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The Ugly Little Boy by Isaac Asimov

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“The Ugly Little Boy” is a 1958 science fiction novelette by Isaac Asimov. It is about a small Neanderthal boy who is brought into the future for scientific experimentation and the nurse who takes care of him.

My Favorite Author And My Favorite Subject

It is no secret that I am a huge fan of Isaac Asimov. His classic Foundation series are the books that launched me into the realm of science fiction from which I have never looked back. So in a way I feel that he has a small part in my starting of this web site. What is perhaps lesser known is the fact that I also love anthropology. Yep, that would have been my first choice of study at the university, but I felt I had a better chance of making a living in computer science. Anyway, I was thrilled to find that this story contained both elements: Asimov and anthropology. I was also a bit taken aback by how much I enjoyed the story and how involved I became in the plot. Not only was the story line a very cool idea, but I was surprised by how touched I was by the plight of Miss Fellowes and Timmie. This may very well qualify as my new favorite story by Isaac Asimov.

The Boy In The (Time) Bubble

Neanderthal child!

So then, “The Ugly Little Boy” is about Edith Fellowes, a former maternity ward nurse who has recently been hired by Stasis, Inc. to take care of an “un-pretty” child. After accepting the job she is surprised to learn that the child is a small Neanderthal boy brought from 40,000 years in the past! Even though he is ugly and uncivilized she still grows attached as she cares for him in the special 3 room apartment which he can never leave. Over time, as several scientists study his physiology and behavior, Miss Fellowes teaches “Timmie” to talk, act civilly and eventually read. But as Miss Fellowes grows closer to the boy, her employer becomes more obsessed with perfecting the time-snatching technology, and this leads to to an unpleasant confrontation about Timmie’s future.

My Two Cents…

  • A very touching story which caused me to think about the social ramifications connected with high technology.
  • Very well written. Better, I think, than some of Asimov’s other stories.
  • I found myself thinking about “The Ugly Little Boy” for days after reading it – a sign of a good story indeed.
  • It is, however, not an action story. This is one of those “thinker” stories, so if you don’t like those kinds of stories then this may not be for you.

Stats:

  • My Rating: 4.9 out of 5
  • Page Count: 19
  • Word Count: 11,759
  • “The Ugly Little Boy” first appeared in the September 1958 issue of Galaxy Magazine under the title “Lastborn”, but was later reprinted under its current title in the 1959 collection Nine Tomorrows .
  • It placed 40th in the 1999 Locus All-Time poll for best novelette.
  • It is included in the excellent collection Isaac Asimov: The Complete Stories, Vol. 1., which you can find at Amazon.com or on eBay.
  • You can read “The Ugly Little Boy” online for free at the Miss Fellowes blog.

More of The Ugly Little Boy

In case you didn’t know (like me), this story was expanded into a novel also named The Ugly Little Boy in 1992. The novel was written by both Isaac Asimov and Robert Silverberg, and apparently it expands the story and gives more details about Timmie’s Neanderthal tribe, talks about a child advocacy group that is trying to free Timmie, and explains what happens to Miss Fellowes after the events in this novelette. You can find the novel at Amazon.com or on eBay.

“The Ugly Little Boy” was also made into a short film (26 minutes) in 1977. You can watch a cool clip from the movie where Timmie shows up for the first time, at YouTube.

Craving More Stories?

If you liked this story then you might also enjoy Jeffty is Five by Harlan Ellison – about a five year old boy who lives in a very strange pocket of time.