Now that the novel has ended and come full circle back to England, I realized how well She follows Joseph Campbell’s archetype of the ‘Journey of the Hero,’ as the main male characters from England leave their familiar world and enter the unknown in Africa on a quest to solve “the greatest mystery in the world” (Haggard 35). In his letter to his son, Mr. Vincey warns Leo that “the unknown is generally taken to be terrible,” yet he gives Leo the ‘call to adventure’ to “investigate” it if he chooses (35). Leo accepts the call, “I am going to set the matter at rest once and for all,” despite hesitation from Holly, “I believe that the whole thing is the most unmitigated rubbish,” who puts his doubts aside to assist Leo in his journey (49).
The last leg of their voyage to Africa when the storm hits represents the ‘crossing of the threshold’ from the familiar world of England to the unknown Africa. After they have crossed over, “[t]he storm had entirely passed, leaving a clean-washed sky behind it” (58). The three men are now through the threshold and fully committed to their journey. After making an ally in Billali, and a few enemies with the other Amahagger people who attack them, the men continue deeper on their journey and enter ‘the belly of the whale’ through “the mouth of a tremendous cave,” She’s cave (122). She represents the supernatural aid, or in some models, the goddess, who will assist the heroes in completing their quest. The archetype also often includes a figurative death of the hero. Leo’s illness that he caught on the journey worsens, and soon, “Leo was in the throes of death” (176). She cures him, and then reveals to him the body of Kallikrates. Destroying the body, She proclaims that Kallikrates lives in Leo, representing his rebirth from his illness. At the climax of their journey, She takes them to the place of Life.
There are many tests along the way, but eventually they reach this place, “the very Fountain and Heart of Life as it beats in the bosom of the great world” (252). Holly and Leo gain their boon, their elixir, of knowledge from this fountain of fire, “we became sensible of a wild and splendid exhilaration, of a glorious sense of such a fierce intensity of Life,” without having to bathe in it and become immortal (252). After they receive this reward at the end of their journey, the hero is changed, as Holly says, “I was another and most glorified self, and all the avenues of the Possible were for a space laid open to the footsteps of the Real” (252). Leo has changed as well, “his curling hair had been of the ruddiest gold, now it was turning grey, and by the time we gained the outer air it was snow white” (259). Now that they have completed their journey and solved the mystery of She and of Life, Leo and Holly make the journey home, which takes them several months and is not easy. After returning home, Holly demonstrates how he has been changed by the journey in admitting his belief. He says that it is possible that She wrongly identified Leo as the reincarnated Kallikrates, but in his opinion, “she made no such mistake” (275). Before the journey, Holly was skeptical, and did not believe that the myth concerning She was true.