Were the Moties originally four-armed?

Trying to remember - were the Moties originally four-armed but evolved to three? I seem to remember something about that in the discussion of the Warriors.

The Moties from The Mote in God’s Eye

As I recall they were related to the 4 armed Watchmakers. I think there is a mention of them formerly being 4 armed themselves or at least their predecessor.

I haven’t read the book in a long time now, so I can’t remember for sure.

This link says:

Although the original four-armed symmetrical Motie body plan still exists, the typical member of the species inherits an ancient asymmetrical mutation.

So they’re no longer forewarned?

Quiet, you! Lest your Fyunch(click) strike you down.

Lest your, Lester del Ray do you mean? I don’t think he had anything to do with the Moties.

I cannot claim to be an expert on the matter, but I have looked at this in some detail and have some conclusions that might be helpful.

The motie anatomy has elements of what design science calls “informal symmetry”. While they are three armed, their less delicate vice grip like arm is roughly the size, or even larger than the two delicate “tool using” arms and significantly stronger than those arms (by about four times as I recall – I suspect it was O’Brien the engineer who made this observation as his main focus was practical usefulness, the anthropologists and life science crowd seemed more focused on how they evolved that way rather than why beyond the obvious that any tinkerer has learned – if I only had ONE more hand to hold the object, or to get this tool to work with the other tool I could fix anything!!)

If they were/are asymmetrical in any sense, it is in the opposite direction than the reader would imagine. Their single arm with claw is bigger and stronger than the other two arms combined (hence the informal symmetry – like two small tables balancing one long table in an architectural design for example). That is not just speculation, you will recall that Moties do not have vertebrae; they have three long, strong, thick bones like a shortened femur without the ball at the head. It was mentioned more than once in the book (when observed by different humans) that the back and shoulder muscles were assuredly asymmetrical and contained more muscle mass and more power on the side of the single arm. (The point of this paragraph is that the powerful single arm is superior in almost all way despite being fewer by half. The fact that both sides are less useful without the other is obvious.)

I will also mention that there were “left handed” Moties where the two delicate tool using hands were on the left and the massive vice like arm was on the right. It seemed to be very slightly less than the number of random left handed humans in the book, suggesting random biological anomalies were universal across time and space as well as species.

It is pretty much established that Motie culture is significantly older and longer running than human culture. It is quite obvious within the book that if they ever were four armed creatures (aside from the smaller “watchmakers”) they evolved into a more useful anatomy long, long ago. Even the Warrior Class were three armed as I recall. There is little doubt that the one powerful “gripping hand” (and I never did read that sequel although I have read “Mote” at least five times) balanced by two slender fingered piano playing and tool using hands was considered by the authors as the ideal configuration.

Many late night drinking bouts and other discussions with those familiar with the book in my past have assured me that one strong arm is infinitely more useful than two additional weak but dexterous ones - - but only as long as you have two already. Despite my original stand on the matter, I am now convinced more than two tool using hands would more likely get in the way while a strong but intelligently controlled hand would be ideal.

The warriors were mostly three-armed, but had a fourth, very small, limb underneath the gripping hand, ending in a knifelike claw.

You’re not missing much. It was written in a period where Larry & Jerry in their books, rarely explained what the hell was going on, and, I guess, trusted their readers to take note of hints dropped 25 pages prior. I found it equal portions of, “Huh?” and “Zzzzz.” Loved TMIGE, on the other hand.

Ringworld Throne suffered a lot from that effect, as well as not getting to Louis and the Hindmost for nearly half the book. Not a fan.

Oh, that’s right, I had forgotten that detail. It kind of sounds impractical now – having a bayonet against your rib cage, the most venerable place on your body. Might be useful if you have an insanely powerful arm you can pull an opponent into your armpit with.

Thank you, I had heard as much. I tried to get a new friend to read Lucifer’s Hammer with me recently but she can’t follow something that long or complex.

Because I can remember details from LH, but not from TMiGE, I will often compare characters from LH while reading TMiGE. For example, I remember thinking that the navigator (or whatever his role was) Renner was based upon Timothy Hamner- amateur astronomer. I also thought the distant Russian Admiral was what outsides would have thought of Senator Jellison if they only saw him from afar.

I guess it is time to read The Mote again.

Renner was far more of a smart-ass tourist type, who frequently didn’t know when to shut up. Basically Beowulf Schaeffer in the Co-Dominium-verse.

I’m trying to think of who he’d be most like in Hammer…it’s been so long, but Tim Hamner didn’t come to mind for me. Unlike the easy ones, like Mark Czsecu = Harry Red. (Apologies for the misspellings I’m sure I’m doing.)

I enjoyed participating in this discussion, thanks to all for educating me and listening to my views.

Since you are all such attentive readers, it would be a joy to welcome all of you into the Robert B. Parker SPENSER book club starting Sunday the 22nd. If you are not familiar, they are much shorter easier reads in the Mystery/Detective genre. We are starting with his first novel The Godwulf Manuscript which I should have finished for the umpteenth time today when I was instead posting here. Even if you haven’t read it (or read it recently) any and all comments and observations are welcome.

Apparently the Czsecu/Hairy Red character is based upon a real man named Frank Gasperik. Isn’t Hairy Red from footfall? If not, there is a biker guy in that book with very similar traits also. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_Gasperik

As for Renner/Hamner, their physical descriptions were quite similar as I recall, but more than that, I attributed Hamner’s awkward silence and discomfort in social settings to his wealthy family teaching him to shut-up whenever possible while Renner’s awkwardness was expressed in saying things better left silent. Having been both of those guys in real life, it really is two sides of the same coin.
(In all seriousness I could introduce you to people who knew me well for years who think I am one of the quietest humans on earth – and others who wonder if I ever shut up!)

I share your opinion and frustration, it really put me off Niven after that, despite reading about everything he’d previously written.

This may also be of interest:


The link in the OP, I see, has gone bad. Try this: