Seeing from the lists in the back of Rider Haggard’s books that there was a novel in which Allan Quatermain meets up with the immortal She, was as thrilling as hearing about an episode of Cheyenne in which Bronco Layne and Sugarfoot also appeared.
She and Allan, supposedly another memoir from the pen of Allan Quatermain, was first published in 1921, nearly forty years after Quatermain’s first account of his adventures, King Solomon’s Mines.
It seems that Allan Quatermain visited Ayesha in her northern caves before Horace Holly, Leo Vincey and Job made the trip.
In a note to the Editor at the start, Allan finds it necessary to explain why, though he had met her years earlier and set down what happened, he has never allowed this book to be published. His reason?He was afraid that if he spread the word about this lovely white woman in the wilds of Africa claiming to be more than two thousand years old it would have been regarded as “a slur upon my memory and truthfulness.”
Captain Good, who was with Quatermain in King Solomon’s mines, gets him to read the novel She, where Quatermain finds to his amazement a description of this glamorous windbag (as he regarded her), “Ayesha, or Hiya or She Who Commands” whom he had met and been hypnotised by many years earlier.
By cross-referencing Allan’s adventures as recorded in the various books, Haggard creates an African dreamtime of his very own. The books interlink and the past and future are like a knitted scarf. Einstein is proved right and time is no longer a straight line.
Umslopogaas, speaking in She and Allan, where he meets Quatermain for the first time, can hint at the death that will overtake him in Quatermain’s company years later. (A footnote advises the reader to refer to the book called Allan Quatermain.)
Many of the African books of Haggard refer to each other in footnotes, thanks to the “editor” of Quatermain’s manuscripts, Henry Rider Haggard.
In this way the books have a kind of 3-D feeling. You are reading one book but you have a hazy sense of the others vouching for its authenticity.
Anomalies have been found by scholars in Allan Quatermain’s lifeline as mapped out by the twenty-odd books devoted to the old elephant hunter. However, the thread of personality that unites them all makes up for that. It’s hard to shake this abiding sense you get that Quatermain lives and breathes and is confiding in you.
Quatermain has a quest in She and Allan, and that is to find out about his dead wives. The ugly psychic dwarf Zikali has told him that there is a “white witch” who can give him the answers he wants. That’s why he consents to visit the country ruled over by the white witch (who turns out to be She). Umslopogaas, who will accompany him, wants to find out about a dead woman too. In his case it’s the love of his life, Nada out of the book Nada the Lily. Umslopogaas also wishes to learn what he can about a “brother of mine whose name I never speak” (Galazi the Wolf, his dead comrade whose fate is also told in Nada the Lily). “For of him as of the woman I think all day and dream all night, and I would know if they still live anywhere and I may look upon them again when I have died as a warrior should and as I hope to do.”
Haggard plays the same themes over and over in his books, and in this case the tale of Inez and Janee very much resembles the tale of little Flossie and her black nurse in Allan Quatermain. Mr Mackenzie’s domain in the veldt as described in AQ, resembles Robertson’s domain in She and Allan.
She and Allan is full of exciting and interesting scenes and notable for describing the first meeting of Quatermain and Umslopogaas.
The talks with Ayesha in the caves of Kor are full of hot air, a bit feeble, and likewise some of the spiritualist-like trances Allan goes into. (It’s touching though, the way Allan is greeted by the dog Smut when everyone else fails to see him. This idea is based on a real experience of Haggard’s which he reported on in detail to a scientific society.)
Many illuminating and moving scenes in that savage world that Haggard knew so well how to create make this book a must for the Haggard fan. (Of course, like many of his later works, it was probably dictated to his secretary. This would have made for a dilution of his style and a loss of many semicolons.)
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A stand-alone short story about Vauclare, the anti-hero of Easy Blood, has been put online at the fabulous Back Road Café. Check it out here.
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