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Zenna Henderson

Updated on August 19, 2014

Chronicler of The People

Zenna Henderson (1917-1983) was a science fiction writer who wrote short stories and novellas. She was born in Tucson, Arizona, and was also a schoolteacher. She is best known for her books Pilgrimage: the Book of the People, and The People: No Different Flesh. This was about a group of people who lived on a planet that was destroyed. They got away in spaceships, and some of them settled on Earth. They remind me a lot of, say, Mennonites. They had some extraordinary abilities.

Zenna Henderson was baptized as a Latter-Day Saint, although she was never active, and there is some information floating around that she was Methodist, although there is no evidence to support that she was active there, either.

I also regarded her as somewhat of a role model, because she was a woman of accomplishment, without having any known negative traits.

I am using the photo under the Fair Use Doctrine.

The People

Zenna Henderson wrote two collections of People stories. The People especially appealed to me because of their gentleness, their ethics, and the fact they had some very interesting abilities, which they used for good purposes. As a result of these extra abilities, the People often had problems with other people, who didn't want to accept them. At the time I read the stories, I was in high school, and I had a small collection of friends. I felt about them as one of The People might have felt about another. At one point, we all started "othering". This was a term I think came from the People stories. At least the idea came from there. "Others" were people who could relate to each other so completely they often felt they could read each other's minds. I used to talk to the other girls over the phone, and we would play at being able to read each other's thoughts. Now that I am older, I don't find that appealing at all, and understand what a burden this would be, and how it might affect me spiritually, but at the time, I was very much affected by the characteristics of The People,and wanting to be like them.

I got to talk to Zenna Henderson on the phone a couple of times. Her number was in the phone book. She was always gracious, but we never talked about anything of consequence. Still, it was nice to be noticed by someone I admired that much.

Some of Zenna Henderson's books are available on Amazon. Here are the titles of the books she wrote on the People:

Pilgrimage: the Book of the People

The People: No Different Flesh

Ingathering: The Complete People Stories of Zenna Henderson

Zenna Henderson's other collections

Zenna Henderson wrote two other collections of short stories:

The Anything Box

Holding Wonder

I didn't care for most of these stories, because they are rather dark. However, that didn't stop me from hoping she would publish another book about The People. I often wonder why she needed to write such dark stories, but I never asked her.

Trying to find The People

One geographical name I found in The People stories was Mount Baldy. I was intent on trying to find this place, hoping (in a sort of fantasy way) that I would be able to find The People there. It wasn't until much later that I learned that there are quite a few mountain peaks that are called Mount Baldy, but because Zenna Henderson lived in Tucson, I assumed she meant the Mount Baldy in the Santa Rita Mountains which are a little south of Tucson.

These are my own photographs of Mount Baldy. There are trails up to the peak from Madera Canyon. Nowadays, I go to Madera Canyon to bird. But I never forget the association, from a romantic time of my life, when my imagination could accept the possibility that The People were real and that perhaps I would find them someday.

The first photo was taken on one of my birding trips. The second one was from a greater distance, and I used my own proprietary technique to create a fantasy image.

If you want a good read, that will make you feel happy, I highly recommend the People stories.


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