Triangular Erotics

The Politics of Masculinity, Imperialism and Big-Game Hunting in Rider Haggard's She

in Volume 20 (2008): Issue 3 (Dec 2008): Victorian Masculinities. Guest Editors: Graeme Smart and Amelia Yeates
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Animal imagery and anthropomorphic parallels abound in Rider Haggard’s fantastic African adventure, She (1887). Africa itself is presented to the reader as a landscape inhabited by ‘beastly’ natives and wild animals galore. Even the novel’s overpowering female presence, that of ‘She-who-must-be-obeyed’ (as Ayesha is known by those natives over whom she rules), is eventually reduced to a simian status. Such a textual focus, fitting comfortably into a more extensive dream of Victorian empire, lent the novel cultural, as well as fictive, power. The animal imagery helped to produce durable models of African identity and otherness which were compatible with current ideas of geography, race and human evolution.