Earthling Edmund Gundersen returns as a tourist to the planet Belzagor. It had been a colony of Earth known as Holman’s World, and Gundersen had been its administrator, but it was relinquished to the dominant indigenous species, elephant-like creatures known as “nildoror” (singular, “nildor”). The nildoror have no written language, but they have a culture. They undergo rebirth and identify themselves by how many births they have had. They coexisted with the earthlings and allowed themselves to be used as beasts of burden. They share the planet with the less-sentient anthropoid species called “sulidoror” (singular, “sulidor”).
In a conversation with his former assistant, Van Beneker, who has remained on Belzagor, Gundersen reveals that he has always thought of the nildoror as animals. He is nevertheless fascinated by their culture.
The next day, he sets out on a journey into the jungle, seeking the mist country where the nildoror undergo rebirth, riding on a nildor named Srin’gahar. He revisits a place where he and fellow earthling Jeff Kurtz had shared a drink of the venom of local serpents with several nildoror, giving him a feeling of becoming a nildor. Afterward, he felt ashamed and never repeated the experiment.
Srin’gahar takes him to a group of nildoror. He overcomes earthling squeamishness to join in their food and dance, and he is granted permission to visit the mist country, on the condition that he...
(The entire section is 565 words.)