Tuesday, April 24, 2007

"Trouble with the Natives" (short story): When aliens visited a little English village!

Frustration of alien colonists. Good humor.

Story summary (spoiler).
A galactic survey ship that reports to equivalent of the ministry of tribal affairs (of galactic government) lands on earth - near an English village. Among the mostly tentacled crew are two humanoids - deficient alien creatures with only one pair of legs, arms & eyes! They don't quite look human, but are effectively disguised as such - given the advanced ET technology.

These two are to make contact with human authorities. They have learned English & human manners by listening to BBC broadcasts over a period of time.

The story is of their adventures through the village, as every attempt at contact is frustrated. Because they are totally inappropriately dressed, BBC mannerism doesn't work in this village, & totally naive application of their learnings about humans.

Similar scenarios in movies.
I am not aware of this in Hollywood, but I have seen at least two Hindi films that have very similar plot. But rather than aliens landing, it is Yam & Chitragupt (see below) that land on earth, & get frustrated in their contacts with earthlings - in scenes very similar in spirit to those in this story.

For those not familiar with lores of India: Yam, also called Yamraj, is the god of death, & also the warden of hell. Chitragupt is the heavenly accountant - the one who keeps a register that records your good deeds & bad ones.

Fact sheet.
Trouble with the natives, short story, review
Author: Arthur C Clarke
Genre: Humor
First Published: 1951
Rating: B

See also.

  1. Eric Frank Russell's "And Then There Were None" (A): Very similar & hilarious story (but longer) - only imperialists from earth try overlording another human inhabited world.
  2. Michael Flynn's "Eifelheim" (B): This novel, among the finalists for Hugo Awards 2007, is about the aliens' visit to a German village - in fourteenth century.
  3. "History Lesson" & "Rescue Party" both have scenes where ETs conclude naive things about humans by looking at, respectively, a movie & a portrait. In this story, aliens get similar miscues by watching television & listening to radio.
  4. Tentacled aliens as dominant alien species was also the case in "Rescue Party".
  5. Galactic survey ships looking for primitive intelligent races are rather common in Clarke's stories. But the aliens running them usually want to help still undeveloped life farms, rather them treat them as aboriginals.
This story has also been published under these titles.
  1. "Three Men in a Flying Saucer"
The story appears in the following collections.
  1. "Reach for tomorrow"
  2. "The Collected Stories of Arthur C Clarke"
  3. "Of Time and Stars"


Ankur said...

"Yam & Chitragupt" analogy is funny ... I am really enjoying reading these reviews ...

Ankur said...

ha dude you can always respond to the comments here ... u can do whatever u deem fit it's cool with me ... To be honest based on these review and a little bit of my own finding I have now zeroed in on which Clarke books to read first (Rama sequels don't figure on that list now) ... once again ... "Yam & Chitragupt" analogy is damm funny :-) ...