She-Who Must Be Obeyed by H Rider Haggard

She-Haggard-book-covers-collection


Influential to Femdom: Yes – Of Value Today: No

She is an adventure novel written by Henry Rider Haggard in 1887. It is considered a classic having sold over 83 million copies worldwide and was once one of the best-selling books of all time! (It is even cited in the psychoanalytical theories of Sigmund Freud.)

Most critiques skim over the sexual titillation of the novel which revolves around femdom themes. (Something I might argue may have been a huge part of its appeal in the constrained 19th century.) The tribe, the adventurers meet, is female led these partially naked young female natives choose or change men as sexual partners at will. The tribe is ruled by the all-powerful and ruthless ‘She who must be obeyed’. ‘She’ is a seductive femme fatale whose beauty puts men totally under her spell. One of the main male characters is throughout the book indifferent to the charms of women but instantly falls in love with her. While another should hate her because she murders a native girl devoted to him but he too cannot help but kneel before her in awe.

vengeance-of-she-movie-poster

A 1968 Hammer Films titillating spin-off, featuring the character of She.

Today, its appeal has waned, in fact you are probably more likely to remember another of Haggard’s books King Solomon’s Mines featuring the adventurer Allan Quatermain. Think Raiders of the Lost Ark and you’ll get the basic premise for Haggard’s stories, he was obviously a huge influence on the Indiana Jones franchise.

I don’t recommend reading this book. This is a deeply racist (managing to offend many races and religions) and despite its central character, misogynistic book. It does expound an insightful, if distasteful, look into the Victorian Gentleman’s mindset of superiority and imperialism over foreign barbarism. Dark-skinned ‘primitive’ races that need the Empire to impose British rule in order to civilize them. Even ‘She’ is a white queen ruling over natives (reminiscent of Queen Victoria and her Empire.)

So successful was She Haggard wrote three sequels including Ayesha, the Return of She. And, the character of She has inspired more than ten film adaptations. Including a 1935 version (made by the creators of King Kong [1933]) set in the Arctic, rather than Africa, and depicts the ancient civilisation of the story in an Art Deco style (?). And, Hammer Films made a 1965 adaptation staring Ursula Andress & Christopher Lee.

So successful was ‘She’ Haggard wrote three sequels including ‘Ayesha, the Return of She’. The character of She has inspired more than ten film adaptations. Including a 1935 version (made by the creators of King Kong [1933]) set in the Arctic, rather than Africa, and depicts the ancient civilisation of the story in an Art Deco style (?). Hammer Films made a 1965 adaptation staring Ursula Andress & Christopher Lee.

I wanted to read this novel as I’ve been looking at cultural influences that have shaped our concept of the ‘dominant or alpha woman’. And, there is no doubt this book was hugely influential and has its place on the path that has brought us to today’s notions of femdom. However, its innate sexism and racism (though we can recognise they must be seen in the context of when the book was written) leave it of little value for modern readers or today’s femdom world.

About Mistress Sidonia

Supreme Ruler of The English Mansion. Leather clad 'n' booted bitch, highly sexed, cruel male slave owner and trainer.
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4 Responses to She-Who Must Be Obeyed by H Rider Haggard

  1. bootslavewilliam says:

    Interesting write-up, Mistress, particularly your observations about the book’s racism, misogyny and, particularly, the “mindset of superiority and imperialism” that seeks to “civilise” people and nations we see as basically lesser beings that require to be forced to adopt and live by our values and principles, because they are the only worthy ones.

    Unfortunately, world history since the collapse of blatant colonialism, right up to events today, demonstrate how that mindset is alive and well like never before, just camouflaged (sometimes very poorly anyway).

    On a much less depressing note, and I know many millions of males are in the same “boat” as me here, one could never forget Ursula Andress (whom you refer to above) emerging spectacularly from the sea in “Dr No”. The sexy female invincibility that she embodied, that no male can or really wants to resist, definitely laid one of the seeds that helped to nurture the submissiveness to, and deep desire to serve, the Superior Female Sex that eventually became a part of me.

    Always respectfully.

    • Thank you both for the comments and support. I had high hopes when I read ‘She’ as I wanted to write about it for this blog but was disappointed by the book. I also felt I could not write about it and not mention the innate racism within it (thought it should be seen in the context of when the book was written). Perhaps, I should have watched the 1960’s film instead 🙂

  2. wmahda says:

    Another of your very interesting and well researched Blog entries, Mistress. This dimension of your website helps to raise your quality level well above that of most others in this field.
    I was already favourably disposed to “Femdom” as a young man in the later 1960s when I saw “She” with Ursula Andress starring. It was a reasonably spectacular film for those days but I found it somwhat disappointing .. Why? Because “She” did not ultimately “triumph.”
    That was my emotional /sensual reaction, nothing to do with the political /racial implications of the story that you have correctly highlighted.
    Thank you once more, Mistress, for your massive contribution modern “Femdom.”

  3. Steven says:

    Interesting Mistress, I hadn’t heard of it before.

    Maybe someone can modernize it by taking out the misogyny and racism but keep the good parts of the story or is it too ingrained into the core of the story?

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