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Nada the Lily

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Nada the Lily
First edition (damaged copy)
AuthorH. Rider Haggard
SubjectZulu people
GenreHistorical, adventure, fantasy
PublisherLongmans, Green and Co.
Publication date
Publication placeUnited Kingdom
Preceded byWisdom's Daughter (internal chronology)
Allan's Wife (publication order) 
Followed byMarie (internal chronology)
Black Heart and White Heart (publication order) 

Nada the Lily is an historical novel by English writer H. Rider Haggard, published in 1892. Inspired by Haggard's time in South Africa (1875–82). It was illustrated by Charles H. M. Kerr.

The novel tells the tale of the origin and early life of the hero Umslopogaas, the unacknowledged son of the great Zulu king and general Chaka, and his love for "the most beautiful of Zulu women", Nada the Lily. Chaka was a real king of the Zulus but Umslopogaas was invented by Haggard. He first appeared as an elderly but vigorous warrior in Allan Quatermain (1887). He also appears in the novel She and Allan (1921).

Nada the Lily is unusual for a Victorian novel in that its entire cast of characters is South African and black. Nada the Lily features magic and ghosts as part of its plot.[1]

There is some anecdotal evidence[citation needed] that Umslopogaas might have been based on an actual person, although not as described in the book. He would have been a Swazi not a Zulu.[citation needed]

Plot outline[edit]

Nada the Lily is set at the time of Chaka, the Zulu king, around whom much of the action turns, but essentially the book is the story of Umslopogaas, and of "his love for Nada, the most beautiful of Zulu women." They have been brought up as brother and sister but Umslopogaas is really Chaka's son. It is narrated by Mopo the father of Nada and witch doctor to Chaka, whom Chaka had vowed never to slay because he saved the life of Chaka and his mother when they were outcast wanderers.

During the course of the novel Umslopogaas teams up with Galazi the Wolf, who lives on Ghost Mountain and has power over a spectral wolf pack. The story ends tragically when Nada, fleeing the wrath of Dingaan following the assassination of Chaka, takes refuge in a cave on the mountain. Galazi dies in her defence but the cave proves her tomb as she is unable to open the stone door she closed behind her.

Historical basis[edit]

Parts of the story are closely based on actual historical events and on folktales recorded by Bishop Henry Callaway and others. 'Mopo' is based in part on a man called Mbopa who was involved in the assassination of Shaka; however Umslopogaas, Galazi and Nada are wholly invented characters.

The real-life Zulu kings Shaka and Dingane are major characters and the book is set around the time of real events such as the assassination of Shaka, the Weenen Massacre (the subject of Haggard's later novel Marie), the Battle of Italeni, the Battle of Blood River and the coming to power of Mpande kaSenzangakhona (Panda), the third king of the Zulus.

Cultural influence[edit]

Nada is an Arabic word for the dewdrops in the morning and, as such, a poetic metaphor for the concept of generosity, another possible translation of the same word.[2]

It is also probable that the name is a reference to the Portuguese word meaning "nothing" because Haggard was introduced to that idiom while living in South Africa.[3]


E. F. Bleiler praised Nada the Lily. Bleiler said the novel was "generally considered to be Haggard's finest work, a sustained, tragic story. While Nada is a sop to the romantic market, the remainder of the book is powerful, imaginative, and filled with cultural detail".[1] John Scarborough included Nada on a list of what he regarded as Haggard's best novels, along with King Solomon's Mines, She: A History of Adventure, Cleopatra, Red Eve, and Eric Brighteyes.[4]


  1. ^ a b Bleiler, Everett F. (1990). The Guide to Supernatural Fiction. Kent State: Kent State University Press. p. 726. ISBN 978-0-87338-288-5.
  2. ^ Nada. weddingvendors.com.
  3. ^ "Ghost Mountain". Violet Books. 9 July 2001. Archived from the original on 1 March 2012. Retrieved 16 May 2013. Stephen Coan, "H. Rider Haggard, Ghost Mountain, & Nada the Lily" (The Natal Witness, 9 July 2001; archived ): "After a final scramble we ended up sitting on her head while Mdluli told me what he knew of the mountain, its history & the Zulu meaning of Tshaneni. "But why Nada the Lily?" he asked me. "Nada is not a Zulu name." No it's not. It's Portuguese. Nada's grandfather was a white man, "a Portuguese from the coast."
  4. ^ Scarborough, John. "H. Rider Haggard". In Bleiler, Richard, Science Fiction Writers : critical studies of the major authors from the early nineteenth century to the present day. New York : Charles Scribner's Sons, 1999. ISBN 9780684805931 (pg. 323-329)

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