The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

At the start of The Centaur readers are introduced to Terence O’Malley by his executor, who recounts the story after O’Malley’s death. In his executor’s telling of the story, O’Malley is a psychic and sensitive who responds to the moods and passion of Nature. By profession O’Malley is a journalist, a foreign correspondent whose latest commission is to write about the Caucasus. He had also turned his pen to fiction, producing two books of psychic tales. These had led O’Malley to correspond with a German doctor, Heinrich Stahl.

The two meet on a ship bound for the Caucasus. On this steamer, O’Malley encounters a massive Russian and his son, whose very presence arouse O’Malley’s spirit. Through Stahl, O’Malley learns that these are urmenschen, or “primitive men,” whose bodies contain a fragment of the earth-spirit. Although physically they appear human, their psychic body is much larger, and when they come within the focus of anyone sensitive to the power of Nature, their presence takes on other imagery. O’Malley likens them to centaurs, men who draw their power from the spirit of the Mother Earth, as many once did before the onset of civilization. They are, in effect, Cosmic Beings.

O’Malley shares a cabin with them one night and is almost overwhelmed by the power of their presence. He is saved by the intervention of Dr. Stahl. O’Malley’s spirit, though, is hooked, having seen a glimpse beyond...

(The entire section is 506 words.)