"In both novels a woman is the guide; both of them are about a perilous journey"

   Henry Rider Haggard was an English writer of the late 19th century who found great popularity writing tales of adventure and exploration.  She (1886-87) chronicles the rediscovery of a lost African civilisation, ruled by a beautiful and immortal sorceress of the ancient world who awaits the reincarnation of her lost love.  Ayesha is a distinctly Victorian nightmare: a woman whose beauty and knowledge grant her absolute power over men, while her timeless perspective on human civilisation conjures up the unsettling implications of Darwinian evolutionary theory.

    Haggard's later work Heart of the World (1895) follows a similar pattern, substituting Central America for Africa.  This time his explorers happen upon the last remaining tribe of Aztec 'Indians', whose quest to unite two halves of a mystical emerald heart could return them to total dominion over the American continent.  A woman of the lost city, Maya, guides them to it and ultimately brings ruin on her own people. 

 

Online edition of H. Rider Haggard's 'She', (serialised 1886-87)

 

Online edition of H. Rider Haggard's 'Heart of the World', (1895)