Pilgrimage/The People Critical Essays

Zenna Henderson


(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

The People stories, for which Zenna Henderson is best known, were published primarily in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. They account for approximately one-fourth of Henderson’s literary output between 1951 and 1971. Pilgrimage: The Book of the People and The People: No Different Flesh collect the first twelve of the People stories. Later stories appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction and in two books. Henderson’s collection Holding Wonder (1971) includes “The Indelible Kind” (1968). “Michal Without” remained unpublished until its appearance in Ingathering: The Complete People Stories of Zenna Henderson (1995), which contains all seventeen of the People stories, including “The Indelible Kind.”

Despite distinctions drawn by some reference texts such as Brian Ash’s Who’s Who in Science Fiction (1977), which calls Pilgrimage a novel and The People a collection, the two books share the same structure. Each employs a framing story involving interested and accepting Outsiders who provide naïve viewpoints and ask questions. The frame for Pilgrimage is the story of Lea; for The People, it is the story of Meris and Mark. The frames are not closed: Each book ends when the last story ends.

Even without the frames, the stories interlink, essentially running through family lines. Valancy and Karen from “Ararat” recur throughout the stories. Dr. Curtis, an Outsider introduced in “Pottage,” reappears in “Captivity” and is referred to in other stories. Bethie, from “Gilead,” is the...

(The entire section is 678 words.)