Nova is a character in the French novel La Planète des Singes.
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 swinning, 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.
Seeing the three nude men swimming in the water. Nova became interested in their actions, and after several hesitant steps like a timid puppy soon joined them. They engaged her in a simple game of frolicking in the water like seals. However Ulysse noticed one disturbing characteristic, of the girl was her eyes existed a void. In fact she lacked of 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 growles at him. Upon seeing the chimp, Hector dashing out to his human masters she attacked him ,and killed 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 make eye contact and the idiocy of three of Earth's finest minds playing a silly child's game hits them and they behin 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 travellers head back to their space pod/launch, but are overtaken by the humans, who begin stripping the clothes off of them, while other 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.
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. She assisted the godforsaken men in gathering food for them and even helped them make nests. Nova eventually spent the night with Ulysse, snuggling next to him for warmth.
The next morning Nova awoke, her eyes making contact with Ulysse's. Nova though frightened 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 her smile. 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.
Before Ulysse could engage in any other attempts at communication, there is a sound of beating drums. All of the humans, including the space travelers, began to run. Ulysse recalls that bushmen on Earth use this tactic to flush game.
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. However she was among those that had been caught in the nets strung up by the hunters. Due to her beauty Nova was selected as an elite and found herself among a group of captives with Ulysse. When he attempted to embrace her, 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 of 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 Pavolv's classical conditioning experiments, reflex conditioning, tool use, etc.
Later Zaius paired the Earthman with the Sororian woman in a study of sexual selectivity. When the Earthman refused to engage in relations with her, Zaius replaced her as the designated mate to Ulysses's neighbor. Before her new mate could touch her, she was returned to Ulysses when he finally responded in the manner of a savage man. Their union ended in cultivating in the eventual birth of their son.
Love Triangle Edit
During her time in captivity with her newly gained 'mate', 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.
After winning the trust of first Zira, and then most of 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 equal to the apes. The two shared a sad parting, to which Ulysse offered her a lump of sugar for her calm behavior before leaving to join in the ape festivities.
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. 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.
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 enthusiasm in learning to display genuine emotions (managing a grimace when imitating Ulysses' smile). 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 able to show the potential and hope for all men on Soror to regain their sentience.
Nova's first step in regaining her kind's lost sentience become's apparent when she is pregnant with Ulysse's child. Zira discovered her to be pregnant and spirited her away to an isolated facility. 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
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.
Despite her animalistic mentality, her heightened self-awareness caused 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 when he encountered other women being subjected to experiments by the apes. For example, after encountering a younger 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 her character evolution was that she was able to release her bitterness towards Zira, even trusting her to touch her son.
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. She took the place of the woman slated to board a space capsule launched by the apes.
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.