La Planète des Singes is a 1963 novel by Pierre Boulle and the basis for the Planet of the Apes motion pictures, television series, comic books, etc., that have followed for over fifty years. The first edition was published by Éditions Julliard in Paris, France, before translation into English (by Xan Fielding) as Planet of the Apes (USA 1963) and Monkey Planet (UK 1964), and later into other languages. The French word 'singes' can mean both monkeys (simians with tails) or apes (those without), hence the different titles. One of the most important books in the history of science fiction, Boulle said the novel was triggered by a visit to the zoo where he watched the gorillas, impressed by their human-like expressions; "It led me to dwell upon and imagine relationships between humans and apes." But he didn't consider it one of his best novels, calling it 'just a pleasant fantasy'; "There are lengthy parts of the novel where I was not completely satisfied."
A young journalist, along with a physicist and a professor, are going through space when they land on a mysterious planet where they find naked, primitive, animalistic human beings that are hunted, experimented on, and oppressed by evolved, humanoid like apes and monkeys. They all have different fates; the physicist get killed during the hunt, the professor reverts to primitive behavior, and the journalist is held in a laboratory. He finds that each primate species are separated in classes, chimpanzees are kind, peaceful intellectuals and citizens, orangutans are the scientists and the politicians, gorillas are violent and are the laborers, hunters, and authorities, and monkeys are citizens and workers.
The main events of the book are placed in a frame story, in which Jinn and Phyllis, a couple out on a pleasure cruise in a spaceship, find a message in a bottle floating in space. The message inside the bottle was the testimony of a man, Ulysse Mérou, who had written down his story in the hope that someone else, somewhere, would find it. Ulysse began by explaining that he was a friend of Professor Antelle, a genius scientist on Earth in the year 2500, who perfected a new acceleration rocket that could travel at nearly the speed of light. Ulysse, the professor, and a physicist named Arthur Levain flew off in this ship to explore outer space, hoping to make contact with some intelligent alien civilization. They traveled to the nearest star system that the professor theorized might be capable of life - the red sun Betelgeuse, some 300 light years away. Due to time dilation, however, the trip seemed to the travelers only to last two years.
They arrived at the distant solar system and found that it contained an Earth-like planet, which they name 'Soror' (Latin for 'sister'), "because of its resemblance to our Earth." They landed on the planet and discovered that they could breathe the air, drink the water, and eat the local vegetation. They soon encountered other human beings on the planet, although these others acted as primitively as chimpanzees and destroyed the clothing of the three astronauts where a human female killed their chimpanzee Hector. They were captured by the primitive humans and stayed with them for a few hours. Antelle and Levain studied the primitives with a discerning eye: Levain, a misanthrope, did not expect much from man, and was not surprised by the actions of the savage humans. To him, man had always been a primitive savage, and nothing in man's history had proven otherwise; Antelle took a more scientific approach, he studied their simple customs, and discerned that man had devolved into primitives, leaving their vast civilization in ruin. But the Professor believed they could be re-educated. At the end of this time, they were startled to see a hunting party in the forest, consisting of gorillas, orangutans, and chimpanzees using guns and machines. The apes wore human clothing identical to that of 20th-century Earth, except that they wore gloves instead of shoes on their prehensile feet. The hunting party shot several of the humans for sport, including Levain, and captured others, including Ulysse.
Ulysse was taken off to the apes' city, which looked exactly the same as a human city from 20th-century Earth, except that some smaller furniture existed for the use of the chimpanzees. While most of the humans captured by the hunting party were sold for manual labor, the protagonist was sent to a research facility. There, the apes performed experiments on the humans similar to Pavlov's conditioning experiments on dogs, and Ulysse proved his intelligence by failing to be conditioned, and by speaking and drawing geometrical figures. Ulysse was adopted by one of the researchers, Zira, a female chimpanzee, who began to teach him the apes' language - Zira naturally didn't understand French (being his native tongue on Earth), but Merou was able to make his meanings known by sign language. Gradually, he learned to speak the simian language, and Zira learned a few phrases of French. He learned from her all about the ape planet. She was charmed by his manner, and introduced him to Cornélius, a respected young scientist member of the Academy of Science and her fiancé. Eventually, he was freed from his cage, given an apartment in a city not that dissimilar from Paris, and with Cornélius' help, allowed to speak before the ape President and numerous representatives, and was given specially tailored clothing. His speech before the President and the Scientific Congress was carried live on all the television stations. He toured the city and learned about the apes' civilization and history. The apes had a very ancient society, but their origins were lost in time. Their technology and culture had progressed slowly through the centuries because each generation, for the most part, with what was recognized as characteristically ape-like behavior, imitated those of the past. The society was divided between the violent gorillas, the pedantic and conservative orangutans, and the intellectual chimpanzees.
Although Ulysse's chimpanzee patrons Zira and Cornélius were convinced of his intelligence, the society's leading orangutan scientists believed that he was faking his understanding of language, because their philosophy would not allow the possibility of intelligent human beings. Ulysse fell in love with a primitive human female, Nova, whom he had met in the forest at the beginning of his visit to the planet. At first, the simians reacted to Merou with laughter and disgust; but then, little by little, they accepted him as an equal. He became the toast of the town, the hit at every party and the celebrity that everyone wanted to meet. Merou adjusted to this life of fame, and took Nova as his common-law wife. He impregnated her and thus proved that he was the same species as the primitive humans, which lowered his standing in the eyes of many of the apes. However, their derision turned to fear with a discovery in a distant archaeological dig and an analysis of inherited memory in some human brains, revealed during brain surgery to make primitive humans talk. Evidence was uncovered that filled in the missing history of the apes. In the distant past, the planet was ruled by human beings who built a technological society and enslaved apes to perform their manual labor. Over time the humans became more and more dependent upon the apes, until eventually they became so lazy and degenerate that they were overthrown by their ape servants and fell into the primitive state in which our protagonist found them.
While some of the apes rejected this evidence, others - in particular, the old orangutan scientist, Zaïus - took it as a sign that the humans were a threat and must be exterminated. Ulysse learned of this, and escaped from the planet with his wife and new-born son, Sirius, returning to Earth in the professor's spaceship.
Again, the trip took several centuries, but only a relative time of a few years to the protagonist. Three and a half years later, Merou and his family arrived back on Earth, over 700 years after he had originally left it, and landed outside the city of Paris. However, once outside the ship, he discovered that, in the centuries of his absence, simians had risen to dominance and man had de-evolved into primitive animals - Earth was now ruled by intelligent apes just like the planet from which he had fled as they are greeted by a gorilla in military outfit. He immediately left Earth in his ship, wrote his story, placed it in a bottle, and launched it into space for someone to find (this was where his story on manuscript ended).
It is at this point in the story that we discover that Jinn and Phyllis, the couple who found the bottle, are chimpanzees. Jinn and Phyllis dismiss Ulysse's story, saying that a human would not have the intelligence to write such a story.
- Ulysse Mérou: A journalist who took part in the expedition to Betelgeuse. The hero of the novel. He successfully escapes with the help of Zira and her fiancé Cornélius.
- Professor Antelle: The leader of the expedition. He loses his intelligence after his first contact with the apes.
- Arthur Levain: A physicist and assistant to Professor Antelle. He was killed during a raid organized to capture humans.
- Mi Zaïus: The orangutan head of the Research Institute, who does not believe that man can have a soul or a spirit; he despises Ulysse and wants to exterminate him.
- Nova: A beautiful, primitive woman of the planet Soror who is the mate of, and has a child with, Ulysse Mérou.
- Sirius: The hybrid son of Ulysse and Nova.
- Jinn and Phyllis: A couple who, while traveling through space, discovers Mérou's manuscript.
- Hélius: The genius chimpanzee director of the Institute's Encephalic research studies, who performed operations on the brains of humans.
- Hector: A primitive chimpanzee taken with the astronauts on their spacecraft, strangled to death by Nova as soon as he left the craft.
- La Planète des Singes was published by 'René Julliard' of Paris, France, in 1963. (The exact date of publication is unclear - first editions bear a publication date of "the first trimester of 1963" at the back of the book, with the manuscript prepared for printing on the 8 January. The Planet of the Apes 35th anniversary DVD gave a French publication date of 17 May 1963.)
- Planet Of The Apes (June 1963) was published by 'Vanguard Press' of New York, USA, from the translation by Xan Fielding. The first English-language version. (TIME Magazine reviewed the book in November 1963, perhaps suggesting a later publication date.)
- Monkey Planet (January 1964) was published by 'Secker & Warburg' of London, UK, from the translation by Xan Fielding.
- Planet of the Apes (mass market paperback) (March 1964) was published by 'Signet / New American Library' in the USA.
- Saga: The Magazine For Men Vol. 28, No. 2 (May 1964) included an abridged version of Planet Of The Apes with one colour & one black-and-white illustration - the first ever Planet Of The Apes illustrations, in the USA.
- Planet of the Apes (paperback) (October 1964) was published by 'Roc' in the USA.
- Planet of the Apes (mass market paperback) (1965) was published by 'Signet' in the USA.
- Bizarre Mystery Magazine Issue #2 (November 1965) included an abridged version of Planet Of The Apes with two illustrations, in the USA.
- Monkey Planet (paperback) (January 1966) was published by 'Penguin' (in association with Secker & Warburg) in the UK.
- Planet of the Apes (paperback) was published by 'Vintage Classics' in 2011.
Despite Boulle's reservations, there was enough interest in his concept for two production companies to buy the cinematic rights to the book within a short space of time. 'King Brothers Productions' initially hired Rod Serling to prepare a screenplay, before the project was taken over by Arthur P. Jacobs' 'APJAC Productions' (Serling also recalled a period in between when Blake Edwards was to produce, before becoming the director attached to Jacobs' production). After a long and arduous struggle, Jacobs eventually saw the movie through to release in 1968, and it was a huge success. Boulle said: "I never thought it could be made into a film. It seemed to me too difficult, and there was the chance that it would appear ridiculous. When I first saw the film nothing was ridiculous because it had been very well made." But he also added some concern at the differences between the two formats: "In comparison to the book, there were a lot of changes made. Some of them were disconcerting. The first part of the film was very good, and the makeup of the apes was particularly good, and, as I've said, that could have been ridiculous, but it wasn't. I disliked somewhat, the ending that was used - the Statue of Liberty - which the critics seemed to like, but personally, I prefer my own. [Had I been in charge of the production,] I could have provided ideas. If I had been free to make them I would have done them differently, but I'm incapable of working with a group of people which I know is necessary in the making of a film. When I write, I am alone. I give the book to my editor and I don't want to change anything, not even a comma." This was in stark contrst to Jacobs'claim that "Boulle... thought it was more inventive than his own ending, and wished that he had thought of it when he wrote the book." 
Nevertheless, when the success of the movie prompted calls for a sequel, Jacobs turned again to Boulle to guide the project. Though never having written a screenplay before, Boulle turned in a story called Planet of the Men. Dealing with the aftermath of the first movie and detailing a human revolution to overthrow the apes, the screenplay was firmly in the same setting as the movie and bore no relation to the novel that had spawned the film originally. Jacobs, however, found the treatment "uncinematic" and asked another writer to complete a different story that would become Beneath the Planet of the Apes. Boulle had little interest in any of the other Apes movies that followed.
- Planet of the Apes (paperback) (March 1968), published by 'Roc', USA. ("Now an exciting 20th Century Fox Motion Picture")
- Monkey Planet (paperback) (September 1970), published by 'Penguin', UK. ("The book that inspired the film 'Planet of the Apes'")
- Planet of the Apes (paperback) (June 1971), published by 'Roc', USA.
- Planet of the Apes (hardback) (August 1973), UK.
- Monkey Planet (paperback) (January 1975), published by 'Penguin', UK.
- Planet of the Apes (paperback) (November 1985), published by 'Penguin', UK.
- Planet of the Apes (paperback) (June 1989), published by 'New American Library', USA.
- Planet of the Apes (paperback) (February 1991), published by 'Mandarin', UK.
- Planet of the Apes (mass market paperback) (1997), published by 'Random House', Canada.
- Planet of the Apes (hardback) (June 2000), published by 'Gramercy', USA.
- Planet of the Apes (mass market paperback) (May 2001), published by 'Del Rey', USA.
- Planet of the Apes (paperback) (July 2001), published by 'Penguin', UK.
- Planet of the Apes: Monkey Planet (paperback) (July 2001), published by 'Penguin', UK.
- Planet of the Apes (paperback) (2005), published by 'Arrow', UK.
- Planet of the Apes (hardback) (October 2007), published by 'Lightyear Press', USA.
Non-English Language PublicationsEdit
Boulle's novel, bouyed by the success of the 1968 film, has been translated into numerous languages. Some are of particular note among these editions.
- A 1971 hardback edition in it's original French language, included a lavish 34 illustrations. Aside from the few illustrations included in the mid-1960's US magazine publications mentioned above (and the production sketches commisioned by Arthur P. Jacobs), these constituted the first large-scale attempt at illustrating Boulle's story.
- A 1975 Russian-published, French-language edition also included a few illustrations, though not on the scale of the French version.
- In 1981, an ambitious Hungarian-language comic adaptation of Boulle's novel was undertaken, written and drawn by Erno Zorad. This well-crafted publication has more recently been translated into English (with the English dialogue superimposed over the Hungarian original) by devoted Apes fans and made available as a free download.
- A BBC 4 radio adaptation, using a version of the novel abridged by Jane Purcell and read by Michael Maloney, was broadcast in 2005. Again, this has since been made available as a free download.
- In 2012, AudioGO released an unabridged 6-hour audio of the book, read by Greg Wise and available as either CD or MP3 download.
- Boulle's book may have been inspired by the novel Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World by Lemuel Gulliver (1726 - popularly called Gulliver's Travels) by the Irish satirist and poet Jonathan Swift (1667-1745). Collected and revised in 1735, this four-part epic found the titular character marooned in several uniquely alien cultures which contrasted with those of Europe, and thereby revealed many of the absurdities of the 18th century British society from which Gulliver came. In Book IV: "A Voyage to the Houyhnhnms", Gulliver found himself stranded in a society ruled by intelligent horses, who did not understand human concepts such as war, the telling of lies, or sexual passion. In fact, the native feral humans were commonly referred to as 'Yahoos' by the Houyhnhnms, and were shunned by the graceful creatures. Gulliver was mistaken for a Yahoo by the Houyhnhnms, but gradually his intelligent actions revealed Gulliver to be "civilized". He was adopted by one of the Houyhnhnms, and quickly learned much about their advanced and logical society. Gulliver greatly admired the horses for their intellect and found he had nothing in common with the bestial humans, whom he came to despise. By the end of the story, Gulliver was forced to reluctantly leave their native island and struggled to reintegrate into the less than perfect English society, in which he recognised many of the repulsive qualities of the Yahoos. This story of an inverted hierarchy of species preceded, by some considerable time, Charles Darwin's theories regarding evolution and natural selection, and was mirrored in Boulle's work over two centuries later.
- In January 1904, French author Edmond Haraucourt (1856-1941) had his story Le Gorilloïde serialized in three installments in Paris newspaper Le Journal. Set four thousand centuries in the future, the narrative takes the form of a lecture by explorer Professor Sffaty to an audience of intelligent gorillas, the superior surviving beings on an Earth changed beyond recognition by climate change and evolution. Sffaty has discovered in the Alpine region - now merely a cluster of islands in a vast Europic Ocean - evidence of a once-great civilisation of hairless 'gorilloids', along with a lone primitive descendent of that species, and tries to convince a skeptical simian public of his hypothesis. Le Gorilloïde was published as a stand-alone book in 1906, and it seems improbable that Boulle would not have been aware of this French sci-fi precursor to his own work. The story was rescued from obscurity as part of the Haraucourt anthology Le Gorilloïde et Autres Contes de L’Avenir (2001), and was first translated into English (along with eight other previously unavailable Haraucourt stories published beween 1888 and 1919) by Brian Stableford for the collection Illusions of Immortality (Black Coat Press, February 2012).
- Writers L. Sprague de Camp and P. Schuyler Miller wrote the time travel science fiction story Genus Homo, originally published in the magazine 'Super Science Novels' in March 1941 and subsequently published in book form in 1950. Intriguingly, the story concerned a group of humans from 1939 accidentally frozen for thousands of years. They explore their drastically changed surroundings and encounter an isolated community of intelligent beavers (or 'Sthog-Mith') before being captured by a dominant species of largely peaceful evolved gorillas who migrated to North America to escape the aggressive chimps (G'thong-smith), warlike baboons (Pfenmll) and mercenary orangutans (Toof K'thll) who populated Africa (Fonmlith). The humans are stripped of their clothes and in order to gain their freedom have to learn the language of the gorillas, some of whom are more receptive than others. As in the 1968 Planet of the Apes film, the gorillas have a peculiar mix of primitive and advanced technology, explained by the near exhaustion of metal reserves. The story meanders from travelogue to war adventure, all the while betraying the misogyny of the era in which it was written and only briefly touching on the satire of Boulle's book (such as, regarding the baboons' adherence to a royal family rather than democracy: "We gorillas have done many unwise things in the course of our history, but we have never left the choice of our officers to the caprices of heredity!"). The novel was translated into French as Le règne du gorille in 1951.
- English novelist George Orwell's Animal Farm (1945) relived the Russian Revolution as the take-over of a farm by it's farm animals. By applying the very human traits of prominent Russian revolutionaries to common farm animal, Orwell - a socialist bitterly disappointed with the deeply flawed and brutal version of communism represented by Stalin - was able to demonstrate, in an unbiased way, the terrible irony of the idealistic leaders of the repressed masses becoming just as repressive as the leaders they displaced.
- English novelist Aldous Huxley (1894-1963) wrote about another Dystopia, set in 2108 after a war has devastated most of the world and apes rule in place of man. Published in 1948 and written in the form of a discarded and rediscovered screenplay, Ape and Essence followed the attempts of a human biologist to make sense out of the upside-down world. When a group of researchers from New Zealand, the last bastion of human society untouched by the final war, arrived in post holocaust Los Angeles, Alfred "Stagnant" Poole was captured by ruthless, de-evolved humans. He discovered their society had gone savagely wrong, with science being replaced by a type of devil worship. A baboon culture, on the other hand, living concurrently with the humans, was far more civilized and took steps to limit the humans' reproduction. Poole was shocked by all he saw, and returned to New Zealand with news that America was beyond all hope of salvation. Huxley's presentation, as the work of a misanthropic screenwriter, pokes fun not only at human folly but also the system of Hollywood.
- Though it's unlikely to have influenced Boulle's writing, the concept of a lone human in an exclusively ape land was explored in DC Comics' Strange Adventures series, issue #45, "The Gorilla World!" (June 1954). Further, issue #55 had a story of the intelligent ape 'Mr. X' - "The Gorilla Who Challenged the World!" (April 1955).
- The 1957 science fiction novel Across Time by David Grinnell (a pseudonym of Donald A. Wollheim) detailed the experiences of a man thrown one million years into the future, finding the Earth has been taken over by a new race of intelligent humanoids.
- SEE ALSO: Knowing your place on the Planet of the Apes, by Gary Gerani.
- La Planète des Singes article at Wikipedia
- 'Hungarian Planet of the Apes Comic' at Hunter's Planet of the Apes Archive
- 'BBC Audio Adaptation of Boulle's Novel' at Hunter's Planet of the Apes Archive
- Open Library
- ↑ The Monkeys' Pa - TIME Magazine (Nov 8, 1963)
- ↑ 'Cinefantastique Planet of the Apes Issue' (1972) at Hunter's Planet of the Apes Archive
- ↑ Planet of the Apes Revisited by Joe Russo and Larry Landsman
- ↑ Secrets of the Planet of the Apes, Continued…, by Steve Bissette - 'SRBissette.com' (November 16th, 2012)
- ↑ The Gorilloid (excerpt), by Edmond Haraucourt, adapted by Brian Stableford - 'Black Coat Press'
- ↑ Illusions of Immortality, by Edmond Haraucourt, adapted by Brian Stableford - 'Black Coat Press'
- ↑ Genus Homo synopsis and review at 'The Website at the End of the Universe'
- ↑ Genus Homo review, by Alan Maxwell - 'Simian Scrolls' #10 (2005)
- ↑ Planet of the Apes Revisited by Joe Russo and Larry Landsman
- ↑ My Fave Planet of the Apes Knockoffs, by Steve Bissette - 'SRBissette.com'
- ↑ More on Planet of the Apes Predecessors, by Steve Bissette - 'SRBissette.com'
- ↑ Across Time synopsis at WOWIO
- ↑ Across Time synopsis and review at 'Lazarus' Lair'