Edgar Rice Burroughs Meets H. Rider Haggard

October 25, 2009


A Contribution To The

ERBzine Library Project

Edgar Rice Burroughs Meets Rider Haggard


R.E. Prindle


     Among the very many important influences on Edgar Rice Burroughs, contending for the top spot was the English novelist of Africa, Henry Rider Haggard, frequently named as just Rider Haggard.

     Haggard was born on June 22, 1856 in Norfolkshire.  He died on May 14, 1925.   When Burroughs was born in 1875 his future idol was beginning his stay in South Africa of seven years duration.  It was there that Haggard learned the history of the Zulu chiefs from Chaka to Cetywayo that figures so prominently in his African novels.

     In Africa at twenty, he was back in England at 27.  Even though Science was surging through England and Europe curiously Haggard was untouched by it all his life.  There is not even an acknowledgement that he had ever heard of Evolution in his novels.  Nor was he religious in the Christian sense.  Instead he became well versed in the esoteric tradition leaning even toward a pagan pre-Christian sensibility.  Perhaps very close to African animism.

     One supposes that on his return to England he might have immersed himself in Madame Blavatsky’s Isis Unveiled published in 1877.  He certainly seems to be a theosophical adept in his first two African novels, King Solomon’s Mines and She but he must have been pursuing his esoteric studies in Africa to have known so much.  If so, he is certainly knowledgeable of Zulu and African lore having a deep sympathy for it.  Indeed, he frequently comes across as half African intellectually. 

     Once he began writing he apparently never put down his pen.  I am unclear as to how many novels he wrote.  For convenience sake I have used the fantasticfiction.com bibliography which lists 50, but as I have sixty so there are obviously some missing.  In addition Haggard wrote a dozen non-fiction titles.

     While writing dozens of African novels Haggard also wrote a dozen or so esoteric novels placed throughout the eastern Mediterranean, Mexico and Nicaragua.  These are all terrifically impressive displays of esoteric understanding, breathtaking as a whole.  Usually disparaged by those without an esoteric background and education these volumes are almost essential reading for anyone so inclined.  For those who would deny ERB’s esoteric training and background I refer them to Haggard’s novels.

     The key to understanding Haggard’s thinking and works are a batch of novels exploring the relationship of the Anima and Animus.  Haggard’s quest in which he failed was to find union with his Anima.

     His fictional seeker and alter ego was Allan Quatermain.  Thus the first of his esoteric novels is King Solomon’s Mines, in which he introduces Quatermain establishes his Ego or Animus.  With his next novel, She, he introduces his Anima figure Ayesha otherwise known as She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed.  Early Sheena, Queen Of The Jungle.

     She was much acclaimed as the epitome of the Theosophical doctrine by Madame Blavatsky while C.G. Jung asserted that She was a perfect representation of the Anima figure.  Haggard followed She (1886) with Ayesha, The Return Of She (1905) and the final volume of the trilogy, Wisdom’s Daughter: The Life And Love Story Of She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed (1923).  Terrific stuff, well worth a couple reads each.  She, of course, became the model for Burroughs’ La of Opar.

     Haggard died in 1925 so it can be seen that he was obsessed by his quest for union with his Anima.  Two additional volumes deal with his problem.  The trilogy does not include Allan Quatermain so Haggard had to write his alter-ego into Ayesha’s story.  This was begun in She And Allen of 1920.  You can see that he closer he got to his death the problem became more urgent.  The end of the story was told in his postumously published Treasure Of The Lake (1926).

     Treasure is the most hauntingly beautiful title Haggard wrote.  Just astonishing.  In the novel Quatermain is ‘called’ to travel to a hidden land.  He has no idea why but fate is visibly arranging things so that he must obey.  Terrific stuff.  The Treasure Of The Lake is none other than Allan’s Anima although no longer called Ayesha.  She lives on an island in the middle of a lake in an extinct volcano, She being the Treasure.  Heartbreakingly she is not for Allan.  He is only to get a glimpse of the grail while a character is rescued by Allan who bears a striking resemblance to Leo Vincey, the hero of She who is winner of  the Treasure.  The Treasure is reserved for him.  Thus Allan and Haggard journey back from the mountain’s top having seen the promised land but not allowed to enter.  By the time the first readers, which included Edgar Rice Burroughs, turned the pages H. Rider Haggard had crossed the bar, his bark being far out on the sea.

     Burroughs was impressed.   His 1931 novel, Tarzan Triumphant, is a direct imitation in certain episodes.  Largely on that basis I have to speculate that Burroughs read the entire Haggard corpus at least once.

     The Anima novels of Haggard then are:

1. King Solomon’s Mines

2.  She

3.  Ayesha, The Return Of She

4.Wisdom’s Daughter: The Life And Love Story Of She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed

5.  She And Allan

6.  The Treasure Of The Lake

     The writing of the titles span Haggard’s writing career.

     His first esoteric novels which I heartily recommend are Cleopatra, The World’s Desire (top notch), The Pearl Maiden, Montezuma’s Daughter, Heart Of The World, Morning Star and Queen Sheba’s Ring.

     What most people think of and when anyone thinks of Haggard is his character Allan Quatermain.  The makes and remakes of Quatermain and She movies are numerous.  You could entertain yourself for many an hour.

     Fourteen novels were published during Haggard’s lifetime, the best known being King Soloman’s Mines and Allan Quatermain.  Many people have no idea he wrote anything else.  She, of the first African trilogy, doesn’t include Quatermain.

     Both of the first Quatermains were highly influential on Burroughs.  Tarzan was fashioned to some extent on the character Sir Henry Curtis, the original white giant.  While most people look for the origins of Tarzan in the Romulus and Remus myth of Rome that is only a small part of it that reflects Burroughs’ understanding of ancient mythology.  The models for Tarzan are more diverse including not only Curtis but The Great Sandow who Burroughs saw and possibly met at the great Columbian Exposition of 1893.  The list of titles in the Quatermain series:  (N.B.  It is Quatermain not Quartermain.)

1. King Solomon’s Mines

2.  Allan Quatermain

3.  Allan’s Wife

4,  Maiwa’s Revenge

5. Marie

6.  Child Of The Storm

7.  The Holy Flower

8.  Finished

9.  The Ivory Child

10.  The Ancient Allan

11.  She And Allan

12.  Heu-Heu or The Monster

13.  Treasure Of The Lake

14.  Allan And The Ice Gods

      As I look over the list I find that they were all pretty good.  The trilogy of Marie, Child Of The Storm and Finished, concerning Chaka’s wars is excellent.  The Holy Flower and The Ivory Child are also outstanding.  The Ivory Child introduces the notion of the Elephant’s Graveyard that captivated Hollywood while taking a central place in MGM’s Tarzan series of movies.

     Other noteworthy African titles are Nada, The Lily,  The People Of The Mist and Benita.

     In addition to the Esoteric and African novels Haggard wrote various contemporary and historical novels.  All of them are high quality but mainly for the Haggard enthusiast.  Burroughs may have been influenced to write the diverse range of his stories by Haggard’s example.

     In the current print on demand (POD) publishing situation nearly the entire catalog is available.  The Wildside Press publishes attractive editons of forty-some titles.  Kessinger Publishing publishes most of what Wildside doesn’t and most of what they do but in relatively unattractive editions.  You can search other POD publishers and probably come up with what you want.

     Haggard is wonderful stuff.  You can choose at random and come up with something that truly entertains you.




4 Responses to “Edgar Rice Burroughs Meets H. Rider Haggard”

  1. Ram Says:

    A sympathetic criticism of Rider Haggard and his most famous characters Ayesha and Alan Quatermain. It will be interesting what his analysis will be regarding the Anima and Animus, with quotations from the characters to substantiate the point. Ayesha and Alan both exhibit many of the qualities associated with the gods and goddesses of Hindus; for example the three forms (Parvathi, Durga and Kali) of Shiva’s wife, the Anima in Vishnu and the Animus of Shiva… It makes me think that the Hindus must have had intuitive insights into the nature of the human psyche, that Carl Jung researched about so much. The anima-animus struggle seems to be dominant in the other primitive cultures like those of the Egyptians, and the Africans. It is uncanny that Rider Haggard (during those powerful days of Colonialism, and Christian Evangelism) could use such cultures as sources for his most wonderful novels. It is a marks of artistic and cultural genius in R.H.H.

  2. reprindle Says:

    Hindus, Egyptians and Greeks all had intuitive insights besides which Homer borrows from the Indians in his tale of The Judgement of Paris. I give a detailed version of it in my The Sonderman Constellation.

    If you’d like to read it you’ll find on my R.E. Prindle site. I may have retitled it but it is either under Sonderman Constellation or Part II The Sonderman Constellation.

    I’m sure Haggard was well read in the Indian classics.

  3. Ram Says:

    Thanks, ‘reprindle’. I will look it up.

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