THE CAPTIVITY OF THE PROFESSOR (1901) – Written by A. Lincoln Green, a presumed pen name, this story was first published in Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine in the February 1901 isssue.
Years before H.G. Wells’ short story The Empire of the Ants came this tale for which that might have been a more appropriate title. The Captivity of the Professor is set in the jungles of Brazil. Our narrator is an entomologist from Scotland who is so intent on studying rare ant species that he ignores warnings of an indigenous tribe and travels into a forbidden region of the vast rainforest.
Before long the professor discovers an unusual ant of unknown species, possessing an oversized head and huge mandibles. The rest of the ant’s fellows fall upon our narrator and, proving to be incredibly intelligent, manage to herd him to their colony using painful bites to spur him along.
The insects, whom the entomologist internally dubs Cavalier Ants, live in small residences that they build themselves. The narrator is alarmed to note that the horrifically cunning and aggressive ants actually enslave other species of animals: a jaguar serving the ants guards both him and a captive capuchin monkey.
The entomologist is forced to slave away at cultivating a garden for the Cavalier Ants to feed upon. This tale’s “turnabout” theme continues, as the scholarly ant that the narrator first encountered passively studies him like human scientists capture and study other species.
Among the slaves of the ants are dragonflies and hummingbirds, who are ridden as flying mounts by the colony’s soldier ants.
Months go by, with the ants executing the capuchin monkey when it accidentally kills one of the insects. The inventive but absurd story continues with the Cavalier Ants who hold the entomologist captive pitting him against a howler monkey which is enslaved by a rival colony.
The narrator loses, and, with his captors growing bored with him, he is set against the jaguar in a battle to the death. This time the entomologist emerges triumphant and is set free.
The scholar stumbles his way out of the forbidden territory and is greeted by the indigenous tribe who tried to warn him not to enter the jungle region inhabited by the Cavalier Ants. The leader of the tribe had previously been held as a slave by the hostile insects, so he and his people were lurking on the outskirts of ant territory to see if our narrator would ever return.
The Captivity of the Professor can’t help but seem incredibly silly, but it has a way of grabbing the imagination. Monkeys might have been more believable as a hostile, conquering species.
FOR TEN MORE EXAMPLES OF ANCIENT SCIENCE FICTION CLICK HERE: https://glitternight.com/2014/03/03/ten-neglected-examples-of-ancient-science-fiction/
FOR WASHINGTON IRVING’S 1809 depiction of an invasion from the moon click here: https://glitternight.com/2014/05/05/ancient-science-fiction-the-men-of-the-moon-1809-by-washington-irving/