by H. Rider Haggard
The Wizard was serialized in the African Review and then published in full in the 1896 issue of Arrowsmith’s Christmas Annual. The hero, a missionary named Owen, has to endure various trials at the hands of African tribal magicians, and discovers his own ability to predict the future and manipulate nature. The trademark Sir Henry Rider Haggard themes are much in evidence, particularly the confrontation of the West with African traditional values.
Professor Noel Cox remarks, “The interesting thing about this story (published 1896) is that it has some similarities with the history of Uganda – though I don’t think Thomas Owen, saint and martyr (as Haggard describes him on the last page) has any particular prototype. Though it is in a sense the history of Owen, it is really about Hokosa – the “Wizard” of the title – and his conversion. It is also interesting that of the supernatural events, only one major occurrence is at the hands of the pagan wizard – the raising of the spirit of Umsuka – while Owen is responsible for several – the trial by lightning (if it can be classified as miraculous – certainly the Amasuka thought so), and the vision of the plan to murder king Umsuka, as well as his call back in England.”
Sir Henry Rider Haggard (1856-1925) is still widely read and his characters allegedly inspired the Indiana Jones books and movies. A Rider Haggard literary trail in South Africa includes many of his old haunts, and a Rider Haggard society in England publishes a journal on his work.