Larry Niven Wiki
Larry Niven Wiki
Known Space
Books RingworldThe Ringworld EngineersThe Ringworld ThroneRingworld's ChildrenFleet of WorldsJuggler of WorldsDestroyer of WorldsBetrayer of WorldsFate of Worlds
POV Characters Louis WuNessusTeela BrownBeowulf ShaefferSpeaker-to-AnimalsGil Hamilton
Locations EarthMarsVenusSol Asteroid BeltHomeWe Made ItJinxDownPlateauSerpent SwarmWunderlandRingworld

Louis Gridley Wu is the second of two children born to Carlos Wu and Sharrol Janss. Born a "Flatlander", Louis is best known among his friends for inventing the "Sabbatical" — going off alone in a spaceship outside the boundaries of known space until one can tolerate human company again. Other accomplishments: discovering the Trinoc, winning for humanity the "Quantum II Hyperdrive," capable of moving a spaceship one light-year in 1.25 minutes, saving the Ringworld, and being the only hominid to become a Protector and return to normal afterward.


Sharrol was married to Beowulf (or "Bey") Shaeffer at the time but the Fertility Board of the United Nations of Earth had absolute control over reproductive rights on that planet (its population was about 18 billion at the time). The Board denied a parenthood licence to Shaeffer based on his albinism, considering it an undesirable genetic trait. Sharrol was unable to leave Earth because of her Flatland Phobia, a fear of being off-planet. They asked Carlos Wu, a friend of Sharrol's who has an unlimited parenthood license, to help them. Sharrol and Wu were married on a two-year contract arrangement; Tanya Wu was born in 2649 and Louis a year later.

Shaeffer returned to Earth in 2650 and both children were raised by Sharrol and Beowulf. Carlos remained a family friend to both Bey and Sharrol. Several years later, amidst unusual and perilous circumstances, Louis, his sister, mother, and Beowulf along with Carlos and his girlfriend, Feather Filip, secretly and illegally emigrated from Earth to Fafnir.

Upon reaching Fafnir, Feather shot Shaeffer in the chest with an ARM punchgun, but Carlos managed to escape with Tanya and Louis and Sharrol killed Feather by cutting her throat, then decapitating her. Sharrol then placed Bey's head in Carlos's nanotechnology-based AutoDoc where it reconstructed his body, sizing it to the Intensive Care Cavity of the autodoc, which was tailored to Carlos's body proportions. Eventually, Beowulf recovered, was reunited with Sharrol, and had two more children with her, Jeena and an unnamed second child; therefore, Louis has one sister and two half-siblings, who grew up on the Home colony world. Eventually, in his adulthood, Louis moved to Earth.

He celebrated his 200th birthday by working his way from party to party around the world using transfer booths to stay ahead of the dateline.

After one of his "calls" gets diverted to a hotel room, he accepts an offer to go on an expedition with three other members — two aliens (a Pierson's Puppeteer named Nessus, and a catlike Kzin called Speaker-to-Animals) and Teela Brown, a human female supposedly bred for luck. The group crash-landed on the Ringworld, a huge structure 3,000,000 times the area of Earth.

After those events he relocates to Canyon, where he becomes a wirehead.

Louis then returns to the Ringworld looking for matter conversion technology for another Pierson's Puppeteer, a deposed leader named "Hindmost." While there, he discovers that the Ringworld is unstable. He decides to save the Ringworld with Speaker-To-Animals (now christened Chmeee) and the Hindmost (after Wu "slags" the Hyperdrive Motor, trapping them there again).

In an adventure some 70 years before the events of Ringworld (around when Wu was 130) that is related in Betrayer of Worlds, that he does not recall in his later life (e.g., in Ringworld), Louis is found by a Pierson's Puppeteer named Nessus while working in a hospital in a rebel camp on Wunderland and severely addicted to pain killers. Louis is then known by the name Nathan Graynor. Nessus is attempting to find members of Louis' family, but Louis reports them dead. Desperate and hoping Louis has similar talents, Nessus recruits Louis with the understanding that his memory would be altered before his return to Known Space, he would be saved from the Civil War on Wunderland, well compensated and cured of his addiction.

Louis Wu also became the first human to make contact with the Trinoc species.[1]


Louis is 6'2" tall and has a uniform blend of caucasoid, mongoloid and negroid features. He has a yellow-brown skin tone, and straight black hair with non-slanted eyes[2] (He is described as having no noticeable slant to his eyes in Ringworld but in subsequent books such as The Ringworld Throne and Ringworld's Children he is described as having them). After emigrating to Canyon he changes his face.[3] In Ringworld's Children it is mentioned that a Ringworld native is "eight inches shorter than Louis, five feet six or a little more".


While Louis Wu was raised by Beowulf Shaeffer, in the first Ringworld novel Louis seems not to know who Shaeffer is. As the Known Space universe continued to grow in complexity with each newly published story, Louis' own backstory was increasingly retconned to fit in with this continuity. This is also probably why Louis never reflected on the obviously-traumatic events in his childhood that took place on Fafnir. This might also be explained as Louis simply being tight-lipped about certain aspects of his personal history, a trait he shared with both his biological father Carlos and his adoptive father, Shaeffer.

Appears on[]