Encounter in the Dawn

"Encounter in the Dawn"[1] is a short story by British author Arthur C. Clarke, first published in 1953 in the magazine Amazing Stories. It is part of the short story collection Expedition to Earth. Some of the story's ideas also occur in Clarke's 1968 novel 2001: A Space Odyssey and its corresponding film.

"Encounter in the Dawn"
by Arthur C. Clarke
Illustration in Amazing Stories
CountryUnited Kingdom
Genre(s)Science fiction
Published inAmazing Stories
Publication dateJune–July 1953


The story has appeared under several titles. In his 1972 book The Lost Worlds of 2001, Clarke noted that:

An editor at Ballantine Books gave it the ingenious title "Expedition to Earth" when it was published in the book of that name, but I prefer "Encounter in the Dawn". However, when Harcourt, Brace and World brought out my own selection of favourites, The Nine Billion Names of God, it was mysteriously changed to "Encounter at Dawn".


Three scientists, Bertrond, Altman and Clindar, are crewing a spaceship on a survey of the Milky Way. They come across a planet that is very similar to their own homeworld, and is inhabited by a species of intelligent but primitive humanoids. Life of this type is rare, so the three men make contact with one of planet's inhabitants, a hunter named Yaan. Yaan does not understand his visitors' language or technology (which includes an advanced robot) and he regards them as gods of some kind.

Bertrond hopes to lift Yaan's people out of their "barbarism", and begins to introduce Yaan to new technology and knowledge. However, the civilisation that the scientists come from is collapsing, for unclear reasons relating to "mistakes" and the death of stars. Altman and Clindar insist that they all abandon the expedition and return to their homeworld. As a result, Yaan's people will be left to develop alone, which could take them millions of years.

Before departure, the melancholy Bertrond speaks to Yaan about the irony and tragedy of their encounter, though Yaan still cannot understand him. Bertrond gives Yaan several gifts, including a sharp blade and a powered torch. Then he boards the spaceship, which takes off and vanishes into the night sky. Yaan realizes that the "gods" are gone forever, and wanders back to his village. The story ends with saying that "more than a thousand centuries ahead, Yaan's descendants would build the great city they were to call Babylon", revealing that Yaan's people are prehistoric humans and their planet, the setting of the story, is Earth.[2]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Encounter in the Dawn title listing at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database
  2. ^ ""Encounter at Down" (short story): Another precursor to "2001 A Space Odyssey"". arthur-clarke-fansite.blogspot.com.

External linksEdit