Characters Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
She, also known as She-who-must-be-obeyed and as Ayesha. She is a white queen who has lived for two thousand years in the hidden city of Kor, deep in the African interior, awaiting the reincarnation of the man she loved but murdered. Trying to prove to Leo Vincey that she can make him her immortal lover, she walks into a pillar of flame and is consumed by it, though previously it had given her protection from all the ravages of age.
Leo Vincey, a young Englishman, a descendant of Kallikrates, the man She loved and killed. Following instructions in documents left by his father, Leo travels to Africa to find the Pillar of Life. He meets She, who loves him, and he falls in love with her. After her death in the pillar of flame, he returns, gray-haired from shock, to England.
Mr. Vincey, Leo’s father. When he dies, he places his five-year-old son in the hands of Ludwig Holly, a fellow student at Cambridge, to be reared. He also leaves an iron chest that is not to be opened until the boy’s twenty-fifth birthday.
Ludwig Horace Holly
Ludwig Horace Holly, Leo’s guardian. After his ward is grown, Holly accompanies him to Africa on his incredible adventure.
Job, Holly’s servant. He dies of shock when he sees She die in the pillar of flame.
Ustane, a woman of the savage Amahagger tribe who falls in love with Leo and marries him according to tribal rite. She is killed by a look from the jealous She.
Billali, an Amahagger chief who befriends the white men and helps them escape to the African coast after their adventures with She.
Mahomed, an Arab who accompanies Leo and Holly into Africa. He is shot accidentally when his companions try to rescue him from cannibals.
Bibliography (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Barclay, Glen St. John. Anatomy of Horror: The Masters of Occult Fiction. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1979. In the chapter “Love After Death: Henry Rider Haggard,” Barclay surveys the writer’s supernatural fiction, focusing on She and its three sequels. Concludes that Haggard “found an ideal form of expression” in his African adventures, and ranks him above other writers of the supernatural such as Bram Stoker and H. P. Lovecraft.
Haggard, H. Rider. The Annotated She: A Critical Edition of H. Rider Haggard’s Victorian Romance with Introduction and Notes by Norman Etherington. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1991. Etherington’s critical introduction is the single best source for the beginner. This edition also includes a brief bibliography.
Higgins, D. S. Rider Haggard: A Biography. New York: Stein and Day, 1983. The most accessible and detailed survey of Haggard’s life and works. Higgins discusses She’s sources and genesis as well as the book’s reincarnations on stage and screen. Good bibliography.
Katz, Wendy R. Rider Haggard and the Fiction of Empire: A Critical Study of British Imperial Fiction. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1987. A study of Haggard’s interest in and influence on the British Empire. Important for placing Haggard clearly in the psychological and sociological context of his times. Katz’s final chapter, “A Negro Excepted,” explores aspects of racism in Haggard’s writing.
Moss, John G. “Three Motifs in Haggard’s She.” English Literature in Transition, 1880-1920 16, no. 1 (1973): 27-34. Moss summarizes but dismisses most critical interpretations of She, concluding that “it escapes definition or explanation.” Also faults the sequels for failing to maintain the enigmatic quality of the original.