Hapdorn stories


Capital of the Grand Duchy of Thorgelfayne

Bobo on Hugmups and Teddy Bears

In your last letter, you said you had never heard of the “Five Laws of Mechanics.” Actually, it is the “Seven Laws of Mechanics” (I mentioned the fifth one because it was applicable, not because it was last!). I apologize for accusing you of sleeping through school, I had simply forgotten that your scientists had not formulated the natural laws the govern the behavior of artificial devices—even though you unwittingly exploit those laws quite effectively! To your credit, you have discovered the Laws of Motion, the Laws of Thermodynamics; and if memory serves me correctly, you also have the Laws of Socio-Political Development. Again, I apologize.

I am not an expert outside my field, so I can’t explain the Seven Laws of Mechanics to you; but I do know that the fifth one deals with the relationship between the abilities of a machine and its reliability. According to this fundamental law of nature, any device capable of transporting me to Earth is compelled to be so reliable that the chances of it breaking down sufficiently to strand me here is once in every three lifetimes of the universe. You might say those are pretty good odds in my favor! The only reason I am acquainted with the Fifth Law at all is because I am one of those people with a mild phobia about space flight! Yes, even us anthropologist get phobias, too! I must concede it is professionally embarrassing to spend so much time in my cabin hugging a stuffed Hugmup. Even polyester fur and plastic eyes offer some consolation during a Maneuver. If only real Hugmups could go along! But that is a problem the naturalists must tackle.

So you can imagine what a surprise it was for me, who spent hours and hours on the spaceship hugging polyester, to walk into a toy store and see teddy bears on sale! They don’t look very much like Hugmups, but they’re close enough to make you do a double take.

I was enchanted! Teddy bears—almost Hugmups—in every size and color imaginable. Actually teddy bears are too chubby to be Hugmups and have no hands or feet. The faces are not very expressive either, but the overall effect is charmingly similar to a stuffed Hugmup. The Homelander in me just oozed right out. I fawned all over those things. The customers and employees in the store looked at me oddly, which I did not understand at first, but I later realized that, in their view, my behavior was better suited for a child than an adult. I purchased a big one; four feet tall, just like a Hugmup. It set me back the equivalent of one and a half week’s wages, but it was worth it. (The jobs that make the best covers for aliens seem to pay the worst.)

Naturally, I had been aware of teddy bears all along. Even school children on Homeland learn about them. The rough similarities between Hugmups and teddy bears in both appearance and function is very striking. Some sensationalist food store magazines back on Homeland have “experts” declaring that the existence of teddy bears on Earth “proves” one of the following:

Of course, the “experts” these magazines quote to support these theories fall into one of the following categories:

Any serious student of Earth knows that the appearance of the teddy bear is very recent, its origin thoroughly known, and the phenomenon restricted to a few cultures on the planet.

However, while we are on this topic, the similarities between the higher life-forms of different planets are not terribly surprising. Convergent evolution is the norm rather than the exception for the simple reason that there really are few possibilities. An efficient body structure is efficient pretty much everywhere. It is simpler for nature to produce an even number of limbs; and the simplest solution to a problem generally wins out. The fewer the limbs, the simpler the design; thus all higher land-based species have exactly four limbs. Again, I am not an expert out of my field; I am what you call an “informed layman” when it comes to theoretical exobiology. But I do know that, whatever the planet, higher life will most likely be bilaterally symmetrical, have either four legs or two legs with two arms, and a separate head containing the brain and major sense organs. Lower life forms vary wildly from planet to planet and even between continents on the same planet—as you know from comparing Africa to Australia; but even these variations are relatively minor and mainly cosmetic. There are no three-legged mammals, or animals with their brains in their abdomen, or whatnot. But the higher the life form, the narrower the possibilities. A dominant species (such as Humans, Homelanders, Horstmingles or Zerpickers) is almost necessarily Homelanderoid—which is why you can’t pick the alien out of a crowd.

Well, at any rate I took my teddy bear home, cuddling with it and talking to it all the while. This got me a few stares on the bus. It was then that I began to realize something about Humans which had been knocking at my mental back door all along: they are too adult. Adult Humans are detached and too sober. They do not cuddle, they do not play, they don’t emote very well. For instance, I broke a glass container at work last week while I was attempting to maneuver a large, heavy object into the stockroom. Naturally, my feelings were as shattered as the glass. “Don’t worry about it,” my boss said, placing his hand on my shoulder, “accidents happen to us all.” In Thorgelfayne such cold treatment would have meant I had committed a grave offense, and I would have considered myself fired! But here on Earth, that same treatment is considered conciliatory! In Thorgelfayne, I would have been given a prolonged, reassuring hug. On Earth, that sort of treatment is reserved for the losers in the Special Olympics.

It reminds me of the political event I saw on television last month. The leader of some gravely important foreign power was received by the President of the United States and many other dignitaries. They were greeted with handshakes and some half-hearted back pats. On Homeland, this would mean the breaking of diplomatic relations! A handshake instead of a soulful hug means that you regard the other person as possessing some communicable disease or other form of unacceptability. On Earth, nobody hugs—except movie stars receiving their monthly acting awards.

It is sad that adult Humans equate playfulness, hugs and kissing as either childish or romantic activities. It does take a terrible toll on the Human soul: I remember reading a poem written by an elderly Human woman complaining that no one had even touched her for fifteen years. How horribly sad it must be to be Human. Of course, I am aware that this varies from culture to culture and changes with time; but even so, Humans are the coldest Homelanderoids known.

It is my personal hypothesis that this coldness stems directly from the absence of a companion species, such as a Hugmup or a Langmuf. The evidence is building. I hope to show a connection with the high incidence of mental illness among Humans, particularly the very serious disorders of loneliness, alienation and bullying. These illnesses are so prevalent that they aren’t even taken seriously by your health care professionals until they reach the acute stage. Perhaps I will even be able to prove that the ferocity of your international politics—fierce even for an adolescent phase—has the very same cause. If I can prove it, I could very well win a Technical Prize!