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3rd July 2003zulu war in fiction
By Mark Nichipor
After spending too many nights reading "serious" works on the war, I was curious what is out there for "light" reading.

Anyone have any favorite books in fiction?

3rd July 2003John Young

Try looking for a copy of 'The Tune That They Played', by William Clive, first published in 1973. It is a good read, and ropes in a number of 'real' characters, but gives them a fictional past. The Battle of Isandlwana is the highlight of the book.

Cy Endfield's 'Zulu Dawn', also makes good reading.

Oliver Walker's 'Zulu Royal Feather' weaves the real story of John Dunn into a nice work of fiction.

For the younger readers, Ronald Welch's 'Zulu Warrior' is hard to beat.

Also recommended are Bertram Mitford's works of fiction suchas 'The Gun-runner...' & 'The King's Assegai.'

'Finished' by Henry Rider Haggard, contains a well-researched account of Isandlwana, taken very much from the horse's mouth of one of the survivors - which makes it worthy of a read.

Hope that helps,

John Y.
4th July 2003Barry Iacoppi N.Z.
An interesting list of books John. Thanks. I never knew that there was a book of “Zulu Dawn” until it was mentioned on this forum a few months ago. While checking out a local (New Zealand) on line auction site I saw a copy for sale. For less then 2 pound U.K. I am now the proud owner of the “Zulu Dawn” paper back. If I can control myself I will save it to read when I am next on holiday.
What I’d like to see is a book with a “Sharpe” type character that takes part in all the major AZW battles and Rorke’s Drift. I love good fiction based on fact.
4th July 2003Martin Everett
Dear Mark,
My library contains 'Flight of the Colour' by Adrian Greaves published in 1993.
4th July 2003Stephen Coan
Haggard wrote of the Anglo-Zulu War several times. His first book, Cetywayo and His White Neighbours (1882), a work of non-fiction, was an examination of British relations with the Zulus and the Boers prior to the war. He subsequently wrote a factual account of the battles of Isandlwana and Rorke's Drift for Andrew Lang's The True Story Book (1900).

The battle of Isandlwana features three times in Haggard's fiction, in The Witch's Head (1884), Black Heart and White Heart (1896) and Finished (1916), the final volume of Haggard's trilogy dealing with the history of the Zulus in the nineteenth century. Haggard's own reminiscences of his life in South Africa at the time of the war can be found in his autobiography The Days of My Life (1926).

Ironically, though the Zulus feature prominently in Haggard's writing he never visited Zululand during the years he lived in South Africa as a young man (from 1875 to 1881). Haggard finally travelled north of the Thukela river when, at the age of 58, he came to South Africa in 1914 as a member of the Dominions Royal Commission. Once his official duties with the commission were over he went on a tour of Zululand which included visits to the battlefields of Isandlwana, Gingindhlovu and Ulundi. His account of the trip can be found in Diary of an African Journey, published for the first time in 2000. This book also contains a photo of him at Isandlwana.

5th July 2003Peter Ewart
There is also a fair bit of fiction on the Zulu nation which is not purely restricted to the AZW.

Nickie McMenemy's hardback novel "Assegai" is based upon the life of Shaka (she chooses to use the spelling Tshaka throughout) and was published 1973 (Macmillan). The author was a Durban journalist & this was her first novel. She introduces a fictitious woman to the story, which provides a romantic thread. Can't remember how long ago I bought it, nor what I thought of it, so can't really recommend it!

One work which veers between fact & fiction on my shelves is a strange publication: Cecil Cowley's "Kwa Zulu - Queen Mkabi's Story" (C. Struik, Cape Town, 1966). It is dedicated to Princess Magogo (Umagogo Buthelezi) daughter of Dinizulu, apparently still alive then. It tells the history of the Zulu nation "through the words" of Mkabi, Senzangakona's first wife and his "Great Queen." She is believed to have married Senzangakona c1779, about six years before he married Nandi, and according to this work (& others, such as Ritter's) was still alive a century later (aged about 119) as she is reported to have cut her throat as the Zulu army was destroyed at Ulundi. She and Langazana, Senzagakona's fourth wife, crop up in Zulu political affairs throughout the 19th century & this book emphasises that she witnessed the lot, from the birth of Shaka to her own grandson Cetshwayo's defeat in 1879. But, "told in her own words", I suppose it must come under the category of fiction, although it is simply a history of the nation recounted in the first person. Acknowledgements & bibiography appear perfectly sound.

Because studying the Zulu nation inevitably leads to an interest in S African history generally, it's not difficult to be drawn wider & wider - Natal, Swaziland, Kaffraria, the Transvaal, Mashonaland, etc etc. One of the most famous African novels of the time (perhaps of all time?) was Olive Scheiner's "The Story of an African Farm" (1883). It sold in its thousands and went to many reprints, making her name in SA & in GB. Recommended!

Her other works are less well known, except perhaps the controversial little "Trooper Peter Halkett of Mashonaland" (1897) which caused a lot of bitterness, as she knew it would, & reflected her disillusionment with Cecil Rhodes & "the Company." AD Donker republished this in 1974 and included the controversial "Hanging Tree" photo from Matabeleland which appeared in the 1897 edition but which had been dropped from subsequent editions.

Getting a bit off the AZW now(!) but I'm sure there are plenty of others here who read widely on S African history.

5th July 2003Peter Ewart
Oops! For Scheiner, of course, read Schreiner!

5th July 2003Mark Hobson
A couple of years ago I finished writing my own novel on Isandlwana. At 185,000 words it's quite a read, covering the build-up to war and the initial phase of the invasion, before concentrating on the battle (approx half the book covers the battle!). The only problem is convincing a publisher to print the thing!!
In the meantime the manuscript is tucked away in my cupboard, gathering dust.