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Elissa or The Doom of Zimbabwe, a novel by H. Rider Haggard


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_ To the Memory of the Child

Nada Burnham,

who "bound all to her" and, while her father cut his way through
the hordes of the Ingobo Regiment, perished of the hardships of
war at Buluwayo on 19th May, 1896, I dedicate these tales--and
more particularly the last, that of a Faith which triumphed over
savagery and death.

H. Rider Haggard.




Of the three stories that comprise this volume[*], one, "The
Wizard," a tale of victorious faith, first appeared some years ago
as a Christmas Annual. Another, "Elissa," is an attempt, difficult
enough owing to the scantiness of the material left to us by time,
to recreate the life of the ancient Phœnician Zimbabwe, whose
ruins still stand in Rhodesia, and, with the addition of the
necessary love story, to suggest circumstances such as might have
brought about or accompanied its fall at the hands of the
surrounding savage tribes. The third, "Black Heart and White
Heart," is a story of the courtship, trials and final union of a
pair of Zulu lovers in the time of King Cetywayo.

[*] This text was prepared from a volume published in 1900 titled
"Black Heart and White Heart, and Other Stories."--JB.



The world is full of ruins, but few of them have an origin so utterly
lost in mystery as those of Zimbabwe in South Central Africa. Who
built them? What purpose did they serve? These are questions that must
have perplexed many generations, and many different races of men.

The researches of Mr. Wilmot prove to us indeed that in the Middle
Ages Zimbabwe or Zimboe was the seat of a barbarous empire, whose
ruler was named the Emperor of Monomotapa, also that for some years
the Jesuits ministered in a Christian church built beneath the shadow
of its ancient towers. But of the original purpose of those towers,
and of the race that reared them, the inhabitants of mediæval
Monomotapa, it is probable, knew less even than we know to-day. The
labours and skilled observation of the late Mr. Theodore Bent, whose
death is so great a loss to all interested in such matters, have shown
almost beyond question that Zimbabwe was once an inland Phœnician
city, or at the least a city whose inhabitants were of a race which
practised Phœnician customs and worshipped the Phœnician deities.
Beyond this all is conjecture. How it happened that a trading town,
protected by vast fortifications and adorned with temples dedicated to
the worship of the gods of the Sidonians--or rather trading towns, for
Zimbabwe is only one of a group of ruins--were built by civilised men
in the heart of Africa perhaps we shall never learn with certainty,
though the discovery of the burying-places of their inhabitants might
throw some light upon the problem.

But if actual proof is lacking, it is scarcely to be doubted--for the
numerous old workings in Rhodesia tell their own tale--that it was the
presence of payable gold reefs worked by slave labour which tempted
the Phœnician merchants and chapmen, contrary to their custom, to
travel so far from the sea and establish themselves inland. Perhaps
the city Zimboe was the Ophir spoken of in the first Book of Kings. At
least, it is almost certain that its principal industries were the
smelting and the sale of gold, also it seems probable that expeditions
travelling by sea and land would have occupied quite three years of
time in reaching it from Jerusalem and returning thither laden with
the gold and precious stones, the ivory and the almug trees (1 Kings
x.). Journeying in Africa must have been slow in those days; that it
was also dangerous is testified by the ruins of the ancient forts
built to protect the route between the gold towns and the sea.

However these things may be, there remains ample room for speculation
both as to the dim beginnings of the ancient city and its still dimmer
end, whereof we can guess only, when it became weakened by luxury and
the mixture of races, that hordes of invading savages stamped it out
of existence beneath their blood-stained feet, as, in after ages, they
stamped out the Empire of Monomotapa. In the following romantic sketch
the writer has ventured--no easy task--to suggest incidents such as
might have accompanied this first extinction of the Phœnician
Zimbabwe. The pursuit indeed is one in which he can only hope to fill
the place of a humble pioneer, since it is certain that in times to
come the dead fortress-temples of South Africa will occupy the pens of
many generations of the writers of romance who, as he hopes, may have
more ascertained facts to build upon than are available to-day. _


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