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Ringworld character
First appearance1970
Created byLarry Niven

Speaker-to-Animals (or later Chmeee) is a fictional character in the Ringworld series of books, written by Larry Niven.

In Ringworld, Speaker-to-Animals is a junior diplomat who is trained to deal with other species without reflexively killing them. He is recruited by Nessus, a Pierson's Puppeteer, as a member of an expedition to explore the Ringworld.[1][2]


Speaker is a Kzin, a member of an extraterrestrial race of large tiger-like beings. He is a trained diplomat posted to the United Nations. His title (in place of a name he has yet to earn) is a polite reference to how Kzinti refer to non-Kzin races.

Following their return to Known Space, he is given the name of Chmeee (the "ch" is pronounced like a guttural German "ch", as in "ach") and given breeding rights by the Kzinti Patriarch.

In the sequel The Ringworld Engineers Chmeee, along with Louis Wu, is kidnapped by the Hindmost (the exiled leader of the Puppeteers). The Hindmost wants Louis and Chmeee to uncover the secret behind the creation of the Ringworld.

Chmeee appears briefly in The Ringworld Throne and Ringworld's Children. His son, Acolyte, is a supporting character in these novels.

As a member of the Kzin species, Speaker-to-Animals is extremely dangerous and always ready to fight despite the fact that he is a diplomat. He was the one that caused the most damage to the Ringworld village of Zignamuclikclik and were he not a part of the Docile Kzinti project, he probably would have leveled the village to the ground. He is also responsible for the expedition's safety on Ringworld and therefore is in charge most of the time.

Physical description[edit]

Chmeee is approximately 8 feet in height and 400-500 pounds in weight. He, like all kzinti, is covered with a thick coat of long fur that comes in various combinations of orange, yellow, and black. His face has black fur across the eyes resembling a bandit's mask, or the facial markings of a raccoon. His tail is naked and similar in appearance to a rat's tail. Kzinti ears are hairless, pink, and shaped liked a segment of a Chinese parasol (or cocktail umbrella); they can fold back flat against the head for protection during a fight.

Chmeee was badly burned during Ringworld; and as a result, his body was covered with scars. After involuntarily receiving an injection of the Kzinti analog of boosterspice, his scarring gradually disappeared. However, he acquired new scars after a fight with a Pak protector in The Ringworld Engineers.

Character traits[edit]

Honor: Chmeee places a very high value on honor. Late in the novel Ringworld, he is deprived of food. Rather than eating Louis Wu and appearing to be a coward, he would rather starve in reach of meat and be seen as honorable.

Warlike: As most Kzinti, Chmeee is very warlike. He is always on guard in case he is attacked. There are numerous examples in both novels[clarification needed] he appears in where he sees things as weapons first, tools second. Early in the second novel, he gored Louis Wu by accident when Louis shook him awake. Chmeee is a fantastic fighter and will kill without a second thought. However, he is comfortably outmatched by Teela Brown, by that time a Protector-stage human, who nearly kills him despite her best efforts to lose a hand-to-hand fight.


  1. ^ T. A. Shippey (1996). Magill's Guide to Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature. Salem Press. p. 785. ISBN 0-89356-909-7.
  2. ^ Kirk H. Beetz (1996). Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction. Beacham Pub. p. 3582. ISBN 0-933833-38-5.

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