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Literature / The Mule

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From left to right; Bayta, Toran, and Magnifico

THE MULE Less is known of "The Mule" than of any character of comparable significance to Galactic history. His real name is unknown; his early life mere conjecture. Even the period of his greatest renown is known to us chiefly through the eyes of his antagonists and, principally, through those of a young bride…
ENCYCLOPEDIA GALACTICA, 116th edition, published in 1020 F.E.

First published in two parts as "The Mule" in Astounding Science Fiction (November and December 1945 issues), by Isaac Asimov. This Science Fiction Novella takes place after the events of "The General (Foundation)" and in 1996, it earned first place in the 1946 Retroactive Hugo Award for Novels. A Mutant with Psychic Powers takes control of Kalgan, and from there, the biggest storyline in The Foundation Trilogy begins.

    Part One 
Toran, a common merchant at the edge of Foundation space, has recently married Bayta Darell, who is a descendant of the famous Hober Mallow. He's taking her home to Haven II to meet his father Fran and uncle Randu. They talk about politics, and Bayta explains why she thinks that the Seldon Plan expects another Crisis moment within a few years. The edge of the Foundation traders have expanded a great distance, but they pay too much in taxes. On Terminus, at the central government, the office of the Head of State has calcified into a hereditary position due to the Indbur family taking power and ending democratic elections. Bayta says that Hari Seldon didn't plan for just any new Empire, he planned to improve upon the galactic bureaucracy that had stalled humanity's growth.

Excited by Bayta's speechmaking, her in-laws tell her about the Independent Traders they've been organizing, and their plan to trick a would-be Galactic Conqueror into attacking the Foundation as prelude to a civil war against the authoritarian government. Bayta and Toran agree to visit Kalgan to find the Mule; a warlord who has already taken the Pleasure Planet from another galactic warlord. Their pretense is a honeymoon, and while they're on the beach, a strange and misshapen little man is wandering around. Bayta feels compassion for him, and he tells them that he is Magnifico Giganticus, the Mule's jester, fleeing from the court of a monster. An encounter with a guard is solved through Toran's assertion of being a citizen of the Foundation, although Toran is mystified as to how that happened.

Meanwhile, Indbur the Third, current Mayor of the Foundation, has ordered highly competent yet undisciplined Captain Han Pritcher to investigate Haven, but Pritcher disobeys, as his instincts tell him that Kalgan is far more important. Meeting Toran, Bayta and Magnifico, Pritcher reveals he is a member of the Democratic Resistance, and that he wants to take Magnifico to the Foundation: he knows that the Mule could represent a great danger to the Foundation, and Magnifico might know the Mule's weaknesses.

Back in the Foundation, Ebling Mis, one of the foremost scientists, has managed to partially understand Seldon's Plan, and tells Indbur the Third when the next Seldon Crisis will take place: within four months. Indbur assures Mis there is nothing that indicates any crisis is brewing, but then several messages arrive: one of them is that Kalgan is declaring war over the disappearance of the Mule's jester.

Mis requests a meeting with Magnifico, hoping to find every piece of information he might remember on the Mule. In exchange, Mis gifts him a Visi-Sonor, a notoriously complicated musical instrument that Magnifico knows how to play. What information Mis obtains, however, is not enough to form a full profile on Kalgan's autocrat, which is critical, since Kalgan has won multiple battles.

The twenty-seven Independent Trader Systems send representatives to decide what to do: with the Foundation at war with Kalgan, it might be a good moment to finally put an end to the Indbur dictatorship. Randu suggests to a few friends that they should join forces with the Foundation against the Mule: said friends shoot down the idea, but the next morning news arrive that the Mule has attacked a Trader planet without justification, ensuring the alliance between Foundation and Traders.

The Foundation remains secure in its victory through the Seldon Plan, in spite of Kalgan's seemingly unstoppable advance towards Terminus. The day Mis predicted the Seldon Crisis would take place, Seldon's hologram shows up to an awaiting population - only for him to speak of a civil war between the central government and the traders. The Mule has turned Seldon's Plan upside down, and as people begin to despair, Kalgan's fleets reach Terminus and attack.

    Part Two 
Terminus falls to an invader for the first time since the Encyclopedists. Toran, Bayta, Magnifico and Mis manage to escape the planet just in time, joining Toran's family in Haven, while Pritcher runs away to hide among the common population.

Pritcher, after roaming for weeks encounters a surviving Resistance cell, which helps him hide in plain sight. During a meeting, Pritcher offers to carry an atomic bomb into the Mayor's Palace: since it's rumored that the Mule is now living there, it would put an end to the dictator's plots. However, when the plan is carried out, Pritcher learns too late that the cell had been compromised long ago: the bomb is a dud, and the Mule is not there - but his viceroy is. A viceroy that turns out to be the Mule's antecessor as Kalgan's autocrat.

In Haven, morale drops by the day: not only are Kalgan's fleets (now supplemented by the Foundation's) sieging the planet, but a general atmosphere of depression pervades the world. Randu meets with Mis to deliver bad news: despite his efforts, Haven's leaders are considering surrendering to the Mule, if only to put a stop to the current siege. Randu asks Mis to go to Trantor and study Hari Seldon's notes: the Foundation's greatest hope of survival is for the Second Foundation to intervene, and the only way to discover where it is lies in Seldon's work. In company of Toran, Bayta, and Magnifico, Mis is on a mission to discover the galaxy's greatest secret.

After weeks of randomly traveling around to avoid being found by the Mule's ships, Toran's ship is halted by a local polity's fleet. Toran is forced to board another ship under pretext of helping fix a problem in the ship's drive, with Magnifico as a hostage. When he returns, Toran reveals that the other ship was actually a Foundation ship, and attempts to fire on it, but Magnifico mentions he saw Han Pritcher there and convinces Toran to not fire.

The ship arrives to Neotrantor, current capital of the Galactic Empire, now reduced to twenty planets since Trantor was attacked and razed. Prince Dagobert, who acts as regent to his senile father, orders the arrest of the group, and decides to keep Bayta as his concubine. Magnifico, angered by this, uses his Visi-Sonor to play a music that ends up killing Dagobert, allowing him to free the others so they can travel to Trantor.

In Trantor, the group settles down in the old Imperial Library. Ebling Mis researches everything he and his companions find on Hari Seldon and psychohistory. During this time, Bayta speaks with Mis several times, noticing how the man grows weaker even as his concentration on his research remains. Pritcher, now a member of the Mule's forces, also makes a visit, revealing that the Mule is a powerful mutant that can use his mind powers to permanently change a person's loyalties through emotional control. Finally, after weeks of work, Ebling finds the solution, and attempts to tell the others, but before he can do so Bayta kills Mis.

Under the shock, Bayta tells Toran that she killed Mis because of something she had realized: the planets they visited fell to the Mule much faster than they should have, while those they did not continued to resist. And, the day Terminus fell, she felt a devastating wave of depression that felt awfully similar to what she felt when Magnifico killed Dagobert. Hence, her discovery: Magnifico, the jester they had made friends with, was always the Mule.

Magnifico sheds his false identity and confirms Bayta's deduction. Revealing his past as a weak mutant with strong mental powers, he had decided to use them to get revenge on the Galaxy, and thus he managed to take over Kalgan as a tool to bring down the Foundation and the Empire and put them both under his control. However, in the process he found his weakness: Bayta, who was willing to offer him affection and friendship without him having to use his powers, were enough to cause him to stop him from using her as a tool. And so, Bayta managed to prevent him from finding the Second Foundation, the only organization that could present a risk to his conquest plans. Admitting defeat, the Mule allows Toran and Bayta to go in peace, but states he will find and defeat the Second Foundation.

Not to be mistaken for the 2018 film produced and directed by Clint Eastwood. In 1952, "The Mule" was revised and included as the second half of Foundation and Empire.

"The Mule" provides examples of:

  • 90% of Your Brain: Part of the Emotion Control powers that the Mule has allows him to cause intuition and creativity to skyrocket, at the expense of their lives. He describes human brains as normally operating at 20% efficiency (essentially failing to use 80%), and he can use his power to force all of it to work non-stop without any chance to rest for weeks on end.
  • Accent Adaptation: Magnifico speaks what is described to be the dialect of the galactic centre. Asimov translates it as Flowery Elizabethan English.
  • Arc Villain: Unlike the usual Monster of the Week format of crisis/challenges the Foundation faces, this time we have the Mule, an apparently unstoppable Galactic Conqueror who successfully defeats Seldon and shatters the plan nearly beyond saving. The Mule is miles above anything the Foundation has ever faced, causing Terminus to fall for the first and only time ever in its history. Yes, the Foundation loses to him. He does this with relative ease, outsmarts Foundation's insurgents and in Part Two, starts his plan of tracking down the legendary Second Foundation, which is surrounded in myth and rumored to be able to defeat him.
  • Action Bomb: Captain Pritcher convinces the remaining democratic underground, who had been resisting the tyranny of the Indbur family for eighty years and now struggled against the rule of the Mule, to let him try a suicide bombing attempt with an atomic bomb small enough to fit in his mouth but powerful enough to explode the entire mayoral palace.
  • Affectionate Nickname: Bayta and Toran are newlyweds, calling each other Bay and Torie.
  • All of the Other Reindeer: Magnifico tells Bayta about his terrible childhood, where people would avoid him out of fear/contempt, they'd treat him like a freak, and being the Mule's clown doesn't improve matters because he's physically and mentally abused there as well.
  • Antagonist Title: The titular Mule is a narcissistic paranoid, and the only one to have beaten the Foundation.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: Part One ends when the Mule's forces have conquered the home planet of the Foundation, in one easy attack. Part Two isn't much better; Bayta sacrifices her chance to warn the Second Foundation about the Mule to ensure the Mule doesn't get there first. His Motive Rant at the end explains that even though he's been denied the chance to attack the Second Foundation before they can strike back, he's, by all means, fully won, and has the supreme upper hand.
  • Beware the Silly Ones: Magnifico Giganticus appears as a rather pathetic clown before being revealed as a mutant with Psychic Powers known as the Mule who conquers a significant portion of the galaxy and nearly destroys the titular Foundation forever.
  • Big Bad: The Mule manipulates people around him with Psychic Powers, turning entire planets to despondency and fear. While on Kalgan, Bayta and Toren manage to rescue his jester, Magnifico Giganticus, only to learn that the Mule had wanted them to do so. Twice they barely escape as the Mule's fleet brutally conquers the planet they're on. His fleet of ships conquers the entire First Foundation. In "Part Two", the protagonists head to Trantor because figuring out where the Second Foundation is will be their only chance to stop him. Bayta realizes, just in time, that Magnifico is the Mule, and that's how he's been one step ahead of them this whole time. Despite being defeated here, his efforts to conquer the Foundation leave a lasting impact on the series.
  • Bizarre Instrument: Introduced here is a musical instrument, called the Visi-Sonor, that creates illusionary lights and colours along with the sounds. It also helps to amplify the mental powers of the Mule.
  • Bleed 'Em and Weep: After killing Ebling Mis, the narration tells us that this is the first time Bayta has cried since her childhood. She's emotionally unstable afterwards, because she no longer has to stress over keeping her secret, but at the same time, she rather liked the kooky old scientist. She wants to smile and laugh in relief, but the wound of killing is also fresh in her mind, making her smiles brittle, and her laughter harsh.
  • Blind Jump: Toran and the rest of the protagonists try to escape from the Mule after the fall of Haven, desperately making hyperspace jumps without proper planning. One time their ship almost ends up inside a red giant star. They barely get clear, and after that, they spend quite some time poring over starcharts until they can pinpoint their location and calculate their path to Trantor.
  • Bottled Heroic Resolve: Part of the Emotion Control powers that the Mule has allows him to cause intuition and creativity to skyrocket, at the expense of a person's life. He describes human brains as normally operating at 20% efficiency (essentially failing to use 80%), and he can use his power to force all of it to work non-stop without any chance of rest for weeks on end.
  • Brainwashed: The Mule, an interstellar warlord in Isaac Asimov's Foundation trilogy had the telepathic ability to turn anyone, even his greatest enemies, into devoted followers willing to die for him.
  • Brown Note: When the crown prince of the First Galactic Empire kidnaps the protagonists and tries to hold them for the Mule to retrieve, Magnifico plays a different song on his Visi-Sonor, killing the prince and his assistants. Subverted later, with the revelation that he's the telepathic Big Bad and the musical instrument enhanced his powers rather than causing the effect alone.
  • Butt-Monkey: Magnifico Giganticus willingly tells Bayta and Toran about the various indignities that the Mule has subjected him to for entertainment, such as being held upside-down by his ankle while reciting poetry.
  • Conflict Killer: A splinter group of the Foundation, made of merchants, traders, and colonists, prepare to rebel against the group on their capital planet, Terminus. However, the Seldon Plan is disrupted by the previously unexpected appearance of the Mule. The Mule forces the two sides into teaming up against this common enemy. They lose, and the Mule takes over the entire First Foundation.
  • Contrived Coincidence: The forces of the Mule happens to launch their big attack against the Foundation at the exact same time as the Founding Day appearance of Hari Seldon. There is no indication that they knew the timing beforehand.
  • Crime-Concealing Hobby: Magnifico plays a Visi-Sonor, an instrument that creates visual illusions in addition to sound, very well. Well enough that he's allowed to give concerts on every planet that he, Bliss, and Toran go to. The climax reveals that he's the Big Bad, and the instrument served as an Amplifier Artifact for his Emotion Control powers, allowing him to demoralize the Foundation military and political leaders.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: When Part Two begins (chapter 19, "Start Of The Search"), Ebling Mis points out to Bayta that it's odd that the Mule quickly overwhelmed the capital planet of the Foundation, but struggles to capture planets of the Independent Trading Worlds. This is repeating a Plot Point mentioned at the end of Part One (chapter 18, "Fall Of The Foundation"), that the Traders have won military victories against the Mule while the Foundation Fleet has lost their battles (sometimes even surrendering without a fight). Where/who the Mule is able to win decisively is a clue to his alternate identity.
  • Deadly Upgrade: Ebling Mis is able to make intuitive logical leaps, and while searching for the Second Foundation, the Mule uses his mental powers, pushing him beyond normal obsession/endurance in his search. It's not a physical stimulant, but it has the same effect, including physical deterioration to the point of causing Mis's death. The only reason he doesn't die from the boost is because someone else shoots him before he can reveal the Second Foundation's location.
  • Didn't See That Coming: Hari Seldon is able to predict socio-political changes using math. However, the emergence of the Mule, a mutant with Psychic Powers is so unexpected that he alters the path of history. When Hari Seldon's recording appears on Founding Day, it's clear that the Mule has broken the Seldon Plan, and everyone is terrified as the Mule's forces crush the defenses of Terminus.
  • Distant Sequel: This story takes place about a hundred years after the events of "The General (Foundation)"; Bayta Darell is a descendant of the famous Hober Mallow, and newly married to our primary protagonist, Toran. They're on Terminus when Hari Seldon's recording makes his Founding Day appearance for 300 F.E.
  • The Dog Was the Mastermind: Despite willingly sharing everything he knows, the obviously abused and terrified Magnifico turns out to have been the Mule all along. It turns out that many of his descriptions of the Mule were deliberate lies to emphasize his powers.
  • Domed Hometown: The largest city of Haven II is built under rock, with an artificial light at the top of the dome to create the illusion of a young sun in the sky.
  • Downer Ending: Despite being honored for his (ultimately useless) efforts at stopping General Riose's military campaign during "The General (Foundation)", during the era since then, Lathan Devers made a failed attempt at rebellion against the Merchant Princes and ended his days slaving in mines. He died over fifty years ago by the start of this story.
  • Emotion Bomb: This is The Mule's favorite weapon. Used broadly, it makes enemy armies surrender. Used narrowly, it is the most horrible death possible. He can produce other emotions too, such as loyalty and confidence for his own servants.
  • Emotion Control: This story demonstrates an overlap between Emotion Control and Mind Control as the Mule's Psychic Powers allows him to permanently change people's emotions, such as anger, creativity, fear, loyalty, and even lust. He explains it as like being able to see and adjust a dial in people's minds.
  • The Empath: In addition to controlling emotions, the Mule can understand a rough idea of what someone is feeling, but he can't read minds for specific information.
  • "Eureka!" Moment: Bayta has been thinking about the fact that she felt desperate both during the Time Vault event and in Neotrantor. When recently converted Han Pritcher reveals to them that the Mule was the one that caused the desperation in the Time Vault, she makes the connection that Magnifico, the half-idiot jester she has been friends with, is actually the Mule.
  • Encyclopedia Exposita: When published in Foundation and Empire, two Encyclopedia Galactica entries were added. Chapter 11 (first chapter of "The Mule") has an entry on the Mule, and chapter 22 has an entry on Neotrantor.
  • Explosive Overclocking: Part of the Emotion Control powers that the Mule has allows him to cause intuition and creativity to skyrocket, at the expense of their lives. He describes human brains as normally operating at 20% efficiency (essentially failing to use 80%), and he can use his power to force all of it to work non-stop without any chance of rest for weeks on end. He puts Ebling Mis in this state, allowing him to replicate most of a genius mathematician's life's work in only a few weeks, at the cost of killing him within the same timeframe.
  • Fantasy Counterpart Appliance: Instead of photographs, people use holograms to send pictures. They appear as small transparent cubes unless activated.
  • Flowery Elizabethan English: Magnifico's speech (In-Universe described as the accent of the galactic center) is peppered with "thee", "thou", Purple Prose, and other elements associated with Elizabethan English. The accent is dropped once he's revealed to be the Mule.
  • Foreshadowing: Several plot twists are implied or stated explicitly before they become clearly revealed. The Mule being a Mutant is mentioned as early as the fourth chapter. Guesses that the Seldon Plan cannot account for those is mentioned soon after and they get paid off in "Fall of the Foundation". Ebling Mis makes some guesses about the Mule's physical appearance, in contradiction to Magnifico's description, during "The Search Begins". Which fleets are defeated in a Curb-Stomp Battle, and which win against the Mule, are a clue to his Psychic Powers and alternate identity. Even the Mule's manipulation of Toran is apparent once you know what you're looking for, but appeared to be natural in the original context.
  • Founding Day: During the 300th anniversary of the Foundation colonizing Terminus, a hologram of the dead Hari Seldon appears, to describe the civil war between Terminus and the Traders, which had been called off due to the Mule's attack.
  • Freudian Excuse: The Mule is driven to conquer the galaxy because of a childhood of ostracism and abuse due to his physically deformed stature; he claims that it is now "his turn".
  • Gag Nose: Magnifico Giganticus is a short man with spidery limbs, his long nose is part of what makes him appear to be a living caricature of humanity. Covers to Foundation and Empire have included Magnifico, with a nose as long as his jester's cap bells.
  • Galactic Conqueror: The Warlord of Kalgan has been terrorizing the local planets, until he meets the Mule, a mutant with Psychic Powers who defeats him and takes his territory. From there, the Mule leads an ever-growing fleet of mercenaries and soldiers against the Foundation, even capturing Terminus, the capital planet, during the 300th anniversary of colonization. By the end of the story, he's conquered every First Foundation planet and not even the Second Foundation appears to be strong enough to stop him.
  • Geek Physiques: Magnifico Giganticus, a geek in the more archaic sense of the word, is a clown. He's physically deformed in a way that makes people laugh at him, so he has been forced into the role of circus geek or jester. His short stature and long, spindly limbs has been the cause of years of ridicule and mockery. His enormous nose is assumed to be capable of holding onto things.
    The clown was close enough now to be seen clearly. His thin face drew together in front into a nose of generous planes and fleshy tip that seemed all but prehensile. His long, lean limbs and spidery body, accentuated by his costume, moved easily and with grace, but with just a suggestion of having been thrown together at random.
  • Getting Smilies Painted on Your Soul: When Bayta assumes that the Mule wants her as a sexual consort, she reacts with revulsion, and he explains that his power means that he could make her feel joy no matter what.
    "I sense your revulsion, but that's silly. If things were otherwise, I could make you happy very easily. It would be an artificial ecstasy, but there would be no difference between it and the genuine emotion."
  • A Girl in Every Port: Toran's father was quite the ladies' men during his Trading days. On his table, he has a holographic cube displaying a girl's face. Depending on the cube's rotation, there are six portraits.
  • Gone Horribly Right: The Independent Traders send Toran and Bayta to Kalgan to persuade the Mule to attack the Foundation, in the hope that they'd be able to topple the Indbur regime while it was recovering from the attack. Judging by the snippets of Seldon's speech, his Plan anticipated that the Traders would attack the Foundation. The Mule's attack was much more than either Seldon or the Traders could have expected because of his Psychic Powers that created betrayal in the most loyal Foundationer.
  • Graceful Loser: The Mule could have had Toran and Bayta killed or worse after their actions prevented him from earning his final victory, but chooses to let them go, both because they no longer matter to him and, in the end, the defeat is relatively minor.
  • Grammar Nazi: Mayor Indbur III corrects the grammar before he signs anything. It's evidence of his bookkeeper personality that he must correct the improper usage of commas before he will place a document in his Out Tray.
  • Happiness in Mind Control: When Bayta assumes that the Mule wants her as a sexual consort, she reacts with revulsion, and he explains that his power means that he could make her feel joy no matter what.
    "I sense your revulsion, but that's silly. If things were otherwise, I could make you happy very easily. It would be an artificial ecstasy, but there would be no difference between it and the genuine emotion."
  • Court Jester: In the third chapter, the court jester of Kalgan joins the protagonists. Bayta notices him first, walking around on his hands. He tells them about having to recite extemporaneous rhymes and dance for the Mule and his court.
  • Hereditary Republic: The Foundation has allowed dictatorial power to reside in the hands of a single family, just as it would in a monarchy, except they refer to their successive leaders by a republican title (Mayor).
  • High-Class Glass: The warlord of Kalgan wore a monocle along with his "fur-lined scarlet robe and high-crowned hat", until he met the Mule, who forced him into service as his loyal viceroy. As viceroy, he has no need for such displays of opulance.
  • His Name Is...: When Ebling Mis, exhausted from getting his mental activity overstimulated to learn this information, offers to tell the protagonists where the Second Foundation secretly resides, one of them blasts him dead because they knew that their antagonist, the Mule, was listening.
  • Humans Are Psychic in the Future: The titular antagonist as a mutant whose Emotion Control ability allows him to Emotion Bomb his enemies and Brainwash individual characters to serve him indefinitely. He's even used it to kill. His actions are a direct cause for each major conflict until Foundation and Earth.
  • Hyperspace Is a Scary Place: Traveling in hyperspace while being close to a big gravity source (like a planet) can kill you because the jumps are affected by gravity, which means your route will end in the wrong place if you don't correctly account for gravity sources. When Toran tries multiple Blind Jumps, he nearly kills them by ending up near a red giant star. Hours/days of calculations reduces the risk of ending up inside another star.
  • I Just Want to Have Friends: The Mule tells Bayta Darell that he went through his entire childhood and adolescence without anyone ever liking him "naturally" (as opposed to being forced to do so by his psychic powers). Not until he's well into his twenties does he meet Bayta, who has genuine affection for him. He's so overwhelmed by the feeling of just being liked that he inadvertently, carelessly, lets her ruin his plans for conquering the Second Foundation.
  • I Thought Everyone Could Do That: At the climax, the Mule mentions that it took him awhile to figure out that other people couldn't manipulate emotions, perhaps because, according to Foundation's Edge, he was from a planet where everyone really could do that, though he was unique in his willingness to do so without considering the well-being of the people being manipulated.
  • Inferiority Superiority Complex: The Mule is a mutant with powerful psychic abilities... but they also come with a hefty dose of physical inferiority, leading to an aggressive personality angry at the society which used to scorn him as a child and capable of repaying it. This leads to him becoming a Galactic Conquerer and Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds.
  • Istanbul (Not Constantinople): In-Universe, the Encyclopedia Galactica entry explains how planet Delicass is renamed Neotrantor after Old Trantor has been destroyed in the Great Sack.
  • The Jinx: The protagonists help the Mule's clown, Magnifico Giganticus, escape from Kalgan. However, it seems like he's a bad luck charm, because everywhere Toran and Bayta take him, the Mule's forces eventually arrive and conquer with ease. Bayta eventually realizes that Magnifico is actually the Mule and has been emotionally manipulating the local populations to surrender.
    "We were on the Foundation, and it collapsed while the Independent Traders still fought - but we got out in time to go to Haven. We were on Haven, and it collapsed while the others still fought - and again we got out in time. We went to Neotrantor, and by now it's undoubtedly joined the Mule."Bayta Darell
  • Keeping Secrets Sucks: Just before the climax of "Part 2", Bayta figures out a secret that could undermine their entire search, but she can't tell anyone or the Mule will win. She starts carrying around a blaster, and fingering it during private moments. This continues until she finally kills someone with it.
    Bayta was more and more a creature of herself. The vivacity died, the self-assured competence wavered. She, too, sought her own worried, absorbed company, and once Toran bad come upon her, fingering her blaster. She had put it away quickly, forced a smile.
  • King Bob the Nth:
    • The current Mayor of the Foundation is Indbur the Third, because within the past century, the office of the Head of State has become dynastic.
    • According to the Encyclopedia Galactica entry, after the Great Sack, young Dagobert IX and his father, the Emperor of the Galactic Empire, retreated to Delicass and renamed it Neotrantor. His son, Prince Dagobert X, only knows the rule of twenty agricultural planets, instead of the entire galaxy.
  • Knight of Cerebus: The Mule vastly outranks whatever threat previous Seldon Crisis presented by virtue of breaking it in half like a kitkat. Even after the danger he represents passes by later portion of Second Foundation the sheer catastrophe he caused leaves a long shadow over the entire series. No one ever before or after in the series ever manages to size up the level of threat he represented. Even by the time of Foundation and Earth, the final entry in the series, the memory of his challenge remains a constant reminder of how close things were to going completely sideways.
  • Known Only by Their Nickname: A complicated example here; Magnifico Giganticus is a name that he says was given to him by the Mule, and he was originally called Bobo. However, he is the Mule, which means both names are fictitious, and the Mule is something he called himself. So we never learn Magnifico's real name.
  • Lean and Mean: Magnifico is often contrasted against the protagonists Bayta and Toran, who are Foundation citizens. As citizens of the most technologically advanced interplanetary civilization in the galaxy, they're both fit and healthy. Magnifico, on the other hand, introduces himself as the Mule’s jester, trying to escape. He's skinny to the point of malnourishment and has a large nose and watery eyes. The Mule is a savage master, with mutant abilities and a megalomaniacal drive to conquer the galaxy. At the end, Magnifico reveals himself to have been the Mule all along.
  • The Man Behind the Curtain: The titular character is a Galactic Conqueror who is depicted in his own propaganda as a towering, immensely-strong superman, and his court jester Magnifico seemingly confirms this when he falls in with the heroes after running away from his master. Later on, it becomes clear that the Mule's real powers are psychic in nature, and one character theorizes he's probably a perfectly ordinary-looking man who just made himself seem a terrifying giant to scare poor Magnifico. Then it turns out that the "giant superman" image is a complete fabrication, and Magnifico himself, a weedy, scrawny man, was the Mule all along. However, while he might be physically unimpressive, those Psychic Powers are all too real and incredibly potent - the Mule may be a physical weakling, but he was still able to conquer a good chunk of the galaxy without ever having to throw a punch himself.
  • The Man in Front of the Man: To all appearances, the Mule is the psychic leader of a powerful military which is derailing the Foundation's plans. However, he's actually in disguise for most of the story, as one of his own henchmen; the clown, Magnifico Giganticus. His "rescue" by Bayta and Toran allows him to sabotage the Foundation's attempts to resist his fleet.
  • Meaningful Name: The Mule's name has multiple layers to it. The first layer is the impression of physical strength and power. It's an effective strategy because nobody sees the Mule unless he brainwashes them into being his servants. This layers disguises the fact that he's physically weak, but he does have enormous Psychic Powers, so it does indicate strength. At another level, however, the Mule is also admitting a physical flaw; mules are the usually sterile offspring of a donkey and a horse. The titular character is unable to reproduce.
  • Mind-Control Music: Magnifico the jester uses a special musical instrument/holographic projector called a Visi-Sonor which amplifies his own Psychic Powers to influence people's emotions and, in at least one case, to actually kill someone.
  • Mister Big: Despite rumours and assumptions about the Mule's physical size and strength, he's actually very short and physically weak. He does, however, have Psychic Powers that make him effectively impossible to stop.
  • Monster of the Week:
  • Motive Rant: When the double identity of the Mule is uncovered, he calmly explains to the protagonists why he had become a Galactic Conqueror and proudly points out that, while the conditions of this defeat have bummed him out and denied him the chance to eliminate a powerful potential enemy, he hasn't lost anything and in fact still has the upper hand. Then he just leaves because he has a galaxy to rule and the protagonists are no longer useful.
  • Musical Assassin: The Mule has psychic abilities that grant him Emotion Control and Mind Control, and he has a musical instrument. He uses this instrument/hologram generator, called a Visi-Sonor, in his identity as Magnifico because it amplifies his powers. Using this instrument allows him to affect entire planets merely by giving a concert.
  • Mutants: The reason the Mule's status as a mutant is so plot-significant is that several characters think that this may make him unpredictable by the mathematics of Psychohistory. It's revealed near the climax that his mutation allows him to manipulate the minds and emotions of other characters.note 
  • Naming Your Colony World:
    • Delicass is the name of Neotrantor in the Back Story of the collapsing Empire. The planet used to be one of twenty worlds that supplied Trantor with food on a daily basis. Delicass evokes the word delicacy, a type of food.
    • Haven is the system that the protagonists escape to when "Part 1" ends and the Mule conquers Terminus. It (briefly) serves as a home base against the Mule's military, but they are eventually invaded as well, and the protagonists must escape again.
    • Lyonesse is amoung several territories mentioned by Mayor Indbur III that the Foundation is engaged in negotiations with. Lyonesse is from Celtic Mythology, an island near Cornwall that had drowned.
    • Mnemon, a Trader world, takes its name from a nickname given to Artaxerxes II of Persia by the Greeks. English translations vary between 'pertaining to Truth' and 'pertaining to Memory'.
    • Neotrantor is the new capital of the (First) Galactic Empire after the sack of Trantor itself. Before becoming the new capital of the Empire, it had been named Delicass.
  • Narrative Profanity Filter: Ebling Mis frequently says "unprintable". This might be the narrator replacing his statements with another term, but some of his dialogue only makes sense if he's actually using "unprintable” as a curse word. He is described as being foulmouthed, using "Ga-LAX-y" as another explicative.
  • No Challenge Equals No Satisfaction: The villain admits that he grew up lonely and unloved, so he used his mutant powers to force people to be his friends. Finding someone willing to be his friend without forcing it was so novel that he couldn't justify Brainwashing her. Because of this flaw, he lost his best chance at conquering the galaxy.
  • No Warping Zone: Hyperspace jumps close to a gravity well such as a star or planet are perfectly possible, but dangerous and difficult. Not only the passengers (and possibly the ships) suffer damage the closer to a gravity well; it also makes the calculations necessary so immensely complex that by the time you could make a jump that isn't blind, you generally could have gotten far enough from the gravity well that a much simpler calculation would have been necessary. The same problem exists on the destination side, except doing a Blind Jump is a worse idea in that direction (making a blind jump out of a system is less liable to cause you to reenter normal space inside something than making a blind jump to a system).
  • Numbered Homeworld: Toran hails from the second planet of the star system Haven, called Haven II.
  • Obsessively Organized: Mayor Indbur III is described as a natural-born bookkeeper. He is exceptionally fastidious, and disrupting his routine can send him into paroxysms. In stressful situations, he calms himself down by drawing geometric shapes in geometric patterns, like rows of triangles or six squares in a hexagonal shape. Before he signs anything requiring his attention, he checks the page for grammatical mistakes and corrects them.
  • Oh, and X Dies: In the penultimate chapter, the first lines indicate the upcoming death of Ebling Mis. In this chapter, he dies after figuring out where the Second Foundation is hidden.
    "After that there were only two weeks left to the life of Ebling Mis."
  • Oh, Crap!: During the crisis with The Mule, the Foundation leadership awaits their 300th anniversary of colonizing Terminus, when a recorded message from Hari Seldon will appear. They expect him to tell them how to defeat the Mule, but when the day arrives, the message is actually about a civil war within the Foundation which didn't occur because of the threat of the Mule. Seldon is cut off mid-message as the Mule's attack on Terminus begins.
  • Orwellian Retcon: Editing for publication in Foundation and Empire mostly consisted of adding Encyclopedia Galactica entries and naming chapters. At some point during the many publications, Dr Asimov also modified the galactic population from trillions to quadrillions.
  • Outside-Context Problem: The titular antagonist acts as a Spanner in the Works to the Seldon Plan, which is supposed to anticipate every possible major event in the next 1,000 years, because he is a Mutant with Emotion Control powers. He can forcibly and permanently alter the behaviour of individuals and large groups, destroying a basic premise of Psychohistory. However, Hari Seldon anticipated that something was bound to happen to disrupt his thousand-year plan, so he put together a secret team to make sure the unexpected could be accounted for, and "Part 2" is tells the story of the protagonists trying to warn the secret team (Second Foundation) before the Mule can find them.
  • Pen-Pushing President: Mayor Indbur III inherited the post of absolute dictator for the Foundation from his grandfather (who was brutal but able) and father (who was brutal and nothing else) and is essentially a born pencil-pusher who happened to inherit absolute power. He always corrects the grammar and spelling of the reports he reads before giving them his stamp of approval. It's evidence of his bookkeeper personality that he must correct the improper usage of commas before he will place a document in his Out Tray.
  • People's Republic of Tyranny: The Foundation has fallen into an inherited dictatorship, full of corruption and inefficiency. Associated colonies self-identifying as Traders keep up the old mercantile traditions, with civil war looming between the corrupt central government and the democratically focused population until the Mule comes in and smashes both.
  • Pinball Protagonist: Bayta eventually realizes that the way she, Toran, and Magnifico, three mostly ordinary people, keep going from one hotspot of Galactic conflict to the next, always there to witness the most dramatic moments of the war, but always escaping and finding themselves at the site of the next major Galactic event … that just doesn't happen in real life. Not unless one of them is actually the source of the conflicts ...
  • Pleasure Planet: Kalgan, a luxury world which is a "producer of pleasure" and "seller of leisure". This semi-tropical planet has beaches, tamed jungles, and gorgeous cities full of people willing to sell anything at any price. The collapse of the Galactic Empire failed to end its vacation world status. Unusually for this trope, Kalgan manages to become a major political center, with the Mule choosing to start his galactic conquest from there.
  • Plot Armor: Toran and Bayta, our protagonists, escape Kalgan with the Mule's jester, Magnifico. The Mule sends his fleets after the trio to reclaim what is his, but after a series of highly improbable escapes, Bayta realizes that their Plot Armor can only mean they have brought the source of their problems with them.
  • Previously on…: The issue that published Part 2 also had a synopsis of the events in Part 1 that had been edited out for publication within Foundation and Empire.
  • Prophecies Are Always Right: When the hologram of Hari Seldon appears, the Foundation expects to hear a prophecy about the war they're fighting against the Mule's new Empire, but they instead hear a completely wrong prophecy about a Foundation civil war (that never happened, since the factions involved all saw the Mule as a greater threat). And Double Subverted when the Second Foundation, whose job it is to account for the unexpected as it appears manages to get the Seldon Plan back on track before the events of Foundation's Edge.
  • Proud Merchant Race: Despite one of their own, Hober Mallow, taking complete control at the end of "The Merchant Princes", Foundation and Empire has a growing subplot of the small Traders in the field rebelling against the Merchant Princes who claimed to rule them. After Bel Riose' war, the Foundation falls into a dictatorship, but associated colonies self-identifying as Traders keep up the old mercantile traditions, with civil war looming. The only thing that prevented all-out civil war in this story was the Mule.
  • The Remnant: The first Galactic Empire used to rule every inhabited planet in the galaxy. By the time of this story, 300 years since the founding of Terminus, their rule has been reduced to twenty agricultural planets, and lost even the capital planet of Trantor. When the story's protagonists visit Neotrantor, the new capital, the senile Emperor Dagobert IX is under the impression that his Empire is as strong as ever, treating the Foundation as just another world within the Anacreon Province of a galaxy-spanning Empire. It's implied that this is the final end of the first Galactic Empire, being absorbed offscreen by the Mule between this story and the next.
  • Resistance as Planned: In "Part 2", Captain Pritcher attempts to contact the remains of the Democratic resistance to assassinate the Mule in his new palace on Terminus. Unfortunately for him, the Mule's men had already infiltrated the resistance movement, and therefore knew everything about the plan, and used it to collect the last of the Foundation's leadership, especially Pritcher.
  • Running the Blockade: Toran pilots his ship through the blockades set up by the Mule's ships around the planet Terminus to escape his invasion of the First Foundation, and again from Haven when he begins his search for the Second Foundation.
  • Scary Shiny Glasses: Mayor Indbur, third of the name to rule the Foundation, feels obligated to live up to the examples set by his tyrannical predecessors. Because he is, by nature, nothing more than an excellent bookkeeper, he tries to evoke an intimidating presence by wearing specially-made contact lenses. He doesn't need them to correct his vision, but they can catch the ambient light in an intimidating glint, which is one of the many subtle tools he uses to establish his supremacy as Head of State.
    [T]he tinted contact lenses he wore caught the light in a manner that imparted a hard, dry gleam to his eye.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Supernatural Powers!: The Mule, who literally breaks destiny itself by up-ending the Seldon Plan thanks to his ability to make vast numbers of people do what he wants. He becomes the single most successful Galactic Conqueror in the history of the Milky Way.
  • Serial Novel: Despite being Novella length instead of Novel, when "The Mule" was first published in Astounding Science Fiction, it showed up in two parts; the November 1945 and December 1945 issues.
  • The Smurfette Principle: Bayta is the first female protagonist in the Foundation series, and has more lines than the rest of the previous female characters put together (not that they had many to begin with). She travels with her husband Toran, the clown Magnifico, and Ebling Mis, meeting leaders of many groups; the Foundation, the Trader revolution, the lieutenants of the Mule, and the imperials of the Galactic Empire, all men. Only occasionally do we see her interacting with other female characters.
  • Spanner in the Works: Seldon is unable to foresee the threat posed by the (mutant) Mule—someone capable of rewriting your emotions permanently—so when the Foundation watches Seldon's new message, expecting to hear a prophecy about the war they're fighting against the Mule's expanding Empire, they hear instead a completely wrong prophecy about a Foundation civil war (that never happened, since the factions involved all saw the Mule as a greater threat. Except in the penultimate chapter, Ebling Mis says Seldon did expect it, and constructed the Second Foundation to defend against the threat.
  • Spell My Name with a "The": The Mule (although his "the" is usually only capitalized at the start of a sentence). None of the characters ever call him simply "Mule", making it clear that it's a nickname, not an actual name.
  • Spin-Offspring: Bayta Darell is a distant descendant of Hober Mallow, protagonist of the events of "The Merchant Princes".
  • Spy Speak: When Captain Pritcher meets with a fellow member of the Democratic Underground Party, they go through a sign/countersign routine to identify themselves.
    The captain mumbled, "I come from Miran."
    The man returned the gambit, grimly. "Miran is early this year."
    The captain said, "No earlier than last year."
  • Squishy Wizard: The Mule, a mutant gifted with Psychic Powers, is described as a physical giant by the poor weakling Magnifico. Other characters assume there's some exaggeration at play, as Magnifico is spindly and barely able to hold up his own body. However, it's a complete fabrication, because Magnifico is the Mule.
  • "Stop the Hero" Twist: The heroes spend Part Two of the story trying to find and contact a secret organization which is their only hope against the Mule. Ebling Mis manages to figure out the location, is about to reveal it... and is shot by Bayta Darell, because she realized the Mule is one of their group, has been all along, and is about to hear the answer.
  • Terra Deforming: Since the last time we saw the capital planet of the Galactic Empire, it's been sacked. Now people are reverting the metal and plastic of Trantor back into an agrarian society in order to grow food.
  • This Is Reality: While on Neotrantor, Bayta is dismayed to have been kidnapped in a palace intrigue plot since this sort of thing never happens to people in Real Life. She repeats this insistence several times more before the climax.
  • Tidally Locked Planet: Radole is uninhabitable, apart from a few areas on the terminator. The capital city is in the largest such area, where conditions resemble a warm June morning on Earth. Possibly one of many such planets with a narrow habitable strip, because they are commonplace enough to have a nickname; "ribbon worlds". Radole hosts a meeting of Foundation citizens from the independent Trader worlds who wish to revolt against the tyrants of Terminus and the Four Kingdoms.
  • To Be Continued: When this story was serialized in Astounding Science Fiction, Part One ended with the Mule's forces conquering Terminus.
  • To Win Without Fighting: After the Mule's fleet has begun invading the Foundation, the Independent Traders are suspicious of how the generals/admirals from the capital are surrendering as soon as combat begins. When his fleet invades the capital planet, Terminus, by surprise, his Extinguishing Field helped to take over the entire planet in one attack. However, it is never used effectively again, but he conquers Haven just as easily. Each Curb-Stomp Battle situation comes from him using his Psychic Powers to "adjust" people. In the battles where he couldn't be present or pre-program the officers, the combat is much longer and much more even. Bayta figures out from this that Magnifico is secretly the Mule, and his Visi-Sonar concerts were cover for when he programmed people into surrendering in battle.
  • Two Aliases, One Character: Magnifico Giganticus, who claims to be the Mule's escaped jester, is actually the Mule. The fact that nearly every description the reader gets of the Mule comes from Magnifico (it's explicitly pointed out that Magnifico is pathologically terrified of the Mule, making his descriptions gross exaggerations) helps obscure this.
  • Unusual Euphemism: Ebling Mis often says "unprintable" as an adjective, although his more tame expletives are variations on "Galaxy!".
  • Unwitting Pawn: Ebling Mis begins searching for the Second Foundation in order to warn them before the Mule conquers their planet, too. Unfortunately, the Mule is present, calling himself Magnifico. Bayta figures it out early enough to stop Ebling from telling the Mule where they are.
  • Villainous Harlequin: Magnifico Giganticus is a Sad/pathetic Clown, however, he's really the Mule, using his musical performances to create triggers that weaken the morale of his audiences when his fleet catches up to him.
  • We Will Spend Credits in the Future: While Bayta and Toran are on the Pleasure Planet of Kalgan, they discuss costs in terms of credits. When they're trying to fly past the territory of Filia, their credits are accepted, despite not being from the same government.
  • Wham Line: In-Universe, the leaders of the Foundation crowd around to see Seldon appear during the 300th anniversary of when Terminus was colonized. They are desperately hoping that Seldon will announce the Mule is the next step in his thousand-year plan. When Seldon's recording appears in the Time Vault, he tells them the Foundation is on the road towards, or is already in, a civil war. His announcement is so unexpected that they start to panic, which is the precise moment that the Mule's fleet attacks.
  • What's Up, King Dude?: Because Ebling Mis is the most respected scientist on Terminus, a planet founded by scientists about three centuries ago, he alone manages to get away with being informal around the Head of State. He wears shabby clothing, smokes, speaks profanely (or so the narrative says), and insults the Mayor of the Foundation directly.
  • The Woobie: Deliberately Invoked by Magnifico, who is a persona created by the Mule, for the purpose of infiltrating the Foundation. Bayta Darell is immediately sympathetic to his plight and appearance. He tells her about the physical and emotional abuse he's suffered at the hands of the Mule, and begs their help in escaping Kalgan. She only stops feeling sympathetic, "motherly" in Toran's words, once she realizes that Magnifico is the Mule that they've been running from.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: The Mule, alias Magnifico Giganticus, is initially introduced to the protagonists as a large man of immense strength and power. In truth, he's an ugly, miserable, scrawny little man, who has been emotionally abused by everyone around him for two decades. Once he realized that he had Psychic Powers that other people didn't, he decided to take revenge on the cruel uncaring galaxy by conquering it.
    "I decided that the Galaxy and I could take turns. Come, they had had their innings, and I had been patient about it - for twenty-two years. My turn! It would be up to the rest of you to take it! And the odds would be fair enough for the Galaxy. One of me! Quadrillions of them!"The Mule