The Genghis Khan
of South Africa and the Founder of the Zulu Kingdom
. Shaka was born a prince of what was then a fairly minor tribe. He served as a warrior for the nearby chieftain Dingiswayo who would help Shaka secure his position when his father died.
After this came the typical years of Thirty Xanatos Pileup
that constitutes politics wherever it takes place. During this time Shaka was able to refine his army into the form it would later become. It was composed of a number of Impis
(usually translated as "regiment") and systematically trained to attack with thrusting spears called iklwa
(as opposed to the assegai
javelins) using double-envelopment tactics. Besides the added tactical sophistication, the sheer frightfulness of being willing to close to hand-to-hand combat so ferociously (a feat few unarmored troops can be counted on to do regularly), broke the power of rival tribes. Other details include rigorous training and a system of military apprenticeship that made the Zulu army something close to a professional standing army (the only thing it might be said to have lacked to make it a "professional standing army" was a Vast Bureaucracy
of support troops, which concept wasn't available in the area) and many historians have marveled at the Zulu army's rigorous training and organizational features.
In the process of his conquests Shaka was able to assimilate
a number of tribes until he had an empire that could field tens of thousands of warriors. He died in a coup and was succeeded by his half-brother Digaane.
There was a miniseries in 1986 called Shaka Zulu
which was produced by the South African Broadcasting Company and shown in America on syndication. It starred Henry Cele as Shaka, Christopher Lee
as Lord Bathurst, and Roy Dotrice as King George IV. Needless to say, Shaka is also the center of epics and folk tales circulating among the peoples of his former empire. Like it often happens with folk memory, they don't shy away from misrepresenting the facts to make the story better, and often don't mind including various fantastic elements.
- Badass Army
- Benevolent Boss: Dingiswayo was this to Shaka, as well as his Mentor. Alas, he died, killed by the enemy he once showed mercy, and Shaka drew exactly the conclusions you'd expect him to do.
- The Caligula: According to some reports, though possibly this was an Exploited Trope in this case designed to keep discipline.
- Celibate Hero: While he might have been not exactly averse to the carnal matters, he rather had some aversion to marrying and having children.
- The Conqueror: The Most Triumphant Example of sub-Saharan Africa.
- Does Not Like Sandals: According to many historical accounts, Shaka trained his soldiers to march through the terrain without wearing any sandals and any footwear, stating that such footwear hampered the mobility of the warrior. There was even a story where Shaka Zulu was given a pair of sandals made with valuable cowhide, but he decided to discard them.
- Drill Sergeant Nasty: Which according to legend involved making warriors run over hot coals barefoot and go celibate until killing a man thus combining two tropes. In fact the second at least is doubtful (they were forbidden marriage), though Zulus were known for their march rate and exercised a lot.
- The Emperor
- Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: Shaka was said to have completely out-Caligula-ed himself after his mother's death, ordering year-long fasting, killing random people and all the like.
- Evil Mentor: While it's one of the fantastic elements, some versions of his tale have him, as a young man, meet a wizard who offers him a Deal with the Devil. Shaka then decides he'd rather be a powerful conqueror than marry his beloved.
- Founder of the Kingdom
- Four-Star Badass
- Historical Hero Upgrade/Historical Villain Upgrade: Depending on who is talking naturally. It is rather difficult though to give him a Historical Badass Upgrade considering that there is not much to upgrade.
- Really, Really Scary Black Man
- Proud Warrior Race Guy
- The Spartan Way
- Spear Beats Rifle: Shaka acknowledges firearms as a powerful utility and hopes to train his men with them. However, he feels that that the iklwa spear is superior than the rifle because by the time the riflemen reloaded his rifle, he would have been already been swarmed by spear-wielding warriors in close range.note His theory was mostly proven true during the Battle of Isandlwana where the British suffered a major defeat in the battle despite the British technological superiorirty (in addition to being swarmed by spear-wielding warriors. It was then flatly debunked when the British came back without being led by an idiot, which resulted in the Zulu Empire going down in a hail of gunfire and artillery with the occasional bayonet thrust. Even Isandlwana was a dubious victory in the big picture, because it cost the Zulu far more casualties than the British in a war where the British had both superior firepower and more people.
- Warrior Prince