Born of Man and Woman

"Born of Man and Woman" is a science fiction short story by American writer Richard Matheson, originally published in the July 1950 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. It was his first professional sale, written when he was twenty-two years old. It became the title piece in Matheson's first short story collection in 1954.[1]

"Born of Man and Woman"
AuthorRichard Matheson
Country USA
Genre(s)Science fiction
Published inThe Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction
Media typePrint (Magazine)
Publication dateJuly 1950

Plot summary

The story is written in the form of an internal "diary" in broken English kept by what the reader presumes is a deformed child (gender unspecified) chained in the basement by its violently abusive parents (The story makes it clear that the man and woman who have imprisoned the child are its biological parents when the child recalls the man commenting about how, in stark contrast to the child, "Mother [is] so pretty and me decent[-looking] enough."). The child-narrator can sometimes pull its chain from the wall and observe the outside world through the basement window. On one occasion it even manages to sneak upstairs, although it has difficulty because its body drips green fluid that causes its feet to stick to the stairs. It eavesdrops on a dinner party but is discovered by its parents, returned to the basement, and violently beaten. On another occasion it climbs to a small window and observes a little girl (possibly its "normal" sister, who is apparently unaware of the chained child's existence), playing with other little girls and boys, whom the narrator, having no concept of ordinary childhood, can only describe as "little mothers and fathers." One of the boys sees the child at the window, and it is again beaten as a result. In a final incident, the girl brings her pet cat (which the chained child can only describe as a creature with "pointy ears") into the basement. The chained child hides from them in a coal bin, but when the cat discovers the child and hisses at it, the child crushes the cat to death. The story ends with the child-narrator, again being beaten, knocking a stick from its father's hands, which sends the suddenly frightened man fleeing upstairs. The child resolves that if its parents abuse it again, it will turn violent, as it had once before, noting that it ran along the walls and hung down "with all [its] legs," revealing that the child is far more deformed than the reader may have presumed, is in fact an actual "monster."


"Born of Man and Woman" was among the stories selected in 1970 by the Science Fiction Writers of America as one of the best science fiction short stories published before the creation of the Nebula Awards. As such, it was published in The Science Fiction Hall of Fame Volume One, 1929-1964.

In 2001, it was a finalist for the Retro-Hugo Award for Best Short Story for 1951.[2]


  1. ^ "Galaxy's 5 Star Shelf", Galaxy Science Fiction, August 1954, p.95
  2. ^ 1951 Retro-Hugo Awards, at; retrieved August 11, 2018

External links

Born of Man and Woman (short story collection)

Born of Man and Woman is the first collection of science fiction and fantasy stories by Richard Matheson, published in hardcover by Chamberlain Press in 1954. It includes an introduction by Robert Bloch. A truncated edition, dropping four stories, was published by Bantam Books in 1955 as Third from the Sun.

Richard Matheson

Richard Burton Matheson (February 20, 1926 – June 23, 2013) was an American author and screenwriter, primarily in the fantasy, horror, and science fiction genres. He is best known as the author of I Am Legend, a 1954 science fiction horror vampire novel that has been adapted for the screen four times, as well as the film Somewhere In Time for which he wrote the screenplay based on his novel Bid Time Return. Matheson also wrote 16 television episodes of The Twilight Zone, including "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet" and "Steel". He adapted his 1971 short story "Duel" as a screenplay directed by Steven Spielberg for the television film Duel that year. Seven of his novels and short stories have been adapted as motion pictures: The Shrinking Man, Hell House, What Dreams May Come, Bid Time Return (filmed as Somewhere in Time), A Stir of Echoes, Steel (filmed as Real Steel), and Button, Button (filmed as The Box). The movie Cold Sweat was based on his novel Riding the Nightmare, and Les seins de glace (Icy Breasts) was based on his novel Someone is Bleeding.

Third from the Sun

For the Richard Matheson story collection that carries the same title in some editions, see Born of Man and Woman (collection)."Third from the Sun" is episode 14 of the American television anthology series The Twilight Zone. It is based on a short story of the same name by Richard Matheson which first appeared in the first issue of the magazine Galaxy Science Fiction in October 1950.

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