallen to suffer have shouted that on this fucked-up earth you can not live. And of course she was offended by the country, which was innocent of guilt, and she was doubly angry with the moon. "Now he's full again, The pig, "she said," I just want to know, it's no good he brings by running around there. "In such frictions she ran year after year, and the years measured their regular orbits, and the other stars walked around them, each with its own worries and troubles. One day in March, a strange star appeared in the world, neither the earth nor the moon had ever seen it before, so they opened their eyes wide when they saw it, unlike the other stars, because it had a long, radiant tail "Is not that a guy, is it?" Said the earth, "I've never seen anything like this!" The moon said, both of them so surprised they almost stopped. When he was close to reading, the earth shouted: "No! What are you looking for on my track? Who are you? where are you coming from? Where are you going? "" Many questions at once, "commented the foreign star." Who are you? "Asked the country again. I'm just a little comet, "replied the star," but who are you? " "Absolutely not," replied the comet, "this area of ​​space is completely foreign to me; I have never been here before, and I have not made acquaintance with any of the stars yet. "" So you came to the right address, "declared the country with great importance." It is not my habit to brag, but I may say that I am the most talented of us. "Said the comet." But hurry up a little in your lecture. I do not have time to linger. "" We're flying pretty quickly, "remarked the country in a friendly tone. It lasted only one year. "Here," the comet said sarcastically, "is that what you call a beautiful speed? I fly in a completely different way. Hurry up and let me know what kind of people you are here! "" Promise me first of all that you will be careful not to clash with me, Said the country. The foreign star laughed so hard that his tail split into three parts. "Or huh - are you afraid to get one on this planet?" He said, "Rest your mind, I'm a light, flippant, volatile guy, and if I had collided with a woman like you, I would have broken into a thousand pieces and pieces." "Ahh!" Said the country, whose interest had arisen. "You are only fire, in this situation I was once." "It must have been a long time ago?" The comet asked in disbelief. "I think you have a big ice cap on your pole." "Indeed," the country confirmed, "even on each pole, but I think it's harmless if your head and legs are cold, as long as you keep your stomach warm as it should." "Nu - and the fire?" Asked the comet. "She's inside me inside," she replied. "You can see her if you want." And without hesitation the country spewed fire from some of its biggest volcanoes. "Shuru and look!" Said the comet. "So what it really is." " "My stomach is full of it, if you want to know. That's what makes me so incredibly interesting. You see ... once, a long, long time ago, I was such a flippant, cheerful person like you. But then I took myself in my arms and huddled inside myself. In the end I had a thick shell on me, and today I can only set fire to fire in my volcanoes. But there is a fire in me. "" With the shell, it must be a weary thing, "said the comet. "Well," she said then, "actually they are," she said. "Ugh!" Said the comet, and the country was quiet for a while, considering what to say, and then she said, "At least they're whispering and tapped me like that, That I almost go crazy sometimes. And the more they breed, the more and more they become a nuisance. They dig tunnels in all directions to find coal and metals and what they can still use. They lay railroad tracks and drive around me steamed, blowing holes in my biggest mountains and stretching bridges on my water. They say themselves, that they are my masters. "" I do not think it's a great honor for a star to let such insects rule him, "said the comet." You can not shake those creatures? "" I tried, I tried, more than once, "she said. "And more than one. I spat out a lot of fire and hot stones from my volcanoes and buried whole cities of people under them. I have often caused storm floods and drowned them thousands. When it seems to me that they are too much rubbing against me, I also shake off and make an earthquake. "" Well, "said the comet," and it does not help at all? " But over time it is not helpful. They've become too much for me, I think. I had to do it earlier, when they were few and not so smart. Every time after I have nicked or buried a few thousand of them, and I hope that their families will starve to death and sorrow, the others collect donations and comfort and restore them; And after a few years I am as full of them as I was before. "" I have never heard of such a thing, "said the comet," and I do not understand how you suffer it. "" Yes - what do I have to do? " "I can not get over them anymore. They were staring at me from pole to pole, until soon I would not have a corner for myself. They calculated accounts for me and measured measurements and described me from all angles and directions ... Some of them put a ball on their table that is supposed to represent me, and on which they can interrogate me in a grammatical way. They calculate in advance, when storms and storms and noises will come, and all that... In their walls hang instruments that tell them that. "I do not know," said the comet, "but I know, if it was me, I would not tolerate it." The country laughed scornfully, "Here," she said, "just do not grow raisins in your head. I can tell you that right now we're both walking here talking together, my people have already discovered you. They watch you on their telescopes and calculate and give you a name and write books about you. I mean, that's what the smarter ones do. "The idiots are afraid of you and believe that you came to proclaim the end of the world." "Who are these idiots?" The comet asked, the earth clattering in its ice dome, and the Atlantic was half filled with floating ice mountains, "She said, embarrassed." Sorry, "said the comet." Maybe it's a family secret. "" No, "replied the country." Absolutely not. But to this day I have not been able to find out who these really are, the idiots. That they exist - that I know. There are even a lot of them. But it is not so easy to get to know them at first sight. From what people say themselves, there is no telling. Because each of them thinks he's smart and all the others are idiots. "" So surely they are all idiots, "said the comet, but now the earth felt insulted in the name of her people. , Which she did not really know anything about, especially since he himself had declared himself to be a loose and volatile character, so she gave her voice an important and dignified tone when she replied, "Not at all, comrade friends. Not at all. But it's no good to talk about these things you do not understand anything about anyway. It is not my habit to brag, but I would ask you to pay attention to the fact that I am of all the most interesting stars. Explain all the space of the universe, as far as you want, and you will not find a model. Look at Venus, glowing there beyond, and rightly so and in Mars and all that, like me, the sun. Then please look at me properly! Put your eyes on my deep and fresh days, the Assyrian forests and my palm groves ... "" The truth is - I can not see any of these, "said the comet." But they may still exist. By the way, do you think you're wearing a fog around you? "" Oh! "Said the country, ashamed of what." I totally forgot about that. The earth said sternly: "True, I run in orbit around the sun like the other stars I mentioned earlier; Although true, I am one of the smallest ones. "You're puffing and getting confused," the Comet remarked, "but it's not your custom to brag about it - but sit down and keep bragging." "Should I sit?" The country was offended. "Oh, If I did, it would be over quickly, And very bad. The whole point is that I'm doing the laps around the sun. And I can tell you, I do not boast. I am the most wonderful of all the stars ... if only because of my people. There is no one, who has the same... what is going on with you? "Oh, for God's sake," said the country sadly, "you can not stay here for a few more years? I'm so happy to be with you, I think. And you can believe me, that it is not very amusing to wander on the same path and not to talk to anyone except this little fool, the moon. "" Who is he, the moon? "Asked the comet." The little one you see there, "replied the country. , "That surrounds me all the time. He is a poor retired star, whom I took to me, when he sailed through the universe. Now it is completely extinguished-a poor creature who could be stuck in a shelter for the poor. But here in our area we go with moons. Justice has even sixteen. "I can not," replied the comet, "I have a regular route to run, and now I have to hurry up. "When will you come back?" Asked the earth, the comet flying quickly with its tail divided into three, "in three hundred years!" He called from a distance, looking smaller and smaller. It was a quick guy, "said the moon." It's not flying, and it's a tail! He must have been alive, not like some miserable planet. "" Oh, sure, "the earth chuckled venomously," almost like a moon life. "But the moon was full and only smiled at it. She longed for her longing and counted faithfully in the kaputas around the sun, decorating the violets and all the other flowers she could raise in March. And all the people of the earth stood ready with their telescopes and searched for the Comet just on the day of their arrival, for they had calculated its course accurately. The wisest of them was glad to see something interesting and new, and the idiots lay in their beds and wept in terror or ran around in panic and got drunk and ranting about all kinds of foolish tricks. "Here's the Comet!" Said one of the smartest men standing on the tallest tower, holding the best telescope and understanding the most about comets. "Here's the comet!" Said the moon. "Hurray, come cheerful times!" "Here's the comet!" Said the land happily. Then, as the comet sailed, large and glowing, with its long tail divided into three, the earth removed its ice cap, so that in the days the ice mountains froze, the air was so cold that the idiots were absolutely convinced that the destruction of the world had come. "Peace be upon you, good day you will have, comet!" She cried. "Welcome back! I'm glad to see you again, so bright and energetic. "But the comet did not answer anything, and the country congratulated him again on a good day, and again she got no answer:" What the hell is going on with the comet? " "He really did not see you," the moon said viciously, "Remember, you're so small!" "Shut up the buzz and deal with your job!" Comet! Then the comet began to fear that he would pass her by without talking to her for a moment, and she almost cried, but it was not a small matter when she was happy for three hundred years "Do not you want to go by my door without greeting me?" She cried desperately. I am your old friend, Haaretz - Do not you remember me? Now you have traveled many millions of words - did not you, just as I predicted to you, that you did not find anything like me anywhere? "" Here, "said the comet. I would hear something. But first of all I'm glad you did not stop. - Well ... Say! You might want to sell me, that somewhere in the space of the universe you come across so deep and glorious days, in such fine forested woods and in such beautiful palm groves? "" Ha! Ha! The hah! "The comet laughed," or people-what? " Ha! Ha! - Ha! Ha! The comet laughed until his head and tail swung, and the country began to feel seriously insulted, thinking, if she could not find anything to make a real impression on this comet, she asked sarcastically: "There might have been idiots, too? Ha! Ha! Ha! - Ha! Ha! Ha! "Now the comet laughed so hard that one tail was detached. The earth was alarmed, and the wise men on earth, watching it through their telescopes, were most surprised; That such a thing had never been seen before. But the comet kept on laughing. Now the second tail ... and now the third ... and now it was crisscrossing. The whole space was filled with sparks and big hot flashes, flying to the right and left; Some of them fell on the ground like large stones-one of them hit the head of a wise man and shuddered it with his telescope like a pancake. When the fireworks show was over, nothing was seen from the comet. "It exploded with pride," the country said. "The annoying thing is that he died before he could tell me what he saw in his journey." "Indeed - there is almost a chance to learn something," said the moon, smiling, because it was full again. "Come on!" The earth was furious. "Screwed up and did your job. Thirteen times around me every time I circle the sun. Otherwise, the almanac goes wrong.

2

I have read this story in German, about 50 years ago, it was in a collection of "Nature Tales" by Carl Ewald. Searching in the "Central directory of archivaric books" (zvab.de) reminds me of the cover picture of the book and the correct title "Mutter Natur erzählt" (mother nature is talking)

  • Would you mind perhaps fleshing this out a bit, like providing a synopsis/a cover or something? :) – Mithical Jul 15 '17 at 23:10
  • Are you sure it was by Carl Ewald? Searching for his stories got me to a collection of English translations of his story here: onlinebooks.library.upenn.edu/webbin/gutbook/… and the story I am looking for is not there – user13267 Jul 16 '17 at 0:03
  • There is another collection of his stories here: onlinebooks.library.upenn.edu/webbin/book/… but they are either hidden from view or scans of the non English, so I am not sure how to search in them – user13267 Jul 16 '17 at 0:05
  • Looking at stories by the author (at least the English translated versions I could find online), they are mostly about nature (on the Earth), like forests, plants, sea, animals, etc. A story set in space does not seem like the writer's style. – user13267 Jul 16 '17 at 0:13
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    @user13267. Here a book link of the German edition. books.google.com/… – Palliser Oct 1 '18 at 15:30

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