Thursday, February 10, 2005

Walk into the fire...

Fantasist and novelist, H. Rider Haggard, wrote several larger than life tales, among them King Solomon's Mines, featuring Allan Quatermain, and She, about an immortal goddess, an Egyptian princess of ancient lineage who found the secret of immortality and spent the long centuries waiting for the reincarnation of her murdered lover. Even Hollywood has taken Haggard's tales for their own, casting Ursula Andress as She.

In Haggard's tale an English gentleman of mixed descent named Leo inherits an ancient artifact that leads him to a lost city in the depths of Africa where he finds Ayesha, the immortal queen called She Who Must Not Be Named. He falls in love with her beauty and grace, wit and intelligence, but is awed and frightened of her power and her unshakable control over her people. She is an intense woman who intrigues and excites Leo even while he is frightened of his feelings for her and his overwhelming attraction to her.

Ayesha tells Leo, and provides proof, that he is the reincarnation of her murdered lover/husband, Kallikrates, and she offers to make him immortal so they can be together forever: beautiful, unchanged and powerful.

The secret of Ayesha's immortality is bathing in the cold blue flames of a cosmic fire, arresting the decay and ravages of time. Leo loves Ayesha even as he is overwhelmed by her so he follows her along a treacherous path to the cave where he will join her in immortality. Even as Leo approaches the fire his fear overtakes him so Ayesha walks into the flames, taking his hand, urging him to join her, and he finally follows. However, Ayesha ages and dies in the flames, withering into an ancient mummy in his arms, leaving a terrified and trembling Leo to gape in horror. His fear to venture alone into the flames cost him his love, and he must wait for centuries until Ayesha is reincarnated and they can be together again.

Leo fears Ayesha's intensity even as he is drawn to her. She is all he has ever dreamed or desired and yet he fails her, fails himself, in taking that last crucial step, unwilling to trust completely in love and walk alone into the heart of the blaze, scared of making a necessary change that will unite him with his one true love, his soul mate.

Women are called the weaker sex, and yet when you look at the world as it was in Haggard's day, and even today, you will see strong, intelligent, and exceptional women everywhere, women who brave the heart of the fire every day of their lives, beckoning for their men to follow, to be with them.

Was Haggard writing a fantasy or was he voicing some universal truth that resonates even now? Did Haggard fail the woman of his dreams, the bright heart of his fantasies? Did he realize too late that he must face his fears and take the final step in order to attain all he deserved and desired?

We all crave intensity, overwhelming and heart stopping intensity, but in order to touch it and make it our own we must fearlessly walk alone into the heart of the cosmic fire. Will you brave the flames for true love?

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