She: A History of Adventure
Title page of third book edition.
|Illustrator||E. K. Johnson (Graphic)|
Maurice Greiffenhagen & C. H. M. Kerr (1888 ed)
|Media type||Print (serial, hardback, paperback)|
|Pages||317 (1887 hardback)|
|Text||She: A History of Adventure at |
She, subtitled A History of Adventure, is a novel by English writer
The story is a first-person narrative that follows the journey of Horace Holly and his ward Leo Vincey to a lost kingdom in the African interior. There they encounter a primitive race of natives and a mysterious white queen named Ayesha who reigns as the all-powerful "She", or "She-who-must-be-obeyed". In this work, Rider Haggard developed many of the conventions of the
She is placed firmly in the imperialist literature of nineteenth-century England, and inspired by Rider Haggard's experiences of
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.
Billali tells Holly that he needs to go and report the white men's arrival to She. 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. Leo's condition, however, worsens and he eventually nears death as Ustane faithfully attends to him.
They are taken to the home of the queen, which lies near the ruins of the lost city of Kôr, a once mighty civilisation that predated the Egyptians. The queen and her retinue live under a dormant
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. Despite the murder of their friend, Holly and Leo cannot free themselves from the power of Ayesha's beauty and Leo becomes bewitched. 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.
In the climax of the novel, Ayesha takes the two men to see the Pillar of Fire, passing through the ruined city of Kôr into the heart of the ancient volcano. 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!"