The Pearl Maiden by H. Rider Haggard
This novel, printed in 1903, tells a story of a young Christian woman who is born at a time when Christians were being persecuted by the Romans. The story is an account of her trials and tribulations during that troubling era.
The story starts off by explaining the reason why Christians are persecuted. Jesus had just been crucified for objecting to the Jewish religion. The author takes us through a journey of discovery into the genesis of the hatred between the Christians and the Jews. The actions of Jesus against the Jewish religion led the Pharisees, Levites, Sadducees and the zealots to seek help from the Pontius Pilate (Haggard 4). They wanted to be rid of Jesus. Jesus was crucified, as a result.
After this, the same people went on after the Christians who were left. The strong men were required to fight as gladiators; the old women were to be mauled by hungry lions for the amusement of people while the young women were sold off as slaves. Anyone found practicing Christianity was arrested, and punishment befell them.
The young woman, Miriam, comes into the world after the death of both her parents. Her parents are persecuted for being Christians. She is left under the care of Nehushta, a trusted servant as foretold by Anna the prophet. With the help of a group of religious men, Miriam and Nehushta are protected and the young girl educated. While living with these religious men, she comes into contact with Caleb a member of this group. They are of the same age and soon become good friends. However, Caleb hopes for more from her. She, however, does not love him. As she comes of age, she starts to fall in love with a Roman. Her mother’s dying wish was that she should be married to a Christian man so that the blessings of her parents would follow her.
Marcus, the Roman official, is sympathetic and kind towards both Nehushta and Miriam. Miriam is torn between her parent’s wishes and the love that she possesses for this handsome Roman (Haggard 59). According to her, the faith she possesses in her religion surpasses that of her love towards Marcus. Therefore, she has to let him go despite the love she has for him.
Afterwards, her grandfather Benoni learns of her existence from both Marcus and Caleb. He finds a way to claim her. After long discussions and agreements, the religious men agree that she could leave with him. Despite his hate for Christians, Benoni, grows to love the young woman as her granddaughter.
After Caleb was rejected by Miriam, he flees to Tyre where he meets up with Benoni. In order to win Miriam’s love, he joins a faction that wages war against the Romans. Miriam learns of this and is not pleased. She tries to advise Caleb to against taking up arms. According to her, their faction is doomed since they are the same people who crucified Jesus (Haggard 84). She advises him to escape since there is still time, but he refuses.
She was now torn between the loyalty of an old friend, and the new found love she possesses for Marcus, a Roman. After the wars that were waged, Marcus eventually converted to Christianity in order to be with the woman that he loved. Therefore, in the end it worked out for them. Marcus and Miriam wed and were blessed in the name of Miriam’s dead mother by Nehushta since they had not broken her command.
Haggard, H. Rider. The Pearl Maiden. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1916. Print.