Foundation, 1951

(Great Characters in Literature)

Hari Seldon

Hari Seldon, a psychohistorian who is the founder of both the First Foundation and the Second Foundation. Originally a mathematician working at a university on the imperial planet of Trantor, Seldon developed the discipline of psychohistory, which he uses to predict the end of the Galactic Empire. Seldon is arrested by the Empire because of his predictions, but he manages to outwit its rulers, who allow him to form the two Foundations. These Foundations are the chief organs of the Seldon Plan, which is intended to save the Galaxy from twenty thousand years of barbarism. Seldon dies shortly thereafter but reappears in video recordings to instruct later generations.

Salvor Hardin

Salvor Hardin, the first mayor of Terminus, the remote planet where Seldon has set up the First Foundation. Hardin chafes under the rule of the Encyclopedists, who think that the only purpose of the Foundation is to prepare an Encyclopedia. When Hardin realizes that the neighboring planet Anacreon is about to annex the Foundation and that the declining Empire will do nothing to prevent this, he seizes political power in Terminus. His theories about the Foundation’s imperial mission proven, Hardin outwits the rulers of Anacreon and paves the way for the Foundation’s growing regional power.

Hober Mallow

Hober Mallow, the mayor of Terminus approximately eighty years after Hardin. A merchant trader from the planet Smyrno, Mallow is mistrusted by the Foundation’s elite, who resent the fact that he relies on trade rather than their religion of science to establish Foundation power in neighboring regions. Mallow exposes the Foundation elite as authoritarian and dishonest, and he becomes mayor himself after defeating the rival power of Korell.

Foundation and Empire, 1952

(Great Characters in Literature)

Bel Riose

Bel Riose, an imperial general who attempts to reconquer the Foundation. Riose is a young and confident leader who wins many military victories. His success, however, arouses the suspicion of the Emperor that Riose plans to take over the throne, and he is recalled and arrested, leaving the Foundation stronger than ever.

The Mule

The Mule, a mutant with unusual emotional powers who seizes control of the planet Kalgan and begins a war against the Foundation. The Mule is astoundingly successful and eventually attacks the planet Terminus itself, defying assumptions that the Seldon Plan will protect the Foundation forever. The Mule can defy the Seldon Plan because he is a mutant and thus not provided for by the plan. After conquering the Foundation, the Mule embarks on a desperate search to find the Second Foundation. He tries to use his emotional power to find the secret but is foiled by the sudden intervention of Bayta Darell.

Bayta Darell

Bayta Darell, a young woman from the Foundation who marries a member of the dissident Independent Traders and, with him, escapes the Mule’s sack of Terminus. Bayta had first encountered the Mule’s power on Kalgan, and by the time she is in the old Imperial Library on Trantor, she has come to understand the Mule in such a way as to defeat him.

Second Foundation, 1953

(Great Characters in Literature)

The Mule

The Mule, who, after being defeated by Bayta, tries to search for the Second Foundation through more conventional means. He uses his emotionally converted lieutenant, Han Pritcher, to attempt to trick a suspected Second Foundationer into revealing the nature of his people. The Second Foundation, though, manages to outwit and defeat the Mule through an ingenious stratagem. The Mule dies shortly thereafter.

Arcadia Darell

Arcadia Darell, the granddaughter of Bayta Darell. She lives in the revived, post-Mule Foundation and becomes interested in the Second Foundation when her father, Toran, leads a group of prominent Foundation intellectuals who try to look for it. Arcadia persuades her uncle, Homir Munn, to take her along to Kalgan with him. On Kalgan, she is almost seduced by the lascivious Lord Stettin. Arcadia flees to Trantor after guessing where the Second Foundation really is, a guess borne out by events occurring after her reunion with her father.

The First Speaker

The First Speaker, the principal leader of the Second Foundation. Wielding tremendous power by means of his ability to control others psychologically and to envision the future, the First Speaker conceals his identity so as to arrange events according to the will of the Second Foundation and to ensure that the Seldon Plan will continue.


(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

The Foundation Trilogy is one of the first series in science fiction to be set within a historical framework of future events, a...

(The entire section is 155 words.)

Literary Techniques

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

The Foundation Trilogy is one of the first series in science fiction to be set within an historical framework of future events, a concept...

(The entire section is 352 words.)

Literary Qualities

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

The Foundation Trilogy draws upon the space opera tradition developed in the science-fiction pulps of the 1930s. Outstanding examples...

(The entire section is 324 words.)

Social Concerns

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

The Foundation Trilogy is a history of the future adopted from the fall of the Roman Empire but it is also about the nature of history...

(The entire section is 397 words.)

Topics for Discussion

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

1. How does Hari Seldon manipulate people in order to establish the Foundation? Is he justified in doing so?

2. Why are no...

(The entire section is 98 words.)

Ideas for Reports and Papers

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

1. Write a paper describing the Seldon Plan and comment on what you think are the Plan's strong points and weak points.


(The entire section is 156 words.)

Literary Precedents

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

The Foundation Trilogy draws upon a whole space opera tradition developed in the science fiction pulps in the 1930s. Outstanding examples...

(The entire section is 178 words.)

Related Titles / Adaptations

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Three of Asimov's other books—Pebble in the Sky, The Stars, Like Dust, and The Currents of Space—are set in the...

(The entire section is 193 words.)

For Further Reference

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Asimov, Isaac. Asimov on Science Fiction. New York: Doubleday, 1980. A collection of Asimov's essays and reviews.


(The entire section is 87 words.)


(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Asimov, Isaac. I, Asimov. New York: Doubleday, 1994. A revealing collection of personal essays that reflects Asimov’s views on everything from science and society to literature and religion. A wealth of primary material that sheds considerable light on Asimov’s work.

Asimov, Stanley, ed. Yours, Isaac Asimov: A Lifetime of Letters. New York: Doubleday, 1995. Compiled and arranged by Isaac’s younger brother, excerpts from one thousand never-before-published letters provide a fascinating glimpse into the life of Isaac Asimov. A valuable resource for understanding Asimov’s thoughts and opinions undergirding his work.

Boerst, William. Isaac Asimov: Writer of the Future. Greensboro, N.C.: Morgan Reynolds, 1999. A lively biography of Asimov that contains much useful information. Aimed at secondary-school students.

Gunn, James E. Isaac Asimov: The Foundations of Science Fiction. Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Press, 1996. An excellent overview of Asimov’s short stories and novels, including The Foundation Trilogy. Includes a chronology, selected bibliography, and interview with Asimov.

LaBounty, David. “The Origins of Inspiration: Winwood Reade’s Role in the Foundation of Isaac Asimov’s Psychohistory.” Extrapolation 39 (Winter, 1998): 364-372. LaBounty explores the parallels between Asimov’s psychohistory and the ideas of nineteenth century mathematician Winwood Reade. Although there is no evidence that Asimov read Reade’s works, he was influenced by writers who did, including H. G. Wells and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.