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This essay is a very belated response to a " part 1 " published in February 2015. The gist of that essay was a response to a corre...

Saturday, February 16, 2008


As the novel progresses past the middle point, the mythology of *She* becomes more and more the novel's focus, as both Holly and Leo eventually fall in love with her. Clearly each of them represents half of her nature, with Leo equalling her in physical beauty while Holly is her intellectual equal. Later in the novel, *She* will even suggest making both of them as immortal as she is,which would certainly make for a literal "eternal triangle."

Pages 104-05 are interesting in suggesting the broadness of the immortal's intellect: as *She* apparently needed something to fill her time while waiting for Leo's reincarnation, she has apparently experimented on human beings like a later figure of literary myth, Wells' Dr. Moreau. Readers see only a collection of deaf-mutes who serve Ayesha, but she claims to have also bred a race that was so ugly she did away with it, and "giants" who were expunged not by her will but that of "Nature." A page or two later Holly compares her to Circe.

One thing about the literary *She* that I've never seen in other media-adaptations is that she is among the early figures of post-industrial literature who can project vital force from her body, in a manner roughly analogous to the millions of ray-blasting SF-aliens and superheroes that have crowded the pages of popular culture. *She* initially warns off Ustane, a rival for Leo, by striking Ustane so that parts of the girl's hair turn white. And when Ustane still won't give up Leo, *She* kills her outright with that vital force, and then hurls Leo (who attacks Ayesha in defense of Ustane) away with that force. *She* is careful to distinguish her powers from magic, however, and Etherington hypothesizes that Haggard was probably inspired by similar "vital force" theories in Bulwer Lytton's THE COMING RACE.

Most of the novel's other symbolic tropes are well-covered by Etherington, but I will say that I find it interesting that the mysterious cave where She gains her immortality from an equally-mysterius "Flame of Life" is called"the very womb of the Earth." Clearly, given the earlier comparisons of *She* to classical goddesses like Circe and Artemis, symbolically *She* is a goddess of the Earth. And even though this novel ends with her falling victim to mortality, one can easily view it as an ascension like that of Hercules, who dies mortally but ascends to Mount Olympus. And indeed, of the three later *She* books Haggard wrote-- two of which are prequels-- the last in temporal occurence,AYESHA:THE RETURN OF SHE, does grant this "goddess" a new form of life, albeit one as fraught with frustrations as the old immortal-seeming one.

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