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Bewildering Stories

Special Challenge 251

Of Cabbages and Things

Cyrano de Bergerac’s episode 28 from The Other World, “Go to the cabbage, and be wise,” has been put in the issue index as a special link because it’s an obvious companion piece to Bob Brill’s “Adventures of a Botanist.”

The topic of sentient vegetation goes back a long way in literature. The result in some works is a variation on the classic fable: plants act like plants but talk — or at least think — like people. Perhaps that will be the case in future installments of “Adventures of a Botanist”; we shall see.

But Cyrano’s story does not constitute a fable, despite the Sun-being’s fanciful depiction of the cabbage’s thought processes. Basically, the hypothetical existence of sentient plant life is presented as a philosophical problem.

  1. What conclusion or point of view is Cyrano trying to induce the reader to come to?

  2. Why might Cyrano have avoided the opportunity to depict plants as real characters in The Other World? After all, the Moon-beings are rather strange: they’re depicted at times as resembling horses.

  3. Judging by Bob Brill’s synopsis, how do cultural differences between the 17th and 21st centuries influence writers’ approaches to non-human intelligence? That is, what preoccupations seem to shape each story?

  4. Can you find other works in Bewildering Stories where non-human intelligence — plant, animal, or mechanical — play an important role?

Responses welcome!

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