Follow TV Tropes


Literature / Les Xipéhuz

Go To

One of the oldest examples of Science Fiction, "Les Xipéhuz" is a short story by J.H. Rosny. It tells the story of early tribes of neolithic people's war with an unknown, inhuman enemy — the Xipéhuz.

The narrative consists of two parts. First is a third-person description of encounters between nomadic tribes and the Xipéhuz, resulting in many deaths from the Xipéhuz mysterious weapons and powers. This is followed by meetings of the clans and tribes, ritual sacrifices, and the assembly of an army to combat the Xipéhuz.

The second part is the memoir of Bakhoûn, who observes the Xipéhuz from afar to find out their habits and vulnerabilities. Despite nearly being killed on several occasions, he discovers how individual Xipéhuz can be killed, and how to overwhelm them. What follows is a war of attrition where many thousands of warriors encircle the Xipéhuz and slowly pick away at the invaders and reduce their numbers (which have grown into the thousands), sacrificing many men to kill a greater number of the Xipéhuz. The Xipéhuz are finally defeated when their forest is razed.



  • Aliens Are Bastards: The Xipéhuz wipe out everything in their way.
  • Alien Invasion: It's not sure if the invaders are alien, but they certainly aren't organic lifeforms as we know them.
  • Ancient Astronauts: If the Xipéhuz ware indeed aliens.
  • Apocalypse Cult: Some mystics form one when they realize that humanity is doomed.
    From this anguish the mystics created a bleak cult, a cult of death preached by pale prophets, the cult of Shadows stronger than the Stars, Shadows that came to engulf and devour the Holy Light, the resplendent fire.

    Everywhere on the edges of the wilderness, one encountered the emaciated silhouettes of initiates, silent men who periodically wandered amongst the tribes, relating their awful dreams, the Twilight of the imminent great Night and the Death of the Sun.
  • Bizarre Alien Biology: The Xipéhuz are crystal-like cones or cylinders with a light on one side which they use for communication and combat and which is also their weak point.
  • Advertisement:
  • Bizarre Alien Reproduction: Every solstice and equinox, the Xipéhuz gather in groups of three, merge into some kind of ellipsoid and stay this way over night. The next day, they part and leave giant smoky forms which become denser and form into cones much bigger than the adult Xipéhuz before shrinking into their adult forms.
  • Bizarre Alien Senses: While it's clear that the Xipéhuz percieve their environment, Bakhoûn never finds out, how they do it, as they have no visible sensory organs and know about humans and other Xipéhuz even if there is something between them.
  • Blue-and-Orange Morality: It's never explained why the Xipéhuz destroy everything in their way.
  • Cosmic Horror Story: It's not sure what the Xipéhuz are, but they seem indestructible at first and threaten to wipe out mankind.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Pretty much every encounter between the humans and the invaders ends this way. Even when the humans find the Xipéhuz weak spot, they still take many losses whilst bringing down just one invader.
  • Death Ray / Disintegrator Ray: What the Xipéhuz use to kill animals.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The Xipéhuz seem like this to the humans. Later in the story, they become less incomprehensible, but still Starfish Aliens.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Though they wipe out humans seemingly unprovoked, the Xipéhuz mostly spare women and children.
  • Experienced Protagonist: Bakhoûn already has 30 children at the start of the story and is a very good archer and some kind of proto-scientist.
  • For the Evulz: It seems the Xipéhuz kill just for fun, as they never eat what they kill.
  • Guilt-Free Extermination War: What the humans do to the Xipéhuz to make sure that the Xipéhuz don't do it to them. Only Bakhoûn wishes there was a peaceful solution, but he doesn't find one.
  • Humans Are the Real Monsters: Bakhoûn laments that they wiped out the Xipéhuz instead of making peace with them.
  • Living Polyhedron: The Xipéhuz come in three different geometric shapes.
    First came a great ring of translucent bluish cones with their pointed ends upright, each perhaps half the size of a man. Bright stripes and dark spirals streaked their surfaces. Each bore a star at its base, dazzling as the noonday sun.

    Stranger still were the flat slabs that rose behind them, streaked with multicolored ellipses in patterns like birch bark. Here and there among these were other nearly cylindrical Shapes, one thin and tall, another low and squat, all brazen-hued and speckled with green, and all having the same characteristic point of light as the striped Shapes.
  • Militaries Are Useless: After the first tribal meeting, the humans decide to join forces and Zerg Rush the Xipéhuz: it goes about as well as is to be expected when you pit sticks and spears against laser-beams.
  • Outside-Context Problem: For paleolithic humans, some non-organic creatures made from crystal with lasers are quite a Outside-Genre Foe
  • Polyamory: Bakhoûn has four wives, but it isn't treated as anything special by his people.
  • Rock Beats Laser: The Xipéhuz have some kind of heat ray, but in the end, they are wiped out by stone/bronze age humans.
  • Silicon-Based Life: The Xipéhuz are likely this, though whether they came from space, another dimension, or even evolved independently on Earth is never explained.
    • The latter is more likely than you'd think — Rosny would later write another sci-fi story, The Death of Earth, which featured Earth originating silicone-based lifeforms.
  • Starfish Aliens: Although it isn't sure if they are aliens, the Xipéhuz are the first incomprehensible creatures in all of Science Fiction.
  • Starfish Language: The Xipéhuz communicate by drawing symbols onto each other with their lasers.
  • Stone Punk: The story is about paleolithic/mesolithic humans fighting what might be aliens.
  • Trope Maker: For Starfish Aliens. According to some commentators, it is the Trope Maker for Science Fiction in general, although there are some older, less typical examples.
  • We Have Reserves: Even after discovering the Xipéhuz weakness and successfully defeating some of them, the human tribes ultimately have to resort to this method once it's discovered how quickly the Xipéhuz have been able to multiply: they don't have the time or resources to whittle them down with hit-and-run tactics, and must prepare for an all out assault, casualties be damned.