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H. Rider Haggard's Nada the Lily. A Triumph of Translation Gerald Monsman University of Arizona ARTICULATING THE SIGNIFICANCE of African life before missionary conversions, imperial trade, technology, and annexation had effaced mystery and heroic romance, H. Rider Haggard's Nada the Lily (1892) enthralled Victorians with striking episodes from the precolonial empire of Zululand. Currently emerging as a controversial text of imperialism —recently, even more problematic than King Solomon's Mines ( 1885) or She (1887)—Haggard's saga recounted the bloody reign, assassination , and aftermath of Shaka KaSenzangacona (otherwise in colonial orthography: Chaka, Tyaka, T'shaka, 1780s-1828), the greatest African ruler of the nineteenth century.1 Here also Haggard devised a fictional "prequel" for his near-mythical warrior from Allan Quatermain (1888), Umslopogaas, son of Shaka, who in this narrative is entangled in a doomed love for Nada, a visionary figure of quasi-mystical purity and the "lily" of the Zulus. Fred Fynney, Haggard's campfire buddy from his Natal period, had noted in Zululand and the Zulus (1880), two lectures published a dozen years prior to Nada, that in the popular press in the wake of the Zulu War (1879) "the word 'Zulu' has become almost a household word" but "though we have heard so much of the Zulus, as a matter of fact, little is actually known of their history."2 Quite simply, Haggard's romance was the first popular account of the early Zulu kingdom—that is, before the British partitioning of Zululand in the wake of the Zulu War—and the novel had an immense impact on British perceptions of the native peoples. Probably the proximate origin ofNada lay in the remark of Haggard's friend and collaborator, the anthropologist Andrew Lang, two years before its publication: "How delicious a novel all Zulu, without a white face in it, would be!"3 Accordingly, Haggard produced a fictional biography of Shaka by a Zulu narrator—with no white face except Haggard's 371 Umslopogaas from a photograph taken the day before his death 23 October, 1897 H. Rider Haggard From The Days of My Life: An Autobioraphy. Longmans, Green, 1926 MONSMAN : HAGGARD authorial persona, an outer-frame chronicler, conceivably an unnamed Allan Quatermain from King Solomon's Mines, who observes that he himself "plays no part in this story."4 Haggard's "double-I" narrative device possibly looks forward to Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness (1899). But of course the white trader who publishes Shaka's history hears it not from a Charlie Marlow-type adventurer but from a native witch-doctor , a prosopographic (because historical data are so scant) Mopo living under the alias of Zweete near Shaka's grave. In the writing οι Nada, Haggard drew extensively on Fynney's pamphlet for scenes that characterized Shaka; particularly, the material of Fynney's first lecture, "The Rise and Fall of the Zulu Nation," became the fictional content of Haggard 's novel, though this was undoubtedly supplemented with an account by his mentor, Theophilus Shepstone, "Early History of the Zulu-Kafir Race," in John Bird's Annals of Natal (1888).5 Also in his preface toNada, Haggard cites the works of Bishop Henry Callaway and David Leslie as principal sources. From Callaway's The Religious System of the amaZulu (1870) Haggard took material on native weapons, on Mopo's powers as a "diviner," and on Zulu religion, particularly Zulu cosmogonie myths and the deus ex machina figure of Umkulunkulu, Queen of Heaven.6 From Leslie's Among the Zulus andAmatongas (1875), he took the concept of Nada herself ("a Zulu Venus"), material on native "doctors," and borrowed from two Zulu narratives, one literally true ("the artifice by which Umslopogaas obtained admission to the Swazi stronghold") and one fictional ("the fate of the two lovers at the mouth of the cave") which he combined to create the love-story subplot.7 Umslopogaas himself was modeled on a Swazi camp assistant of Shepstone who had told Haggard stories of his people.8 For Shaka's successor , Dingane, Haggard repeats a sinister anecdote: "Of the incident of the Missionary and the furnace of logs, it is impossible to speak so certainly . It came to the writer from the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 371-397
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
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