Nova; illustration by Jacques Pecnard

Nova is a character in the French novel La Planète des Singes.

History

Encounter

Nova encountering the strange men

When the astronauts Ulysse Mérou, Professor Antelle and Arthur Levain reached the surface of the planet Soror with their pet chimp Hector, their first contact with humanoid life on the new planet was when they discovered a wet footprint of a woman by a natural pool of water, in which they were swimming in, with a cascading waterfall. The group postulated that their owner of the foot print had been swimming and upon hearing the astronauts fled or so they thought.

A naked "golden" human woman appeared before them on a ledge near the top of the waterfall that overlooked the pool. The three men were stunned at her her beauty, especially Levain, whose voice nearly caused her to flee in fear.

To slowly gain her trust the men pretended to ignore her and started swimming in the pool. Seeing the three men swimming in the water, the girl became interested in their actions, and after several hesitant steps like a timid puppy soon joined them. They engaged her in a simple game that she unconsciously laid down the rules of frolicking in the water like seals and narrowly avoiding each other. While the men enjoyed the strange game, Ulysse noticed one disturbing characteristic, of the girl was her eyes existed a void. In fact she lacked emotions, expressing only solemnity despite her pleasure in the game she wordlessly devised, only uttering throaty cries.

When Ulysse attempted gauge a reaction from her with a smile, she immediately stopped swimming and retreated back to the shore. Seeing that she was just startled Ulysse resumed swimming hoping she would return to the water in time, however the crew's pet chimp Hector suddenly appeared.

Upon seeing the chimp, Hector dashing out to his human masters she attacked him killing the unfortunate chimp, afterwards fleeing back into the forest. Despite her part in the death of the pet, Ulysse was still smitten with her natural beauty and christened named her Nova as her beauty rivaled the stars.

Nova was partly responsible for the trio being stranded in the wilds of Soror. After she fled from them in her initial encounter, she brought news of the visitors to her father and to the greater part of the tribe. Nova, with her sire and tribe in tow, brought them back to the pool where the she met the strangers on the preceding day. There she initiated the game she had previously played with them on their first meeting.

Though initial contact with men from Earth were peaceful, the three Earth men attempted to make eye contact with the locals to no avail. Later they tried to gauge them in a game, however the tribe is dumbfounded at the display. Eventually the idiocy of three of Earth's finest minds playing a silly child's game hits the astronauts and the three begin laughing. The men's laughter evoked a violent response from the native humans, which was further exacerbated by the three Earth men hastily donning their clothes. The three space travelers headed back to their space pod/launch, but are overtaken by the savage men, who begin stripping the clothes off of them, while others go on board their ship. The sounds of instrumentation being smashed are heard. The three Earth men were then forcibly taken on a long march through the jungle.

Attraction

Nova's tribe dragged the explorers back to their colony, after which the tribe dispersed to frolicking about in the forests. Nova maintained a keen interest in the strange men, particularly Ulysse, following them as they explored the colony, averting from their gaze when they looked at her. After the trio were turned away by a family devouring a deer carcass, she assisted the godforsaken men. She helped gather food for them by climbing a nearby tree and showered them with banana-like fruit, which once upon returning to the jungle floor proceeded to demonstrate were edible. She watched the men eat and shared her food without protesting.

When night fell the group began to create bedding for themselves. Nova showed interest in their work and even assisted in helping Ulysse make a nest. Seeing the two caused Levain to be vexed that he tried to ignore them an went immediately to sleep. Nova continued to watch Ulysse work on his nest. Once he had finished and laid down in it, she eventually spent the night with Ulysse, snuggling next to him for warmth.

The next morning Nova awoke to find her nestmate watching her. When her eyes made contact with Ulysse's, Nova though frighten by the intensity of Ulysse's eyes resisted fleeing. She managed to maintain eye contact and even allowed the man to touch her shoulder. Seeing Ulysse smile broadly at her, she attempted to mimic and produce a smile of her own. Due to her unfamiliar use of facial muscles, she only managed to produce a painful grimace. Touched by this gesture Ulysse pulled her closer to him, Nova responded by nuzzling her nose against his, then passing her tongue over his cheek. Ulysse surprised by the action imitated her in a clumsy fashion to her satisfaction.

Before Ulysse could engage in any other attempts at communication, a horrible din created by beaters sounded through the jungle. Their intimacy disturbed, the couple bolted to their feet from their nest to find the entire colony awake and in terror. After the elders of tribe had signaled the rest of their fellows to run in the opposite direction, Nova, like many of her tribe mates, followed her instinct to flee. Before following the herd of her tribe into the jungles, she however was hesitant to escape without Ulysse, wordlessly calling out to him before following the rest of her people.

Captivity

The ape hunting party killed or captured most of the men and women in her tribe. Nova was one of the lucky ones that managed to cross the shooting range unscathed. However like so many other was caught in the nets strung up by the hunters. Extracted from nets Nova was thrown into wheeled cage and transported to the ape hunting lodge. There she witnessed her slain brothers and sisters displayed in a macabre fashion as trophies.

Due to her beauty Nova was deemed as an elite and sorted into a group of handsome captives along with Ulysse. Ulysse was overjoyed to see her alive, for he feared she was among the dead women that were shot. He attempted to embrace her, but she reacted in fear due to this alien gesture, but as night fell she eventually crept to his side for warmth. They were sold to the Institute for Advanced Biological Study as test subjects in the advancement of science. Nova protested her treatment when they caged her but calmed down upon realizing her cage was across from Ulysse. The Earthman gave her a half-smile and small wave, she clumsily attempted to imitate him. She was content that her neighbor was Ulysses, giving him furtive glances as she ate her meals.

Zira the chimpanzee scientist took an interest in Ulysses due to his unusual behavior. Though due to the language barrier, she dismissed him as just animal. Unlike the rest of the captives that were captivated by the one-sided conversation, Nova grew furious at the interaction. After the she-ape left, Nova was so vexed that she turned her back on the male.

She and Ulysse were subjected to a number of behavioral tests such as reflex conditioning, tool use, etc. In one such test that involved a Pavolv's classical conditioning experiment, Nova shamelessly watered her mouth like a dog to receive a banana from Zoram and Zanam.

In another series of tests prompted by Zaïus to test Ulysse's intelligence, Nova attempts to create a simple block ladder to reach a basket of food. While Ulysse managed to complete it with ease, she was at a loss on how to tackle the problem herself. However Ulysse repeated the actions of how the blocks are stacked for her benefit. She failed on the first try and out of pity Ulysse gave her fruit from his cage. With his help she manages to succeed in reaching her goal.

Later Zaius paired the Earthman with the Sororian woman in a study of sexual selectivity. Wile the Earthman was pleased to have Nova as his mate, he refused to engage in relations with her in front of the apes, seeing it as an act of humiliation. To force his cooperation, Zaius replaced Nova as the designated mate of Ulysses's neighbor who proceeded to initiate the mating ritual. But before her new mate could touch her, she was returned to Ulysses when the latter finally responded in the manner of a savage man which supported Zaius case that Ulysse was nothing more than an animal. The two then partook in the mating ritual before the ape audience who documented it in detail.

Love Triangle

A month in captivity with her newly gained 'mate', she and Ulysse became a privileged couple, mostly due to the latter's reputation being a star subject at the Institute. The two entered a period of contentment, with a few concessions in the form of treats that Ulysse would earn from accomplishing a new problem. Ulysse would often share these rewards with Nova and even impress her with his tricks. Living in felicity, Nova too becomes used to the monotony which even Ulysse notices in her eyes. Combined with Ulysse's guilt and Nova lack of spark, prompts him to be disgusted with himself and engage once again in communication with the apes. Nova played a part serving as a model of a portrait he drew of her to attract Zira's attention.

Nova noticed the efforts that Ulysse used to attract the attentions of the head researcher chimp Zira in his attempts to prove he was a sentient being. Despite the Earthman's initial failure in conveying that he was a rational being, Nova instinctively saw the ape as a rival in Ulysse's affection and became immediately vexed.

The Sororian's woman resentment would further deepen, after Ulysse finally managed to demonstrate Zira of his intelligence. The two grew close, Ulysse becoming attracted to the young ape due to her intellectual mind who he found more to relate than Nova, in which their attraction was only physical. Unable to understand, Nova found herself alienated by her mate, who spent more time learning from Zira and exploring the outside simian world leaving her to wallow in loneliness.

These acts spurred Nova in jealous fits, making her resent the she-ape coming between them whenever possible. Her constant interference would cause Ulysse to use force to calm her down, and though despite her treatment would always seek Ulysse's forgiveness but was rebuffed.

Separation

After winning the trust of first Zira, being introduced to her fiance, Cornelius and then revealing existence to the ape populace, before the Ape Council, Mérou was recognized as a civilized being and emancipated from his captivity. Meanwhile at the Institute, Ulysse's long absence caused Nova to turn into a foul mood that infected the rest of her comrades. When Ulysse returned she like the rest of the captives were in awe and shock of Ulysse wearing clothes and standing as an equal to the apes. The two shared a sad parting, to which ended when Ulysse offered her a lump of sugar for her calm behavior before leaving to join in the ape festivities.

Lessons

While the Council decree freed the Earthman, it condemn Nova to a lonely existence. Since Ulysse's emancipation Zira had refrained from giving her another mate out of respect to Earthman. Ulysse continued to interact with her, but due to his human self-respect, and her status as an animal he kept their former relationship at a distance unable to see her as a 'woman'.

Throughout the novel, Ulysse has attempted to uplift the Sororian men from their bestial state. Sadly none possessed the drive to commit. He was partially successful, with his former mate, due to Nova's emotional attachment to him from the beginning and her willingness to please him in her lessons. Her diligence to her studies reaches to the point she initiates the lessons before Ulysse given begins.

Nova and Sirius, with Ulysse and Zira; illustration by Erno Zorad

Motherhood

Nova's first step in regaining her kind's lost sentience become's apparent when she is pregnant with Ulysse's child after their coupling from the months of captivity. Zira had discovered her pregnancy and spirited her away to an isolated facility to avoid public attention. Nova's pregnancy prompted Ulysse to visit her cell, sharing a tender loving moment between them and cause him to interact with her more often. Her condition was noted to have given her a personality and dignity that she did not display prior to her interaction to Ulysse.

During her development Nova struggled with suppressing her innate bestiality and embracing her maternal side. In which her mate noted that eyes to have gained a new intensity. She continued to be a dedicated student, always repeating the few words she learned. It pleased Ulysse at her progress though he was sadden by how quickly the spark of rationality passed when she devoured a treat.

Upon her son's birth, christened Sirius, her fleeting gleam of intelligence had become a radiant glow. She recognized her son was a wonder, as he cried rather than whine. In addition she innately sensed that there was danger regarding her family and the apes animosity toward them.

Recognition

Despite her animalistic mentality, her heightened self-awareness causes Ulysse to acknowledge her as a woman, and to accept her as his wife, dramatically changing their relationship. Ulysse became more thoughtful of Nova, in several instances. Like when he encountered other women being subjected to experiments by the apes: a young mother who was stripped of her mind, unable to recognize her own child, his heart went out to Nova and her pregnancy.

Another when he saw young girl whose physical appearance reminded him of his wife. Upon witnessing her body being violated by continuous electrical shocks and the apes indifference to her condition, he came to her defense. Another point of Nova's character evolution was that she was able to release her bitterness towards Zira, even trusting her to touch her son.

Nova and her new family

Escape

Due to her closeness to Ulysses and being the mother of Sirius, Nova was regarded as a threat to the apes. The threat of a new race of intelligent human beings was the catalyst that forced the family to return to Mérou's spacecraft and head back to Earth. To achieve this Ulysses' ape allies arranged for a space shuttle crewed by a family of three to be launched. The woman that was to be on the shuttle took Nova's place at the Institute while the latter took her place aboard the space capsule along with her son and husband.

Nova's education as a woman would be later continued through the assistance of her 'husband' and son. Initially only able to communicate with her mate through gestures, by the time the family had reached Earth, Nova's motherhood and marriage had transformed her from a savage animal into a clothed rational being, now able to talk and express emotions. However Nova's visit to Earth was short-lived as the family found that the passage of many centuries had led to an ape takeover of that planet too, and forcing them to flee again and wander space.

Personality & Traits

Described as having the body of a goddess, Nova is a young girl with golden skin, tall but not excessively so, and slender. While many women in tribe were beautiful Ulysse admitted that none rival her splendor. Like most of her tribe she was agile and adapt in living in the underbrush of the jungle. Strong enough to strangle a monkey with her hands and climb a tree easily with her thighs.

Besides her physical characteristics, Nova is described as an exceptional subject by Ulysse, as she has displayed remarkable cognitive and language abilities, perhaps second only to himself. Prior to her captivity the young girl showed a curious streak demonstrated in her continuous engagement with the men from Earth in spite of the strangeness. She showed enthusiasm in learning to display genuine emotions (managing a grimace when imitating Ulysses' smile) and eventually learned to smile and cry. During her time at the Institute she was shown to be able to solve complex problems (creating a makeshift ladder by following the Earthman's example within two days). Also under Ulysse's tutelage she managed to possess a vocabulary of four words. Nova was an example of the potential and hope for all men on Soror to rise above their bestiality and regain their sentience.

Nova was very affectionate towards Ulysse, choosing him from the start her as her partner. When science assigned them to be be mates, she remain loyal to him throughout all their hardships. That loyalty and dedication inevitably enabled her to rise from the primal state to a woman.

Like all of her kind on Soror, she had an innate fear and hatred for apes and would not hesitate to kill one if given the chance. Over time her mistrust for at least one ape lessen while in captivity. Even though she gained sentience, her fear of the apes still remained as shown when she arrived on ape-ruled Earth, she immediately fled back to her husband's shuttle.

See also

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