Models of Cornelius and Zaius as they appear in the 1968 movie Planet of the Apes.

Planet of the Apes (French: La Planète des singes; first published in the United Kingdom as Monkey Planet) is a science fiction novel by the French author Pierre Boulle. It was first published in France in 1963, English translations appeared in the United States later the same year and in the United Kingdom in 1964.

The main character in the novel is a French journalist named Ulysse Mérou. Together with Professor Antelle and physicist Arthur Levain, Mérou travels into space on a voyage in search of intelligent life forms. The three men arrive on a planet on which humans are naked savages, incapable of speech, and the dominant species are chimpanzees orangutans and gorillas. Levain is killed and Professor Antelle quickly degenerates, becoming like the planet's primitive humans in all aspects. However, Mérou is able to convince the chimpanzee scientist Zira and her lover Cornelius of his intelligence. Zaius, the orangutan head of the Reasearch Institute, dismisses Zira's claims, stating that humans have no intelligence because thay have no souls. After making a televised speech before the Scientific Congress, Mérou convinces almost the entire planet of his intelligence. He becomes a beloved celebrity, until the ape society begins to consider him a dangerous threat and turns against him.

The novel was probably inspired by Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels, in which Gulliver travels to Houyhnhnmland, an island of civilized horses and beast-like humans called Yahoos, and George Orwell's political fable Animal Farm.

In 1968, the novel was adapted into a Hollywood movie which spawned an ongoing franchise.

Unlike Taylor, the main character in the movie, Ulysse Mérou in the novel does not discover that the Planet of the Apes is really Earth. However, the novel has a different twist ending.


Planet of the Apes book cover

Front cover of the first American edition of the novel from 1963.

Jinn and Phyllis, a vacationing couple taking a cruise on a spaceship, find a message in a bottle. Jinn, who has studied on Earth, recognizes the language and reads the message to Phyllis.

The message recounts the experiences of Ulysse Mérou, a journalist who is a friend of the great scientist Professor Antelle. In the year 2500, Antelle perfects a means of traveling faster than light. Mérou, Antelle and physicist Arthur Levain leave Earth in search of alien civilizations. Their voyage to the red star Betelgeuse appears to take two years to them, although three hundred years have passed on Earth.

In orbit around Betelgeuse is a planet which the three men name Soror (Latin for "sister") because it looks almost identical to Earth. They land on the planet and find that they can breathe the air, drink the water and eat the plants. They are soon captured by primitive humans who tear off the three men's clothes. Antelle believes that the planet's inhabitants were civilized once but have fallen into barbarism. Levain says that the people of Earth are savages too, as their history of violence and aggression proves.

After a few hours, a hunting party of chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans arrives. The apes are dressed exactly like people from 20th century Earth, except that they wear gloves instead of shoes on their hand-like feet. Some of the humans, including Levain, are shot dead, others, including Mérou are taken captive. Mérou is taken into a city - which looks exactly like a 20th century Earth city, complete with cars - and left at a research center where apes carry out scientific experiments on humans.

Unlike the other humans, Mérou refuses to do what the apes command. He shows his intelligence by drawing geometric diagrams and speaking, although the apes do not understand his language. The chimpanzee scientist Zira takes Mérou home with her. She teaches him the apes' language and he teaches her a little French. Mérou is introduced to Zira's fiancé Cornelius, a respected member of the Academy of Science, has specially made clothes provided for him and is eventually given his own apartment.

Mérou sees Professor Antelle again but can detect no trace of the former great mind of the famous scientist, who now behaves in the same beast-like way as all the other humans on Soror.

WonderCon 2011 - Planet of the Apes costumes (Dr Zaius and Dr Zira) (5593337505)

People dressed as Dr. Zaius and Zira as they appear in the 1968 movie Planet of the Apes.

Cornelius arranges for Mérou to give a speech, carried by all the television networks, before the Academy of Science. Although some orangutans, chief among them Zaius, the head of the Research Institute, continue to reject the idea of truly intelligent humans because it conflicts with their philosophy, Mérou becomes both famous and accepted within ape society as an equal.

Mérou learns the history of ape civilization. On Soror, gorillas are hunters, soldiers and laborers, chimpanzees are scientists and intellectuals, orangutans are scientists and politicians and monkeys are laborers. The origins of the apes' civilization are lost in time but progress has been slow, each generation having copied the previous one in a "monkey see, monkey do" way.

Through brain surgery, ape scientists are able to make the primitive humans of Soror talk, tapping into the collective memories of their species. Those collective memories reveal that humans were once the dominant species on Soror. They kept apes as slaves and became increasingly dependent on them over time. Eventually, it became easy for the apes to rise up and overthrow the lazy humans.

Mérou falls in love with a primitive woman whom he calls Nova. When they have a child, a boy called Sirius who quickly shows signs of sharing his father's intelligence, final proof is provided that Mérou is of the same species as the humans of Soror. Zaius is concerned that humans may attempt to take control of the planet again and declares that they should be exterminated. Mérou is forced to flee the planet for his own safety. Taking Nova and Sirius with him, he leaves in Professor Antelle's spaceship.

The return journey, like the journey to Soror, feels like only a few years to the travelers but really takes several centuries. Mérou returns to the planet that he left seven hundred years earlier. The spaceship approaches Paris, which does not appear to have changed very much, and lands at an airport near the city. Mérou steps out of the craft and sees a uniformed security guard. When the guard turns round, he is revealed to be a gorilla.

Jinn and Phyllis are unsure if the story of intelligent humans is real or simply a joke. The novel ends with the revelation that Jinn and Phyllis are themselves chimpanzees.


Heston and harrison planet of the apes

Charlton Heston as Taylor and Linda Harrison as Nova in a publicity photo for the 1968 movie Planet of the Apes.

Five years after the novel was first published, it was adapted as a Hollywood movie which spawned an ongoing media franchise.

Planet of the Apes, directed by Franklin J. Schaffner and starring Charlton Heston as Taylor (roughly equivalent to Ulysse Mérou from the novel), Roddy McDowall as Cornelius, Kim Hunter as Zira, Maurice Evans as Zaius and Linda Harrison as Nova, was released in 1968. The first draft of the script was written by Rod Serling, creator of the TV series The Twilight Zone and Night Gallery. The script underwent several revisions but Serling's twist ending, in which Taylor finds out that he is on Earth when he sees the partially buried Statue of Liberty, was retained.

Pierre Boulle was brought in to write a sequel to the movie but his treatment, which he called Planet of the Men, was not used.

Three sequels to the movie followed; Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970), Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971), Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972) and Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973). Escape from the Planet of the Apes uses some material from Pierre Boulle's novel that was unused in the 1968 movie, but with the human and ape roles reversed. Cornelius and Zira travel back in time to 20th century Earth. They convince the public of their intelligence and the charming chimpanzees soon become celebrities. However, when Zira becomes pregnant, people worry that it is the beginning of the take over of the world by intelligent apes and the two chimpanzees become wanted fugitives. The remainder of the series follows the progress of their son Caesar, leader of the ape rebellion.

Ron Harper Wayne Foster Zina Bethune Planet of the Apes 1974

Wayne Foster (as the gorilla sergeant), Zina Bethune and Ron Harper appear in this publicity photo for the 1974 TV series Planet of the Apes.

A short lived Planet of the Apes TV series ran on CBS between September and Decmber 1974. The series featured Ron Harper and James Naughton as two astronauts who land on a future Earth on which apes have become the dominant species but humans have not yet degenerated to the naked mute savages of Boulle's novel or the 1968 movie. The humans in the series more closely resemble medieval serfs who have to do the bidding of their ape overlords.

An animated series, Return to the Planet of the Apes, which made use of characters and other elements from the 1974 TV series, Boulle's novel and the four movies, aired on NBC between September and November 1974.

Tim Burton's "re-imagined" version of Planet of the Apes, starring Mark Wahlberg, Tim Roth and Helena Bonham-Carter, was released in 2001. It is neither a remake of the 1968 movie nor a new adaptation of Pierre Boulle's novel, although it does make use of elements from both of those along with new material.

Rupert Wyatt's 2011 movie Rise of the Planet of the Apes, starring Andy Sirkis, James Franco, Frieda Pinto and John Lithgow, reboots the franchise by providing a new story about how a chimpanzee called Caesar leads the apes in revolt. The story has been continued in the films Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014) and War for the Planet of the Apes (2017), both directed by Matt Reeves.

In addition to the movie and television adaptations, there have been numerous comic books set in the Planet of the Apes universe and novelizations of the movies have been published.

External links

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