Research Output
H. Rider Haggard, Theophilus Shepstone and the Zikali trilogy: A Revisionist Approach to Haggard’s African Fiction
  The history that H. Rider Haggard writes about in his imperial adventure romance fiction is neither collusive nor consensual with the Zulu who are often the focus of his novels. He writes a complex colonial narrative that characterises the Zulu as a proud and mythic, yet ultimately doomed, race. His early twentieth century trilogy, Zikali, is unique in that he uses the three books, Marie, Child of Storm and Finished, to narrate three pivotal events in the nineteenth century history of the Zulu Kingdom. In Zikali, he simultaneously propounds the legitimacy of the colonial endeavour, so effectively that he rewrites history, to ensure the primacy of the Englishman in nineteenth century Southern Africa historiography, whilst aggrandising the Zulu kingdom. This reframing of the colonial narrative—to suit the Western interloper—would be evidence of what is a standard trope within imperial adventure romance fiction, were it not for the fact that Haggard is ambivalent in his imperialism. He is both recorder and creator of imperial history, bewailing the demise of the Zulu Kingdom whilst validating the importance of the role of the colonial white Englishman; he senselessly kills hundreds of natives within his books, yet privileges the Zulu. Referencing one of the primary motivational sources in Haggard’s own colonial experience, Theophilus Shepstone, I propose to show Haggard’s sublimation of Shepstone’s ideas into his own African Arcadian romances, and his creation of a Zulu historiography, which would go on to be lauded by the early South African National Native Congress as being one of the foundations of early twentieth century native socio-political self-fashioning. Haggard’s work provides a fragmentary and elusive insight into nineteenth century southern African history and offers an abstruse glimpse into colonial culture rarely found in other imperial adventure romance fiction.

  • Type:


  • Date:

    30 November 2016

  • Publication Status:


  • Library of Congress:

    PN Literature (General)

  • Dewey Decimal Classification:

    800 Literature, rhetoric & criticism

  • Funders:

    Edinburgh Napier Funded


Simpson, K. C. S. H. Rider Haggard, Theophilus Shepstone and the Zikali trilogy: A Revisionist Approach to Haggard’s African Fiction. (Thesis). Edinburgh Napier University. Retrieved from



History, romantic fiction, nineteenth century, Southern Africa.

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