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She

Plato to MacDonald to Chesterton, Tolkien and the Boys in the Pub.

She

Postby The Quangle Wangle » 27 Mar 2009, 16:15

I've just been reading She by H. Rider Haggard, and had an experience I've had once or twice before (HG Wells 'First men in the moon', E Nesbitt's 'Story of the Amulet') - where something recognisably Narnian suddenly appears in the middle of the tale. Only there were several clear similarities to Tolkien as well, so I thought I'd post here under 'Influences' as the book seems to have been an influence on both of them.

First some more minor or questionable similarites:
The narrotor in the openeing chapter describes his ugliness and the effect its had on him
Once, indeed, a woman pretended to care for me, and I lavished all the pent-up affection of my nature upon her. Then money that was to have come to me went elsewhere, and she discarded me. I pleaded with her as I have never pleaded with any living creature before or since, for I was caught by her sweet face, and loved her; and in the end by way of answer she took me to the glass, and stood side by side with me, and looked into it.

"Now," she said, "if I am Beauty, who are you?" That was when I was only twenty.

Very reminiscent of Orual and her father in Till we have faces.

Then there's the servant Job who accompanies the heroes on their travels and has a distrust of foriegners and their ways rather like Sam Gamgee's:
"Well, sir," answered Job, stolidly, "I don't hold much with foreign parts, but if both you gentlemen are going you will want somebody to look after you, and I am not the man to stop behind after serving you for twenty years."


But the really interesting similarities concern the ancient ruined city of Kor and the immortal Ayesha who lives there.
The primitive tribe she rules live amid the remains of long vanished civilization, and dwell in the caves that were once used as tombs:
...we entered the great cave, into which the light of the setting sun penetrated for some distance, while beyond the reach of the daylight it was faintly illuminated with lamps which seemed to me to stretch away for an almost immeasurable distance, like the gas lights of an empty London street. The first thing I noticed was that the walls were covered with sculptures in bas-relief, of a sort, pictorially speaking, similar to those that I have described upon the vases;—love-scenes principally, then hunting pictures, pictures of executions, and the torture of criminals by the placing of a, presumably, red-hot pot upon the head, showing whence our hosts had derived this pleasant practice. There were very few battle-pieces, though many of duels, and men running and wrestling, and from this fact I am led to believe that this people were not much subject to attack by exterior foes, either on account of the isolation of their position or because of their great strength. Between the pictures were columns of stone characters of a formation absolutely new to me; at any rate, they were neither Greek nor Egyptian, nor Hebrew, nor Assyrian—that I am sure of. They looked more like Chinese writings than any other that I am acquainted with. Near to the entrance of the cave both pictures and writings were worn away, but further in they were in many cases absolutely fresh and perfect as the day on which the sculptor had ceased work on them.

Sounds very much like Aslan's How - and there is a remarkable number of stone tables in the various chambers inside!

Then there's this (The narrator is speaking with 'She'):
Dost thou wonder how I knew that ye were coming to this land, and so saved your heads from the hot-pot?"

"Ay, oh Queen," I answered feebly.

"Then gaze upon that water," and she pointed to the font-like vessel, and then, bending forward, held her hand over it.

I rose and gazed, and instantly the water darkened. Then it cleared, and I saw as distinctly as I ever saw anything in my life—I saw, I say, our boat upon that horrible canal. There was Leo lying at the bottom asleep in it, with a coat thrown over him to keep off the mosquitoes, in such a fashion as to hide his face, and myself, Job, and Mahomed towing on the bank.

I started back, aghast, and cried out that it was magic, for I recognised the whole scene—it was one which had actually occurred.

"Nay, nay; oh Holly," she answered, "it is no magic, that is a fiction of ignorance. There is no such thing as magic, though there is such a thing as a knowledge of the secrets of Nature. That water is my glass; in it I see what passes if I will to summon up the pictures, which is not often. Therein I can show thee what thou wilt of the past, if it be anything that hath to do with this country and with what I have known, or anything that thou, the gazer, hast known. Think of a face if thou wilt, and it shall be reflected from thy mind upon the water. I know not all the secret yet—I can read nothing in the future. But it is an old secret; I did not find it.

Later Job looks in the water
At six o'clock we, together with Job, waited on Ayesha, who set to work to terrify our poor servant still further by showing him pictures on the pool of water in the font-like vessel. She learnt from me that he was one of seventeen children, and then bid him think of all his brothers and sisters, or as many of them as he could, gathered together in his father's cottage. Then she told him to look in the water, and there, reflected from its stilly surface, was that dead scene of many years gone by, as it was recalled to our retainer's brain...I shall never forget the howl of terror which he uttered when he saw the more or less perfect portraits of his long-scattered brethren staring at him from the quiet water, or the merry peal of laughter with which Ayesha greeted his consternation.

Can there be any doubt that this was Tolkien's source for the Mirror of Galadriel? Infact Ayesha is quite like Galadriel in some ways - wise, undying, unimaginably beautiful, ruling a secret kingdom of people far her inferior - but a fallen, human Galadriel, something like the terrible queen that Frodo saw briefly when he offered her the ring.
And interestingly, if She is like Galadriel, She is also quite like Jadis, living alone amid ancient ruins, still nursing an ancient hatred from thousands of years before, able to 'blast' people to death merely by looking at them. And very interested in hearing about modern England:
"And now tell me of thy country—'tis a great people, is it not? with an empire like that of Rome! Surely thou wouldst return thither, and it is well, for I mean not that thou shouldst dwell in these caves of Kôr. Nay, when once thou art even as I am, we will go hence—fear not but that I shall find a path—and then shall we journey to this England of thine, and live as it becometh us to live. Two thousand years have I waited for the day when I should see the last of these hateful caves and this gloomy-visaged folk, and now it is at hand, and my heart bounds up to meet it like a child's towards its holiday. For thou shalt rule this England——"

"But we have a queen already," broke in Leo, hastily.

"It is naught, it is naught," said Ayesha; "she can be overthrown."

"But here is a strange thing," said Ayesha, in astonishment; "a queen whom her people love! Surely the world must have changed since I dwelt in Kôr."

Again we explained that it was the character of monarchs that had changed, and that the one under whom we lived was venerated and beloved by all right-thinking people in her vast realms. Also, we told her that real power in our country rested in the hands of the people, and that we were in fact ruled by the votes of the lower and least educated classes of the community.

"Ah," she said, "a democracy—then surely there is a tyrant, for I have long since seen that democracies, having no clear will of their own, in the end set up a tyrant, and worship him."

"Yes," I said, "we have our tyrants."

"Well," she answered resignedly, "we can at any rate destroy these tyrants, and Kallikrates shall rule the land."

I instantly informed Ayesha that in England "blasting" was not an amusement that could be indulged in with impunity, and that any such attempt would meet with the consideration of the law and probably end upon a scaffold.

"The law," she laughed with scorn—"the law! Canst thou not understand, oh Holly, that I am above the law, and so shall my Kallikrates be also? All human law will be to us as the north wind to a mountain. Does the wind bend the mountain, or the mountain the wind?"

I would never have thought that Galadriel and Jadis could draw from a common origin! - but if you think about it they do have some similarity in attributes, both being incredibly beautiful and long lived queens with great supernatural power, the only major difference being that Galadriel is wholly good and Jadis wholly evil - while Ayesha is neither, but is a more human mixture.
I wonder if anyone else has had a similar experience of unexpectedly discovering influences on Tolkien or Lewis?
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Re: She

Postby Leslie » 27 Mar 2009, 23:13

Lewis did read Rider Haggard, so the influence seems clear. I started a thread some time ago about the similarities between She and the Lady of the Green Kirtle:

the Lady of the Green Kirtle and She
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"At myself. My little puny self," said Phillipa.
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