Category: h. rider haggard

“Saga of Eric Brighteyes” (1890) by H. Rider Haggard, a book that, in my view, along with Haggard’s own “She,” were the first two fantasy novels.

Fantasy novels are not the same as fairy tales or folklore, and it’s a genre that took a long time to bud off from horror and genre-fluid “weird fiction,” existing for decades before it even had a name, and is the last major genre of fiction to emerge completely in the mid-20th Century. Fantasy novels have realistic characterization and a grounded, non-dreamlike setting we are supposed to accept as “real” as our own history, yet they have the sense of adventure/romance of turn of the century adventure novels, combined with the unreal, fantastical and outright weird elements that come from horror and weird fiction, taken matter of factly as a part of the worldview of people in the past, like witches’ brews, werewolves, ghosts, and griffins. 

Bob Eggleton, the Ancient Allan

Happy birthday to one of the foundational authors of the adventure and fantasy genre, H. Rider Haggard!

Happy Birthday to one of the truly foundational writers of fantastical weird fiction, horror, and fantasy, H. Rider Haggard. His work, based in his love of history, the eerie, the miraculous, and the awesome, often set in the Africa where he lived in the Natal, is still awe inspiring to modern readers and deeply contemporary.

It’s commonly said that Frankenstein was the first science fiction novel. If so, H. Rider Haggard’s She was probably the first fantasy novel. 

James Earl Jones as the Zulu warrior-prince Umslopagaas, “Son of Shaka,” in “Alan Quatermain and the City of Gold.”

Photo

Frank Kelly Freas’s cover for “She,” which is one of the few illustrations that not only doesn’t blow the “She in a Pillar of Flame” finale, but also gets across the mood of adventure, horror, and the miraculous. 

He said that he based the appearance of Ayesha, She herself, supposedly the most beautiful woman who ever lived, on his beloved wife. 

Maurice Griffinhager’s illustrations for the 1888 edition of the African adventure and possibly the first fantasy novel, H. Rider Haggard’s “She.”

Michael Herring’s covers for H. Rider Haggard’s She and the sequels. 

It’s often said that Frankenstein was the first science fiction novel. If so, H. Rider Haggard’s Victorian African adventure “She” was the first fantasy novel…phantasmagorical, weird, imperialist, surreal, centered on reincarnation and dream like imagery, and engrossing. The money Haggard got from this he used to finance the creation of the modern Tarot deck. The image of She, in the fire, undestroyed, may be one of the most famous in all fantasy fiction.

Lawrence Sterne Stevens’s cover for “Famous Fantastic Mysteries” with H. Rider Haggard.

For the most part, I think colorization of a black and white film classic is an act of absolute vandalism that deserves a flogging. But the colorized 1935 version of “She” was aided by a weird color palette that made everything look dreamlike and unreal, which actually aided the eerie mood of the film.