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Henry Rider Haggard
The Father of Adventure Stories
Henry Rider Haggard (22 June 1856 - 14 May 1925) was a Victorian era adventure writer who is famous for inventing the character Allan Quartermain, most recently featured in the graphic novels of Allan Moore and the feature film of the same name, starring Sean Connery.
Based on some of the events in his personal life, mainly those concerning his former lover, Mary Elizabeth "Lilly" Jackson, you can either consider H. R. Haggard as a noble gentleman or a foolish chump. I won't get into those details here because Wikipedia already does a nice job of covering the topic (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/H._Rider_Haggard) and because I prefer to talk about his prodigious talent as an author instead of his private affairs.
Among his impressive achievements, Haggard is credited with influencing my favorite adventure writer of all time, Robert E. Howard, the creator of the world famous Conan the barbarian character.
Henry Rider Haggard's most famous character, Allan Quartermain, was unquestionably the prototype of the greatest adventurer and explorer in all of fictional literature, Indiana Jones. Like another of my favorite adventure authors, Jack London (January 12, 1876 - November 22, 1916) Haggard wrote from his own, personal experiences and this authenticity clearly shows in his work.
Having lived his own part in the international game that became known as the Scramble For Africa, H. Rider Haggard wrote about the things he experienced first hand and the colorful people he met along the way. His stories, centered mostly around Africa, tell of European adventurers, Zulu warriors and lost civilizations.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Inventor of the Lost World Genre
Not only did Henry Rider Haggard inspire the beloved character, Indiana Jones, but he is also credited with writing the very first Lost World story. Many people mistakenly believe that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of the world's most famous detective, Sherlock Holmes, wrote the first story in this genre because his book was titled the Lost World but this is incorrect. Doyle's The Lost World was written years after Haggard's own novel, King Solomon's Mines, which is considered the very first in this genre.
It must be said though, that Doyle's The Lost Worls is a story so interesting and well written that it is still in print today and still being made into movies and television series. This 1912 tale of exploration and adventure was inspired by H. R. Haggards 1885 novel, King Solomon's Mines and stands up as a great tale of adventure. Another interesting thing to note about Haggard's work is that some of his heroes are native Africans, a rarity among writers at the time.
Henry Rider Haggard's writing is also believed to have shaped another of my favorite writer's efforts, Rudyard Kipling. Kipling was a personal friend of Haggard. Often it is the case that Victorian age stories are not done justice when being translated to the big screen. This is probably because these tales are picked because they are in the public domain and can be made with a small budget. Happily, The Man Who Would Be King, with Michael Cain and Sean Connery, is an exception. One of my favorite movies, this is a great film that you will watch over and over again.
One of the Best Selling Books of All Time
Henry Rider Haggard's book, She, written in 1886 remains one of the best selling novels of all time and has never been out of print in over the last one hundred years. Hailed as a genius example of fiction, She has been made into several, wonderful movies.
The plot is a familiar one, man's search for eternal youth and his submission to the power of the Earth Mother's female spirit. I read this book three times in succession, twice on the first night and then once again the next day. It is an amazing example of fantasy fiction that you will be sure to enjoy.
Watch The Movie, She (1935)
I've never been a big fan of colorizing the classic movies but this DVD contains both the newly colored and the black and white version so you can compare both and make up your own mind which of the two is better.
Ursula Andress Burns Up the Screen
In the 1965 film version, the scorchingly hot Ursula Andress breathes sexy, new life to villainous She Who Must Be Obeyed (really, if Ursula asked me to do something, I'd definitely obey her!) Peter Cushing takes on the part of the male lead and, as always, delivers a wonderful performance.
This is NOT the Movie You Think It Is
When you add this classic adventure tale to your collection, be sure that you don't get it confused with this movie of the same name that stars Sandahl Bergman. They are not the same story at all.
A Review of the Movie She
Based on one of the best selling novels of all time, She is a classic adventure tale in the exciting tradition of the Indiana Jones movies. This story has such an enthusiastic fan base that it has never been out of print since it was first serialized in 1886. If you love tales of Darkest Africa, lost tombs, and primitive savages that worship brutal, blood-thirsty gods, then you will love this movie.
Legendary Hollywood movie star, Randolph Scott, follows in the thematic footsteps of Ponce de Leon as he leads an expedition into the frozen wastelands of the Russian Artic in search of immortality. Scott, playing Leo Vincey, supported by Nigel Bruce as Horace Holly, trudges through spectacularly imposing and exotic scenery to battle savage tribesmen, in his quest to find the flame of life.
They are rescued by the soldiers of She, the living goddess who is immortal and offers the secret of eternal youth to Leo, if he pledges his love and promises to stay with her for all time. Like Wotan in the Nibelungs Ring, Leo is seduced by the offer but things do not end as planned.
Right from the great opening credits with twin, smoking urns, you know that this is not going to be the usual action movie of fist fights and damsels in distress. This story has remained a fan favorite because it taps directly into man's desire for immortality while stimulating the adventure-explorer in all of us.
It also has shades of Dracula in it because Leo is a dead ringer for She's former lover from 500 years ago and thus she becomes convinced it is he reincarnated.
Aside from it's action elements, She shares another similarity with the Indiana Jones franchise in that the treasure being sought is something supernatural, more than just petty gold and riches.
My favorite scene is when the group finds a sabertooth tiger frozen in a block of arctic ice, along with it's victim, a poor sherpa being mauled to death.
Thoughts: I have added some thoughts that contain spoilers at the very bottom of this page.
Did You Know?
Had You Heard of HR Haggard Before This Article?
Thoughts and spoilers about She (1935)
At the end of the movie She enters the life giving flame of eternal life but, instead of becoming younger, she ages terribly, withers and dies. In the movie it's suggested that the universe, god, mother nature, the natural order of things, whatever you want to call it, will no longer allow her this subversion of the natural order. That's an interesting take on it but I think there are some other, equally intriguing ideas.
#1: She's not as old as she says. Maybe she's just one queen in a long line of white queens to hold the hereditary title. That could mean that there is no flame of youth and that it is just a legend that her family has used to subdue the subjects of her empire. Similar to how The Phantom is a family line that the tribesmen all think is just one person. Having become obsessed with Leo, because he looks like his legendary ancestor, She decides to brave the flame, hoping that it does have magical powers. Tragically for her, it does not.
#2 Maybe it's related to what the Tanya Dugmore character spitefully says when she confronts the eternal queen. Dugmore says that love is for the young and that, although her majesty may appear young on the outside, she is in fact, old on the inside. The empress, upon hearing and realizing the truth of this, is determined to turn back her decrepit spirit and either imbibes of the magical flame too much or the flame is not strong enough. She sees her would be lover fleeing from her with a mortal girl and her soul begins to fail and decay with such rapidity that even the magic of the fire cannot save her. The moral of this might be that, in eternally chasing youth, those that cannot accept their own mortality and the natural process of aging are doomed to die unhappy and unprepared.
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