“Be brave, Makikele, little porcupine. All will gather around as you ascend to the light. Do not curl up in your den; do not hide among the rocks of Kgopolwe. Fire, not water, is your destiny . . .”

The storm of Zulu and colonial expansion beat upon the African continent, threatening to overwhelm and engulf the local kingdoms. And while this storm could not be prevented, one man’s strong leadership ensured that the Phalaborwa region of southern Africa was one of the last to bow to the eventual takeover.

Makikele Malatji—the Sorcerer King of Phalaborwa—stood above the regional power-squabbles and territorial wars to unify the people of his iron- and copper-rich region during some of the most turbulent years in South African history.

But today, few outside of this tribal region know the name of Makikele. Few have heard the tales of his wisdom in leadership and moral strength in battle, and even fewer understand the deep ancestral power that emanates from the kingdom’s burial hill. Stories of the king’s war victories and feats of courage have not enjoyed the popularity of the tales and legends of neighboring Zulu, Swazi, and Tsonga tribes.

In The King History Forgot,Robert T.K. Scully has for the first time ever compiled and recorded the oral history of the Ba-Phalaborwa people he learned while living in the region and studying the modern-day tribes, still scattered from their lands by the colonial onslaught. The fiction has been extrapolated from tales and legends passed down through many generations—and it is a beacon of hope for the remaining tribal people, who are even today working to reunify and reclaim their lands, last united under King Makikele, the war-sorcerer of Phalaborwa.

Equal parts biographical fiction, coming-of-age story, and cultural history, The King History Forgot is a cunningly crafted look at the largely undocumented but remarkable reign of King Makikele and shows firsthand how one leader’s strength and insight protected his people from the ravages of foreign expansionism.

“This lively fictionalized account of the life of Makikele Malatji, a key
figure in the nineteenth-century history of Phalaborwa, is based on the
author’s extensive collection of oral traditions supplemented by a deep
knowledge of the archaeology and anthropology of the area. Dr. Scully
traces this ruler’s astute leadership during a time when his kingdom
faced internal divisions exacerbated by encroaching European settlers,
traders, and travelers; he also highlights the political influence exercised
by royal women. Appropriate for readers of all ages, the book will be of
interest to anyone seeking to understand and preserve South Africa’s
rich local and regional heritage.”

-Iris Berger, Ph.D., Vincent O’Leary Professor of History, University at Albany, State
University of New York. Author of South Africa in World History

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