Synopsis[ edit ] A young Cambridge University professor, Horace Holly, is visited by a colleague, Vincey, who reveals that he will soon die. Vincey proceeds to tell Holly a fantastical tale of his family heritage. He charges Holly with the task of raising his young son, Leo whom he has never seen and gives Holly a locked iron box, with instructions that it is not to be opened until Leo turns Holly agrees, and indeed Vincey is found dead the next day. Holly, Leo and their servant, Job, follow instructions on the Sherd and travel to eastern Africa but are shipwrecked.
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Synopsis[ edit ] A young Cambridge University professor, Horace Holly, is visited by a colleague, Vincey, who reveals that he will soon die. Vincey proceeds to tell Holly a fantastical tale of his family heritage. He charges Holly with the task of raising his young son, Leo whom he has never seen and gives Holly a locked iron box, with instructions that it is not to be opened until Leo turns Holly agrees, and indeed Vincey is found dead the next day.
Holly, Leo and their servant, Job, follow instructions on the Sherd and travel to eastern Africa but are shipwrecked. They alone survive, together with their Arab captain, Mahomed; after a perilous journey into an uncharted region of the African interior, they are captured by the savage Amahagger people.
The adventurers learn that the natives are ruled by a fearsome white queen, who is worshipped as Hiya or "She-who-must-be-obeyed". The Amahagger are curious about the white-skinned interlopers, having been warned of their coming by the mysterious queen. Billali, the chief elder of one of the Amahagger tribes, takes charge of the three men, introducing them to the ways of his people. One of the Amahagger maidens, Ustane, takes a liking to Leo and, by kissing him and embracing him publicly, weds him according to Amahagger customs.
Leo, likewise, grows very fond of her. In his absence, some of the Amahagger become restless and seize Mahomed, intending to eat him as part of a ritual "hot pot". Realising what is about to happen, Holly shoots several of the Amahagger. Mahomed dies in the effort to save him from the hot pot, when a bullet passes through one of the Amahagger and kills him as well. In the ensuing struggle Leo is gravely wounded, but Ustane saves his life by throwing herself onto his prostrate body to shield him from spears.
All seems lost as the Amahagger resolve to kill Ustane along with the white men but Billali returns in the nick of time and declares that the three men are under the protection of She. There, Holly is presented to the queen, a white sorceress named Ayesha. Her beauty is so great that it enchants any man who beholds it. She, who is veiled and lies behind a partition, warns Holly that the power of her splendour arouses both desire and fear, but he is dubious.
When she shows herself, however, Holly is enraptured and prostrates himself before her. Ayesha reveals that she has learned the secret of immortality and that she possesses other supernatural powers including the ability to read the minds of others, a form of clairvoyance and the ability to heal wounds and cure illness; she is also revealed to have a tremendous knowledge of chemistry, but is notably unable to see into the future.
Later, when Holly inadvertently and secretly discovers Ayesha in her hidden chamber, he learns that she may have some degree of power to reanimate the dead. The next evening She visits Leo to heal him.
But upon seeing his face, she is stunned and declares him to be the reincarnation of Kallikrates. She saves him and becomes jealous of Ustane. The latter is ordered to leave Leo and never to set her eyes on him again. Ustane refuses, however, and Ayesha eventually strikes her dead with magic. In explaining her history, Ayesha shows Leo the perfectly preserved body of Kallikrates, which she has kept with her, but she then dissolves the remains with a powerful acid, confident that Leo is indeed the reincarnation of her former lover.
She is determined that Leo should bathe in the fire to become immortal and remain with her forever, and that together they can become the immortal and all-powerful rulers of the world. After a perilous journey, they come to a great cavern, but at the last Leo doubts the safety of entering the flame. To allay his fears, Ayesha steps into the Spirit of Life, but with this second immersion, the life-preserving power is lost and Ayesha begins to revert to her true age.
Holly speculates that it may be that a second exposure undoes the effects of the previous or the Spirit of Life spews death on occasion. Before their eyes, Ayesha withers away in the fire, and her body shrinks. The sight is so shocking that Job dies in fright. Before dying, Ayesha tells Leo, "Forget me not.
I shall come again! Holly knows a number of ancient languages, including Greek, Arabic, and Hebrew, which allow him to communicate with the Amahagger who speak a form of Arabic and She who knows all three languages. Leo Vincey — ward of Horace Holly, Leo is an attractive, physically active young English gentleman with a thick head of blond hair. He is the confidant of Holly and befriends Ustane. According to She, Leo resembles Kallikrates in appearance and is his reincarnation.
Ayesha — the title character of the novel, called Hiya by the native Amahagger, or "She" She-who-must-be-obeyed. Ayesha was born over 2, years ago amongst the Arabs, mastering the lore of the ancients and becoming a great sorceress.
Her name Ayesha is of Arabic origin and according to the author should be pronounced "Assha". Job is a working-class man and highly suspicious and judgmental of non-English peoples. He is also a devout Protestant. Of all the travellers, he is especially disgusted by the Amahagger and fearful of She. Billali — an elder of one of the Amahagger tribes.
Ustane — an Amahagger maiden. She becomes romantically attached to Leo, caring for him when he is injured, acting as his protector, and defying She to stay with him. Kallikrates — an ancient Greek, the husband of Amenartas, and ancestor of Leo. Two thousand years ago, he and Amenartas fled Egypt, seeking a haven in the African interior where they met Ayesha. There, She fell in love with him, promising to give him the secret of immortality if he would kill Amenartas.
He refused, and, enraged, She struck him down. Amenartas — an ancient Egyptian priestess and ancestress of the Vincey family. As a priestess of Isis , she was protected from the power of She. When Ayesha slew Kallikrates, she expelled Amenartas from her realm. Haggard wrote in his memoirs of his aspirations to become a colonial governor himself, and of his youthful excitement at the prospects.
Haggard was part of the expedition that established British control over the Boer republic , and which helped raise the Union flag over the capital of Pretoria on 24 May Writing of the moment, Haggard declared: It will be some years before people at home realise how great an act it has been, an act without parallel. I am very proud of having been connected with it. Twenty years hence it will be a great thing to have hoisted the Union Jack over the Transvaal for the first time.
The analogies are far more numerous between the Negro and apes, than between the European and apes. Although disenchanted with the colonial effort, Haggard remained committed to this ideology.
He believed that the British "alone of all the nations in the world appear to be able to control coloured races without the exercise of cruelty". Barely half a century earlier, Thomas Babington Macaulay had declared "the history of England" to be "emphatically the history of progress",  but late-Victorians living in the wake of Darwinian evolutionary theory had lost the earlier positivism of their age.
In , he provided the preface to a monograph that detailed a history of the site, declaring: What was the condition of this so-called empire, and what the measure of the effective dignity of its emperor, are points rather difficult to determine Writing in , Haggard believed that marriage was the natural state for women: "Notwithstanding the energetic repudiations of the fact that confront us at every turn, it may be taken for granted that in most cases it is the natural mission of women to marry; that — always in most cases — if they do not marry they become narrowed, live a half life only, and suffer in health of body and of mind.
Haggard claimed that this period was an intensely creative moment: the text "was never rewritten, and the manuscript carries but few corrections". Haggard went on to declare: "The fact is that it was written at white heat, almost without rest, and that is the best way to compose. The only clear notion that I had in my head was that of an immortal woman inspired by an immortal love. All the rest shaped itself round this figure.
And it came—it came faster than my poor aching hand could set it down. Various scholars have detected a number of analogues to She in earlier literature. According to Brantlinger, Haggard certainly read and was aware of the stories of Edward Bulwer-Lytton , in particular A Strange Story which includes a mysterious, veiled woman called "Ayesha", and The Coming Race about the discovery of a subterranean civilisation.
Watt, to return to his offices. The serialisation was accompanied with illustrations by E. An American edition was published by Harper and Bros. It was the first publication of She in book format, and featured significant textual revisions from the Graphic serial made by Haggard. In a Broadview publication of She became the first edition to reproduce the Graphic serial text since One of the most significant was to the third chapter concerning the sherd, which was substantially expanded from the original to include the tale of Amenartas in uncial and cursive Greek scripts.
A number of footnotes were also included containing historical references from the narrator. Haggard was keen to stress the historicity of the narrative, improving some of the information about geography and the history of ancient civilisations in chapters 4, 13, and In the original serialisation of She, the cannibal Amahagger grow restless and hungry and place a large heated pot over the head of Mahomed, enacting the hotpotting ritual before eating him.
The novel revised the hotpotting incident, with Mahomed dying instead when Holly shoots him accidentally in the scuffle with the Amahagger.
Comparing the serial and novel editions of She, Stauffer describes the more compact narrative of the original as a reflection of the intense but short burst of creativity in which Haggard composed the story, arguing that "the style and grammar of the Graphic [edition] is more energetic and immediate", although as he noted, "sometimes more flawed". The last revision by Haggard to be published was in Journey to the Spirit of Life; Ayesha, having crossed the ravine, beckons Holly, Leo, and Job to follow her using the wooden plank.
A shaft of light divides the darkness about them. She contains various fantasy, adventure, and Gothic genre conventions. Imperial Gothic[ edit ] She is also one of the central texts in the development of Imperial Gothic. In She the danger is raised in the form of Ayesha herself: The terrible She had evidently made up her mind to go to England, and it made me absolutely shudder to think what would be the result of her arrival there In the end she would, I had little doubt, assume absolute rule over the British dominions, and probably over the whole earth, and, though I was sure that she would speedily make ours the most glorious and prosperous empire that the world had ever seen, it would be at the cost of a terrible sacrifice of life.
Rider Haggard is not an exquisite workman like Mr. What would it be to cast off this earthly robe, to have done for ever with these earthly thoughts and miserable desires Yes, to cast them off, to have done with the foul and thorny places of the world; and like those glittering points above me, to rest on high wrapped forever in the brightness of our better selves, that even now shines in us as fire faintly shines within those lurid balls The so-called " New Imperialism " marking the last quarter of the 19th century witnessed a further expansion of British power, particularly on the African continent, and was characterised by a seemingly confident sentiment in the merits of empire and English civilisation.
Indeed, She is preoccupied with stressing quintessential British qualities through the "adventure" of empire, usually in contrast to foreign barbarism. Nonetheless, the "racial politics of the novel are more complex than they first appear", given that Ayesha is in origin an ancient Arabian, Leo is descended from, and physically resembles a blond Hellenistic Greek, while Holly is said to resemble a baboon in facial appearance — an animal Victorians typically associated with black Africans.
Stepping into the Pillar of Fire, the immortal She begins to wither and decay, undergoing as death what Judith Wilt describes as the "ultimate Darwinian nightmare", evolution in reverse.
Ayesha: The Return of She
Opening it, he finds a letter from Horace Holly, with an enclosed manuscript containing a second memoir about She. The doctor recounts how, when attending Holly in his last hours, he arrived at the house to find that Holly had risen from his deathbed and made his way to a local ring of ancient standing stones. Following him, the doctor glimpsed a manifestation that appears to Holly, but as the vision vanished, Holly had let out a happy cry and died. Following their dreams, they wander for years through Asia, eventually coming to " Thibet " as it is spelled in the book.