With Ayesha in the Caves of Kôr


My blog has dropped back down to a Google rank of four. All because I’ve been with Ayesha in the caves of Kôr.

I’ve been rereading She Who Must Be Obeyed by H. Rider Haggard and the sequel Ayesha a.k.a. Return of She Who Must Be Obeyed. I keep thinking I will get some blog entries out of them, but it’s so difficult to summarize them. Hell, it’s difficult to even read them. His characters start declaiming in King James English and it’s hard to stop them.

The action scenes make up for this because they’re really brilliant, but they’re few and far between.

The last time I dropped to a four, it was Caulaincourt and the French retreat from Moscow. I got a few blog entries, but mostly I was just engrossed. Now it’s Horace Holly and his adopted son Leo Vincey as they traipse around the world in fulfillment of some nutty dream.

Don’t get me wrong, I endorse both books as great reads. But now I’m reading them again, and on second reading, I look at how a book is put together, how an author designs his plots and builds his characters. Since She was originally written in installments, naturally there are some inconsistencies, but you really don’t notice them on first reading. The whole thing is too well done.

In the first book I went with Horace and Leo, guided only by some writing on an ancient potsherd, to East Africa and the ruins of the ancient civilization of Kôr, where Ayesha, now 2,000 years old and still beautiful and cruel, ruled over the savage Armahagger who almost et our heroes.

Holly and Leo were saved from the pot and met up with her there, but she danced into the great fiery pillar of life one too many times and shrivelled up and died, or… changed.

They knew she would come back somewhere in the second book, because the first one was such a big seller, and she did, in this place in central Asia that it took them 16 years to find, guided only by a vision in a dream — and even then she was still this shrivelled up little mummy kind of being until Leo kissed her and she resumed her supernatural beauty. No kidding. Just like the princess and the frog.

The thread of credulity is stretched mighty thin, but I’m a fan so I’m with them all the way. Now they just have to deal with the vengeful Khania of Kaloon — you know, the reincarnation of the Egyptian princess Amenartes.

She was the one, you’ll remember, back in the first book, who caused Leo, in his ancient incarnation as Kallikrates, a Greek who had become a priest of Isis, to forsake his vows.

Then he and Amenartes fled the wrath of the Goddess and ended up (Where else?) in the ruins of Kôr, where Ayesha fell in love with him and slew him out of jealousy and then waited around for 2,000 years for him to be reincarnated and come back to her.

And of course when he does come back, as Leo Vincey, there’s no hard feelings about her slaying him, as Kallikrates. She was upset. He wasn’t really paying attention to her feelings. It was just an outbust. The javelin was there handy… And he had just fallen in love with an Egyptian princess and broken his sacred vows, so he wasn’t really at his best, either.

They decide to let bygones be bygones.

So now 16 years later they’re back together in Tibet or some place, in the giant mountain – Ayesha tends to favor domiciles that have been hewn from the living rock in ages long past -but somehow I don’t think things are going to go well for them. I’ll keep you posted.