The Green Hills of Earth

"The Green Hills of Earth" is a science fiction short story by American writer Robert A. Heinlein.One of his Future History stories, the short story originally appeared in The Saturday Evening Post (February 8, 1947), and it was collected in The Green Hills of Earth (and subsequently in The Past Through Tomorrow). Heinlein selected the story for inclusion in the 1949 anthology My Best Science Fiction Story. "The Green Hills of Earth" is also the title of a song mentioned in several of Heinlein's novels.

Plot summary

It is the story of "Noisy" Rhysling, the blind space-going songwriter whose poetic skills rival Rudyard Kipling's. Heinlein (himself a medically retired U.S. naval officer) spins a yarn about a radiation-blinded spaceship engineer crisscrossing the solar system writing and singing songs. The story takes the form of a nonfiction magazine article.[1]

Heinlein credited the title of the song, "The Green Hills of Earth", to the short story "Shambleau" by C. L. Moore (first published in 1933).[2] In the story Moore's character, a spacefaring smuggler named Northwest Smith, hums the tune of "The Green Hills of Earth." Moore and Henry Kuttner also have Northwest Smith hum the song in their 1937 short story "Quest of the Starstone," which quotes several lines of lyrics.

The events of the story concern the composition of the titular song. An aged Rhysling realizes that his death of old age is near, and hitchhikes on a spaceship headed to Earth so he can die and be buried where he was born. A malfunction threatens the ship with destruction, and Rhysling enters an irradiated area to perform repairs. Upon completing the repairs, he knows that he will soon die of radiation poisoning, and asks that they record his last song; he dies just moments after speaking the final, titular verse.

The songs

Heinlein wrote several fragments of lyrics and six full stanzas for the song.

  • We rot in the molds of Venus, / We retch at her tainted breath. / Foul are her flooded jungles, / Crawling with unclean death.
  • harsh bright soil of Luna
  • Out ride the sons of Terra, / Far drives the thundering jet
  • Saturn's rainbow rings
  • the frozen night of Titan
  • We pray for one last landing/ On the globe that gave us birth/ Let us rest our eyes on the fleecy skies/ And the cool, green hills of Earth.

Moore and Kuttner also give fragments of lyrics in "Quest of the Starstone."

  • - Across the seas of darkness / The good green Earth is bright – / Oh, Star that was my homeland / Shine down on me tonight.-
  • - My heart turns home in longing/ Across the voids between, / To know beyond the spaceways/ The hills of Earth are green.
  • - - and count the losses worth / To see across the darkness/ The green hills of Earth...

The fragments have been filled out and additional stanzas added by the filk community. Some versions combine Heinlein's and Moore's lyrics. The song's meter allows it to be sung to a number of popular tunes, including "Amazing Grace"; "Greensleeves"; "The House of the Rising Sun"; "The Rising of the Moon" / "The Wearing of the Green"; Friedrich Schiller's "Ode to Joy" (used in Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, fourth movement); "Oh My Darling, Clementine"; "Semper Paratus"; "The Marine Corps Hymn"; "The Yellow Rose of Texas"; "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing"; "Ghost Riders in the Sky"; "Acres of Clams", and the theme song from the TV show Gilligan's Island.

The story features several other partial songs and a number of titles attributed to Rhysling. These are:

  • The Grand Canal (10 lines)
  • Jet Song (14 lines, unclear if meant to be complete)
  • The Skipper is a Father to His Crew (title only)
  • Since the Pusher Met My Cousin (title only)
  • That Red-Headed Venusburg Gal (title only)
  • Keep Your Pants On, Skipper (title only)
  • A Space Suit Built for Two (title only)
  • Dark Star Passing (title only)
  • Berenice's Hair (title only)
  • Death Song of a Woods Colt (title only)

Several are described as sexually explicit songs excluded from the official edition of Rhysling's works.

Four collections of Rhysling's works are mentioned. They are:

  • Songs of the Spaceways (published the week he died)
  • The Grand Canal, and other Poems
  • High and Far
  • UP SHIP!

References in other Heinlein works

Both the song "The Green Hills of Earth" and the character of Rhysling are mentioned in the novel Time Enough for Love. At an early point in the novel, Lazarus Long bemoans the fact that he cannot "pray for one last landing" because the "Green Hills of Earth" have deteriorated and the planet is uninhabitable. Later, Lazarus tells the story of a blind accordion player who temporarily takes residence in a bordello that he owned on Mars almost two thousand years ago. Although Heinlein readers can easily recognize the character, Lazarus himself does not "recall his right name, if he had one."

The song "The Green Hills of Earth" is referenced three times in Farmer in the Sky as a piece that Bill Lermer plays on his own accordion. Later in that same novel, Lermer is trying to identify a quote ("I have lived and worked with men") and guesses that it was written by Rhysling or Kipling.

Joe-Jim Gregory, the two-headed mutant in Universe, are both fond of "Rhysling, the blind singer of the spaceways". This reference to the character appeared six years before Heinlein actually published "The Green Hills of Earth".

"Since the Pusher Met My Cousin" and "That Red-Headed Venusburg Gal" are both referred to, but no lyrics are provided, in Heinlein's "Logic of Empire".

It should be noted that in 1935 Ernest Hemingway published "Green Hills of Africa". There is, however, no clear evidence of Heinlein being influenced by this title.

Film, TV, radio/audio and theatrical adaptations

The story was adapted for the Dimension X radio series (episode 10). It also appeared on the July 7, 1955, broadcast of the NBC Radio Network program X Minus One. Both versions are told from the point of view of a friend of Rhysling's, and have Rhysling using a guitar instead of an accordion. As well as part of the title song (including the origin of a stanza about Venus) using the tune "Rosin the Bow", two verses of "The Captain is a Father to His Crew" are sung, plus choral verses of "Jet Song", and a complete and particularly beautiful version of "The Grand Canal". The songs were composed and sung by Tom Glazer in a manner akin to Woody Guthrie; Kenneth Williams played Rhysling as a backwoodsman from the Ozarks, an area not far from Heinlein's Missouri birthplace. The broadcast is available on the Old-Time Radio Classical Favorites release in the Smithsonian Institution's Radio Spirits series.

Another adaptation aired on the CBS Radio Workshop on July 21, 1957.[3] The script was by Draper Lewis and Robert Heinlein, produced and directed by Dee Engelbach, with music by Clark Harrington. Everett Sloane played Rhysling, Berry Kroeger narrated, and other cast members included Jackson Beck, Danny Ocko, Ian Martin, Louis Volkman, and Bill Lipton.

The song "The Green Hills of Earth" which appears in the story was also used in the 11th episode of the third series of the British radio series, Journey into Space.

The 1951–1952 television series Out There (episode aired December 2, 1951) had a loosely adapted version of the story (Rhysling is on a mission to the asteroids with a crew which includes a beautiful blonde biologist) which starred singer John Raitt.

In 1977, actor Leonard Nimoy recorded a dramatic reading of the story as the title track of an album for Caedmon Records. Nimoy narrated the song lyric excerpts as originally written by Heinlein without singing them.[4]

Other references

In his book Learning the World, Ken MacLeod pays homage to this song: Chapter 17 ("Fire in the Sky") ends with a scene where a spacecraft evades an attack. The chapter ends with the background intercom blaring:

'"All Hands! Stand by! Free Falling!"'
'And the lights below us fade.'[5]

Anthony Boucher, who was a close friend of Heinlein's in the 1930s in Los Angeles, in his short story "Man's Reach" makes reference to Rhysling's "Jet Song", stating, "The familiar words boomed forth with that loving vigor of all baritones who have never seen deep space":

'"Feel her rise! Feel her drive!"'
'Straining steel, come alive...'[6]

In Randall Garrett's short story The Man who hated Mars, the song plays in the Recreation Building of the penal colony on Mars, reminding all of what they've left.


Isaac Asimov recalled in 1969 "I'll never forget the shock that rumbled through the entire world of science fiction fandom when ... Heinlein broke the 'slicks' barrier by having an undiluted science fiction story of his published in The Saturday Evening Post".[7]

Heinlein revealed in the liner notes to the Leonard Nimoy album The Green Hills of Earth that he partially based Rhysling's unique abilities on a blind machinist he worked with at the Philadelphia Naval Yards during World War II. He never identified him beyond the name "Tony." Heinlein was amazed that Tony had a perfect safety record and a production record equal to sighted machinists, and could identify all his co-workers solely on the sound of their footsteps and other aural clues, without need of them speaking to him first. Tony also occasionally played the accordion and sang for the assembled shop. William H. Patterson, in his Heinlein biography Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue with His Century, Vol. 1 - Learning Curve (1907-1948), identified the blind machinist as Tony Damico.[8]

References to Rhysling and "the green hills of Earth" were made by Apollo 15 astronauts.[9] They named a crater near their landing site "Rhysling." This name has since been adopted officially.[10] Capcom Joe Allen on Earth summoned David Scott and Jim Irwin, as their third moonwalk was ending, with the words "As the space poet Rhysling would say, we're ready for you to 'come back again to the homes of men on the cool green hills of Earth.'"[11]

The Science Fiction Poetry Association (SFPA) award for speculative fiction poetry is called the Rhysling Award.


  1. ^ Heinlein, Robert A. (1981). "The Green Hills of Earth". The Past Through Tomorrow (14th ed.). Berkley. p. 363. ISBN 0-425-04756-3. Nor can we quote them in a family magazine.
  2. ^ Moskowitz, Sam (1967). Seekers of Tomorrow. World Publishing Company. p. 312. OCLC 2008380.
  3. ^ Haendiges, Jerry (August 1, 2004), CBS Radio Workshop on Jerry Haendiges Vintage Radio Logs, retrieved June 28, 2010
  4. ^ The Green Hills of Earth, Robert Anson Heinlein Page
  5. ^ MacLeod, Ken. Learning the World New York: Macmillan, 2005; p. 252.
  6. ^ Boucher, Anthony, "Man's Reach", The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, November 1972
  7. ^ Asimov, Isaac (1969). Nightfall, and other stories. Doubleday. p. 328.
  8. ^
  9. ^ Gifford, James, Rhysling Crater on site:RAH, retrieved June 28, 2010
  10. ^ "Planetary Names: Landing site name: Rhysling on Moon". Gazetteer of Planetary Nomenclature. International Astronomical Union (IAU) Working Group for Planetary System Nomenclature. Retrieved January 30, 2012.
  11. ^ Eric Jones (1996). "Hammer and Feather". Apollo Lunar Surface Journal transcripts of Apollo 15 audio. Retrieved January 30, 2012.

External links

Delilah and the Space Rigger

"Delilah and the Space Rigger" is a science fiction short story by American writer Robert A. Heinlein. One of his Future History stories, it originally appeared in Blue Book in December 1949 and was reprinted in his collection, The Green Hills of Earth (and subsequently The Past Through Tomorrow).

"Delilah and the Space Rigger" is one of Heinlein's stories with a typically strong, smart, capable (for the American science fiction market of the time) female protagonist.

Farmer in the Sky

Farmer In The Sky is a 1950 science fiction novel by American writer Robert A. Heinlein about a teenaged boy who emigrates with his family to Jupiter's moon Ganymede, which is in the process of being terraformed. Among Heinlein's juveniles, a condensed version of the novel was published in serial form in Boys' Life magazine (August, September, October, November 1950), under the title "Satellite Scout". The novel was awarded a Retro Hugo in 2001.Passing references by the lead character to the song "The Green Hills of Earth" and to its author, Rhysling, have caused some to consider it part of Heinlein's Future History series.

Future History (Heinlein)

The Future History, by Robert A. Heinlein, describes a projected future of the human race from the middle of the 20th century through the early 23rd century. The term Future History was coined by John W. Campbell, Jr. in the February 1941 issue of Astounding Science Fiction. Campbell published an early draft of Heinlein's chart of the series in the March 1941 issue.Heinlein wrote most of the Future History stories early in his career, between 1939 and 1941 and between 1945 and 1950. Most of the Future History stories written prior to 1967 are collected in The Past Through Tomorrow, which also contains the final version of the chart. That collection does not include Universe and Common Sense; they were published separately as Orphans of the Sky.

Groff Conklin called Future History "the greatest of all histories of tomorrow". It was nominated for the Hugo Award for Best All-Time Series in 1966, along with the Barsoom series by Edgar Rice Burroughs, the Lensman series by E. E. Smith, the Foundation series by Isaac Asimov, and The Lord of the Rings series by J. R. R. Tolkien, but lost to Asimov's Foundation series.

Gentlemen, Be Seated!

"Gentlemen, Be Seated!" is a science fiction short story by Robert A. Heinlein. It was first published in the May 1948 issue of Argosy magazine. It was later included in two of Heinlein's collections, The Green Hills of Earth (1951), and The Past Through Tomorrow (1967).

Green Hills

Green Hills may refer to several places:

Green Hills, Pennsylvania

Green Hills, Berks County, Pennsylvania

Green Hills, Tennessee

Green Hills Software, an embedded systems software company

"The Green Hills of Earth", a 1947 science-fiction short story by Robert A. Heinlein

It's Great to Be Back!

"It's Great to Be Back!" is a science fiction short story by American writer Robert A. Heinlein. One of his Future History stories, it was first published in The Saturday Evening Post in the July 26, 1947 issue and later reprinted in The Green Hills of Earth (and subsequently The Past Through Tomorrow).

Kenny Williams (announcer)

Kenny Williams or Ken Williams (April 12, 1914 – February 16, 1984), born Kenneth Williams Fertig Jr. in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, was an announcer for American television from the late 1940s to 1980s. He was best known as the announcer of many game shows produced by Merrill Heatter and Bob Quigley (including Hollywood Squares, High Rollers, Gambit and others). He also appeared on screen as "Kenny the Cop" on Video Village and Shenanigans. He did one show for Mark Goodson-Bill Todman Productions, Two for the Money, in 1952. As a radio actor in the 1940s to 1950s, he appeared on shows like X Minus One, where he played Rhysling on the episode "The Green Hills of Earth". He was also one of the announcers for the Buck Rogers radio program, among others. He died at home in Los Angeles, California on February 16, 1984.

Logic of Empire

"Logic of Empire" is a science fiction novella by American writer Robert A. Heinlein. Part of his Future History series, it originally appeared in Astounding Science Fiction (March 1941), and was collected in The Green Hills of Earth (and subsequently The Past Through Tomorrow).

Ostensibly a tale about a man in the wrong place at the wrong time, and his struggle to free himself from the oppressive circumstances in which he is plunged, this story also serves to explain how slavery develops in a new colony. Even in the future, the technology available to a new colony is always initially low. If a machine to do a necessary job is too expensive to import (say a wheat harvester, a water pump, or even a washing machine), a human must do it instead. If too many jobs must be done by hand and there is a shortage of labor compared with independent resources that free labor could take up ("land", although this condition is not clear in the story), a market for slavery develops. Decades later, while there is still an abundance of land, this market remains because the colony itself has quotas to meet and debts to repay - they cannot spare the resources to develop local industries to make the machines themselves and free labor does not have to bid its price down enough to outcompete slave labor.Throughout the story, Heinlein takes the view of the objective narrator when describing Venusian society. "Logic of Empire" places different rationales on the people who participate in slavery. There are no real villains; everybody's just doing their job, trying to maximize income in a mercantilist system. Even the plantation owner who owns the hero is portrayed as a struggling — and failing — small businessman, whose main motivation is to secure a livelihood for his daughter.

Rhysling Award

The Rhysling Awards are an annual award given for the best science fiction, fantasy, or horror poem of the year. Unlike most literary awards, which are named for the creator of the award, the subject of the award, or a noted member of the field, the Rhyslings are named for a character in a science fiction story: the blind poet Rhysling, in Robert A. Heinlein's short story The Green Hills of Earth. The award is given in two categories: "Best Long Poem", for works of 50 or more lines, and "Best Short Poem", for works of 49 or fewer lines.The nominees for each year's Rhysling Awards are chosen by the members of the Science Fiction Poetry Association (SFPA). Each member may nominate one work for each of the categories. The nominated works are then compiled into an anthology called The Rhysling Anthology, and members of the Association then vote on the final winners. Since 2005, the Awards have been presented in July at a ceremony at Readercon. While the "Best Short Poem" category allows very short poems to be entered the SFPA also has the Dwarf Stars Award which is for poems from one to ten lines.In 2005, the SFPA published an anthology of the winning poems, The Alchemy of Stars: Rhysling Award Winners Showcase.

Robert A. Heinlein bibliography

The science fiction writer Robert A. Heinlein (1907–1988) was productive during a writing career that spanned the last 49 years of his life; the Robert A. Heinlein bibliography includes 32 novels, 59 short stories and 16 collections published during his life. Four films, two TV series, several episodes of a radio series, and a board game derive more or less directly from his work. He wrote a screenplay for one of the films. Heinlein edited an anthology of other writers' SF short stories.

Three non-fiction books and two poems have been published posthumously. One novel has been published posthumously and another, an unusual collaboration, was published in 2006. Four collections have been published posthumously.

Heinlein's fictional works can be found in the library under PS3515.E288, or under Dewey 813.54. Known pseudonyms include Anson MacDonald (7 times), Lyle Monroe (7), John Riverside (1), Caleb Saunders (1), and Simon York (1). All the works originally attributed to MacDonald, Saunders, Riverside and York, and many of the works originally attributed to Lyle Monroe, were later reissued in various Heinlein collections and attributed to Heinlein.

Space Jockey

"Space Jockey" is a science fiction short story by American writer Robert A. Heinlein. Part of his Future History series, it originally appeared in The Saturday Evening Post, April 26, 1947, and was collected in The Green Hills of Earth (and subsequently The Past Through Tomorrow).

The story is set in the near future. It realistically depicts a day in the life of a rocket pilot who pilots commercial passenger spacecraft on scheduled runs between the Earth and the Moon. It shows the pilot dealing with problems such as an unruly child of a VIP visiting his control room, recalculating the trajectory when the spoiled brat sends the rocket off course, facing a choice between jettisoning cargo and not having enough fuel to reach the destination, and coping with the demands of superiors.

The story begins with a contentious scene between the pilot and his wife, who is unhappy about his irregular schedule and wants him to take a ground job. Interspersed between the exciting events on the spacecraft, the pilot writes and rewrites a letter to his wife, in the process trying to decide whether he should abandon the job to which he is so well suited. The story ends on the Moon, where the pilot is offered a more lucrative position, with the condition that he relocate to Luna City. He calls his wife and is relieved when she agrees.

The Black Pits of Luna

"The Black Pits of Luna" is a science fiction short story by Robert A. Heinlein about a Boy Scout on a trip to the Moon and his novel way of finding his lost brother. Included as part of his Future History, it originally appeared in The Saturday Evening Post, January 10, 1948, and was collected in The Green Hills of Earth (and subsequently The Past Through Tomorrow).

The Green Hills of Earth (short story collection)

The Green Hills of Earth is a collection of science fiction short stories by American writer Robert A. Heinlein, published in 1951, including short stories published as early as 1941. The stories are part of Heinlein's Future History. The title story is the tale of an old space mariner reflecting upon his planet of birth. According to an acknowledgement at the beginning of the book, the phrase "the green hills of Earth" is derived from a story by C. L. Moore.

The Long Watch

"The Long Watch" is a science fiction short story by American writer Robert A. Heinlein. It is about a military officer who faces a coup d'état by a would-be dictator.

Originally titled "Rebellion on the Moon", the story appeared in the December 1949 American Legion Magazine. It appears in Heinlein's short story collections The Green Hills of Earth and The Past Through Tomorrow. While it is included in collections of Future History stories and appears on Heinlein's timeline chart, "The Long Watch" does not appear to share continuity with the history, but with Space Cadet published a year earlier.

The Past Through Tomorrow

The Past Through Tomorrow is a collection of science fiction stories by American writer Robert A. Heinlein, all part of his Future History.

Most of the stories are parts of a larger storyline about the future rapid collapse of sanity in the United States, followed by a theocratic dictatorship, a revolution, and the establishment of a free society that does not save the pseudo-immortal Lazarus Long and his Howard Families from fleeing Earth for their lives. Most editions of the collection include a timeline showing the chronology of the stories (including stories never written, such as "The Stone Pillow", which was to occur during the period of the theocracy), times of birth and death of the significant characters, and commentary by Heinlein.

The specific short stories included vary with the edition, but typically include:

"Life-Line", 1939; a month before "Misfit"

"Misfit", 1939

"The Roads Must Roll", 1940

"Requiem", 1940

"'If This Goes On—'", 1940

"Coventry", 1940

"Blowups Happen", 1940

"Universe", 1941

"Methuselah's Children", 1941; extended and published as a novel, 1958

"Logic of Empire", 1941

"'—We Also Walk Dogs'", 1941

"Space Jockey", 1947

"'It's Great to Be Back!'", 1947

"The Green Hills of Earth", 1947

"Ordeal in Space", 1948

"The Long Watch", 1948

"Gentlemen, Be Seated!", 1948

"The Black Pits of Luna", 1948

"Delilah and the Space Rigger", 1949

"The Man Who Sold the Moon", 1950

"The Menace From Earth", 1957

"Searchlight", 1962The 1975 and 1986 paperback editions are both missing the story "Universe".

The Robert Heinlein Omnibus

The Robert Heinlein Omnibus is an anthology of science fiction published in 1958, containing a novel, a novella and a short story by American writer Robert A. Heinlein:

Beyond This Horizon (1942)

"The Man Who Sold The Moon" (1950)

"The Green Hills of Earth" (1947)

The Worlds of Robert A. Heinlein

The Worlds of Robert A. Heinlein is a collection of science fiction short stories by American writer Robert A. Heinlein, published in 1966.

It includes an introduction entitled "Pandora's Box" that describes some of the difficulties in making predictions about the near future. Heinlein outlines some of his predictions that he made in 1949 (published 1952) and examines how well they stood up to some 15 years of progress in 1965. The prediction was originally published in Galaxy magazine, Feb 1952, Vol. 3, No. 5, under the title "Where to?" (pp. 13–22).

Following the introduction are five short stories:

"Free Men" (written c. 1947, but first published in this collection, 1966)

"Blowups Happen" (1940)

"Searchlight" (1962)

"Life-Line" (1939)

"Solution Unsatisfactory" (1940)In 1980, the entire contents of this collection, with an updated version of "Pandora's Box", were included in Heinlein's collection, Expanded Universe.

X Minus One

X Minus One was an American half-hour science fiction radio drama series broadcast from April 24, 1955 to January 9, 1958 in various timeslots on NBC. Known for high production values in adapting stories from the leading American authors of the era, X Minus One has been described as one of the finest offerings of American radio drama and one of the best science fiction series in any medium.

—We Also Walk Dogs

"—We Also Walk Dogs" is a science fiction short story by American writer Robert A. Heinlein. One of his Future History stories, it was first published in Astounding Science Fiction (July 1941, as by Anson MacDonald) and collected in The Green Hills of Earth (and subsequently The Past Through Tomorrow).

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