Nada the Lily
First edition (damaged copy)
|Author||H. Rider Haggard|
|Publisher||Longman & Co.|
|Preceded by||Allan's Wife & Other Tales|
The novel tells the tale of the hero Umslopogaas, the illegitimate son of the great Zulu king and general Chaka, and his love for "the most beautiful of Zulu women", Nada the Lily. Nada the Lily is unusual for a Victorian novel in that its entire cast of characters is South African and black. Chaka was a real king of the Zulus but Umslopogaas was invented by Haggard and also features in Allan Quatermain. It was illustrated by Charles H. M. Kerr. There is some anecdotal evidence that Umslopogaas might have been an actual person, although not as described in the book. He would have been a Swazi not a Zulu.
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. Umslopogaas appears again in Haggard's later novels She and Allan and Allan Quatermain. In the latter novel he is an old man and dies heroically.
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.
The name "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.
It's 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. 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."