Planet of the Apes (novel)  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

La Planète des Singes, known in English as Planet of the Apes in the US and Monkey Planet in the UK, is a 1963 science fiction novel by French author Pierre Boulle. It was adapted into the 1968 film Planet of the Apes, launching the Planet of the Apes media franchise.

The novel tells the tale of three human explorers from Earth who visit a planet orbiting the star Betelgeuse, in which great apes are the dominant intelligent and civilized species, whereas humans are reduced to a savage animal-like state.


In a frame story, a frivolous couple sailing alone in space, Jinn and Phyllis, rescue and translate a manuscript from a floating bottle. The manuscript was written by journalist Ulysse Mérou, who in the year 2500 was invited by wealthy Professor Antelle to accompany him and his disciple, physician Arthur Levain, to Betelgeuse.

Because they travel close to the speed of light, time dilation causes centuries to pass on Earth during their two years in transit. They reach orbit around a temperate, lushly forested planet which they name Soror (Latin for sister). They launch a shuttle to land on the surface. They can breathe the air, drink the water and eat the fruit. Attracted by a lovely golden naked woman whom they call Nova, they swim below a scenic waterfall. She is frightened by their pet chimpanzee, Hector, and strangles it. Her tribe, who comport themselves as dumb animals, wreck the newcomers' clothing and shuttle.

Gorillas, fully dressed as hunters, attack the tribe with firearms. Many are killed, including Arthur. Ulysse is captured with the survivors. Ape clothing matches that of 20th century Earth humans, except that the apes wear gloves instead of shoes on their prehensile feet. The apes smoke tobacco, photograph their hunting trophies, drink through straws and appear utterly civilized. Their stagnant society is divided into three strata: aggressive gorilla soldiers, pedantic and politically conservative orangutan administrators and liberal chimpanzee intellectuals. Humans are mindless animals.

In an urban biological research facility, Ulysse recognizes Pavlov's dog conditioning being used on captured humans. He is mated with Nova. Curious chimpanzee researcher Zira takes an interest in his geometric drawings and his ability to speak a few simian words. With help from her fiancé, Cornélius, Ulysse makes a speech in front of several thousand apes. He is granted freedom and is given tailored clothing. Antelle reverts to primitive humanity in the zoo, similar to the other captured humans, and is moved to the laboratory for safety, where he is mated to a young female.

Cornélius, an archaeologist, excavates an ancient human city. An unconscious human lab subject whose brain has been stimulated by electrodes recites from racial memory the events that led to the fall of human civilization: humans tamed apes and eventually used them as servants. Things began to change. Apes started looking humans straight in the eye. The first ape, a chimpanzee, talked. As more apes learned to talk, a cerebral laziness took hold of the humans. Apes gradually took over human homes, driving the humans into camps outside of the cities. In the final memory, apes attacked the last human camp, carrying only whips.

Nova bears Ulysse a son, Sirius, who precociously walks and talks at three months. Fearing for their lives, they take the place of the human test subjects in a space flight experiment. Because all humans look alike to apes, they are able to escape without notice and they rendezvous with the orbiting ship.

Ulysse programs robots to fly the ship back to Earth. As they fly over Paris, Orly Airport and the Eiffel Tower look the same. When they land, however, they are greeted by a field officer in a Jeep who is a gorilla.

Jinn and Phyllis, being civilized chimpanzees, refuse to believe Ulysse's story is possible and discard the manuscript.


The novel inspired a media franchise comprising nine films, two television series (one animated) and several comic books.

The first film was Planet of the Apes (1968), a science fiction feature film directed by Franklin J. Schaffner from a screenplay by Michael Wilson & Rod Serling and starring Charlton Heston.

A second adaptation of the book was released in 2001 directed by Tim Burton as a loose remake of the 1968 film of the same name. A series reboot with a new production team called Rise of the Planet of the Apes was released in 2011 to critical and commercial success. It was the first in a new series of films.

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Planet of the Apes (novel)" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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