Ayesha, often referred to as She-who-must-be-obeyed, is the immoral goddess of an undiscovered civilization. Ayesha rules sometimes cruelly over a primitive civilisation that she has personally held in limbo and kept separate from the world. She has the power to enforce her deadly and decisive rule over her people for the merest transgression. Why is she maintaining a harsh rule as living goddess over a lost tribe? Because she is waiting for the reincarnation of her lost love, of course.
H. Rider Haggard followed his 1886 serialized adventure with a sequel Ayesha: The Return of She (1905), a spinoff She and Allan (1921) and a prequel Wisdom’s Daughter (1923) amid his 50 strong output of novels, showing us that there is nothing new in the franchise spinning desire to keep characters alive. Which is exactly what happens to Ayesha, she is kept alive by magical powers of her own combined with elemental powers kept hidden away from the world of men.
Men are powerless against her will and subjected to her beauty. To behold the immortal beauty of her face is to be lost forever in service and devotion to her. Even when she shows the terrible cruelty of her power and the men under her influence are morally outraged, they still can’t stop loving her.
How is she defeated? Well, she isn’t. There is no escaping She-who-must-be-obeyed, especially if you are the reincarnation of her lost love. The only thing you can expect is an eternity with a powerful and beautiful woman. It’s a hard life.
Up next is John Keats’ poem ‘La Belle Dame Sans Merci’ or ‘The Beautiful Lady Without Mercy.’ She is beautiful and she is bad.