Tuesday, 24 November 2015


Philippe Rochefort watches a recorded lecture about the current enemy. Since, despite reading Poul Anderson's descriptions, I never retain any mental image of an Ythrian, let us paraphrase:

warm blooded;
not birds;
young born viviparously;
four and a half months gestation;
females cannot fly far with a heavy pregnancy;
lips and teeth, not beaks (despite the attached image);
not mammals;
no hair or milk;
infants fed by regurgitation;
walking awkwardly on feet that have grown from wings;
standing on hands to lift wings;
flapping of wings pumps oxygen through gill-like antlibranchs into bloodstream, enabling a body heavy enough for intelligence to fly in terrestroid conditions;
large energy intake needed;
some sweet fruits eaten;
otherwise carnivorous;
therefore, living in small groups, each defending a wide territory;
evolved not from reptiloids but from amphibians;
primitive land animals retained a kind of gill;
small swamp-dwellers climbed into trees and developed a membrane for gliding;
membrane became wings as gills became superchargers;
internal water-hoarding system;
light but strong bones;
tiny, helpless cubs cling to either parent with elaborate digits retained on wings;
young also evade predators by climbing trees;
feet seized prey and manipulated objects;
rapid metabolism of flight prevents young from being born with undeveloped nervous systems;
parents cooperate to care for and carry young;
sexual equality;
females ovulate only once per Ythrian year (half Terran) and not for two years after giving birth;
Ythrians sexually active only at these times;
grief causes ovulation;
occasional females able to ovulate at will were killed, now shunned;
drought forced ornithoids onto savannahs where they evolved from carrion eaters into hunters;
feet became hands and made tools;
elbow claws became feet;
wings became convertible to legs;
hunters strike from above with spears, arrows or axes;
less need for cooperation than among proto-men;
beaked hawk-like uhoths used like dogs;
Stone Age ended not by agriculture but by herding and domestication of animals, encouraging invention of wheels for land vehicles;
agriculture an ancillary, providing fodder;
no cities;
flight, so no need for crowding;
sedentary centers for mining etc small with floating populations and wing-clipped slaves, the latter now being replaced by machines.

As on Diomedes, Poul Anderson has imagined not only a non-humanoid intelligent species but also its evolution.


David Birr said...

Not entirely apropos, Paul, but you may find it amusing (I did) that in the Marvel Comics universe there's an extraterrestrial species of more-or-less avian descent, the Shi'ar -- and one of their deities, frequently invoked, is "K'ythri."

I've known this for decades, but it just today crossed my mind to mention it.

Paul Shackley said...

Entirely apropos and I didn't know.