The basis of the past popularity of Lost Race novels was H. Rider Haggard, whose excellence hundreds of lesser talents recognized as worthy of imitation. Of course, Haggard didn’t invent the idea of lost races, which was abroad from antiquity, in cultural myths about submerged former inhabitants of conquered regions, in utopians & Swiftian satires of distant island cultures, in the continuous & widespread expectation that Amazons & similar exotic societies thrived beyond the limits of the known world (Columbus then the Conquistadores watched soberly for Amazons described in romances of Amadis the Gaul; & the very state of California is named for a queen of one of these imputed nations, a woman no less thrilling than Haggard’s immortal She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed), & in speculations on the whereabouts of Israel’s lost tribes.
An actual wanderer & mystic, David Reubeni, journeying among 15th century Jewry, claimed for his origin one of the lost tribes which dwelt in an isolated region of Arabia entirely circled about by the raging River Sambatyon. The river’s flow changed direction once every thousand years. At the time of directional change the river was momentarily still, & it was at just such a moment Reubeni waded across to the outer world, only to find he could never return. The actual homeland of this famous charlatan was never known (he was perhaps half Falasha, of the then unknown & long-isolated Ethiopian Jewry who had mystic tendencies, who were practically a real-life Lost Race, & whose population was only recently transported en masse to Israel). What is intriguing about Reubeni’s epic claims, & the claims of similar messianic frauds, is that so many found him credible, the lost race motif having always been taken for real.
The lost races of the Hollow Earth find early counterparts in the Sumerian myth of the Descent of Inanna into a world with an Ayesha-like ruler, Ereskigal; in Nordic tales of the kingdom of the dwarves beneath volcanoes with advanced metallurgical technologies; & Jewish myths of Cain who, after he was swallowed by the earth for murdering Abel, discovered, conquered, & enlightened an underground race. Haggard gave the ancient Lost Race theme its modern, popular form, & he even appreciated the Jewish underpinning, tying Solomon to his mythic vision.
I care about fiction far too much.
If I could just allow it to be a form of forgettable entertainment, maybe I could release it and forget about it.
But when I find little bits of the history of fiction, like the passage shown above, I CARE TOO MUCH about fiction, and I want to spend years researching it with great diligence.
I don’t have the resources to do that right now. I need to let it go and deal with practical matters.
So I’ll just leave the above passage out there on my blog, and maybe someone else will have the resources to research H. Rider Haggard and the other Victorian fiction that underpins so much modern fiction.