Dark They Were, and Golden-Eyed

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This article is about the Ray Bradbury short story. For the world science fiction bookshop, see Dark They Were, and Golden-Eyed (bookshop).

"Dark They Were, and Golden-Eyed" is a science fiction short story by Ray Bradbury. It was originally published in the magazine Thrilling Wonder Stories in August 1949, under the title "The Naming of Names". It was subsequently included in the short-story collections A Medicine for Melancholy and S is for Space.

The story takes place in the near-future on Mars, as is the case with many of Bradbury's stories.

Plot[edit]

The atomic war causes the Bittering family, Harry, Cora, and their children, Dan, Laura, and David, natives of Earth, to join the 1000 humans who traveled to Mars 60 million miles away on a rocket. Shortly after their arrival, Harry decides he wants to go back to Earth, as Mars is too different from Earth. He has a sense of unease about the whole situation. Unfortunately, the atom bomb hits New York City, destroying all the space rockets and stranding the Bitterings on Mars.

Uneasily settling into their new environment, Harry begins to notice certain subtle changes in the plants and animals. For example, the family dairy cow grows a third horn and the peach blossoms grow an extra petal, extra leaf, and the color and the smell changes. Harry also begins to notice that his family and the people in town are also beginning to change. Upon realizing that there is something seriously wrong, Harry becomes scared of living on Mars, and although his wife and children think nothing of it, Harry begins to suspect a Martian virus, that is in the soil they grow their crops in, is making them act and look like Martians. While his family begins to fear for his sanity, Harry begins eating only frozen food from Earth that he kept in his Deepfreeze. Unfortunately, the food soon runs out and Harry quickly grows desperate, buying the metal and blueprints for a rocket to transport himself and his family home to Earth, despite the imminent danger and the nagging doubt that he will not be able to build a sturdy rocket. He tries to convince Sam and the others to help him build the rocket and return home, but they laugh at him and work halfheartedly. Harry gets into several arguments with them, but oddly enough, they never raise their voices.

Harry's boy Dan wants to be called by a Martian name (Linnl), and Harry himself is using Martian words (Iorrt for Earth). In the meantime, Harry and his family become very dark skinned, tall, thin, and golden-eyed. Harry slowly stops resisting the change, and he is convinced that they, along with the rest of the colonists, should spend the rest of the summer in the cool Martian villas (ancient Martian mansions in the hills), where they can swim in the water canals. They eventually become Martians, and stay in the villas, because that is where they "belong". After a time in the hills, the colonists completely forget about their human origins and transform completely into Martians. This is implied when Harry and his wife notice their old homes and remarks how the "Earth people's" houses are not built sensibly.

At the end of the story, 5 years later, a group of American G.I. astronauts arrives to tell the colonists that they have won the war and that they are here to rescue them, but the American-built town of cottages, peach trees, and theaters is silent and no humans are to be found. When the rocket men searched the hills, the lieutenant comes back to report that there is native life in the hills. The lieutenant says he talked to them for a bit and claims that the natives are very friendly. The captain first suspects that the natives may have killed the colonists, but then the lieutenant suggests that a plague did this town in. They make plans to recolonize Mars, even naming the mountains, hills, canals, and towns after famous people and things from Earth. The ending is a foreboding feeling that what happened to the Bitterings would soon happen to these new colonists.

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