4 days until Hellboy Day - Mohlomi
“Motse ha o na sehlare: sehlare ke pelo - Power is not acquired by medicine: the heart is the medicine” Morena Mohlomi, 1720-1815
There are figures of benevolence and wisdom, figures whose legacy and teachings last long after their passing. Chief Mohlomi is one such figure, both in Hellboy's world and our own.
A philosopher and healer, Mohlomi is today primarily recognised as a mentor to King Moshoeshoe I, first king and father of Lesotho, a mountainous kingdom enclaved within South Africa. Lesotho withstood attacks from the far more numerous and deadly Boers and Zulu, yet under the counsel of Mohlomi, Moshoeshoe I treated refugees and defeated aggressors with compassion and respect.*
These conflicts were described by Mohlomi as the 'red dust from the east', a reference which he also made to Hellboy on their first meeting. Indeed the blurring of the reality and fiction of Mohlomi is key to understanding his role in Hellboy's journey. Having seen the devastation of war and in his role as advisor to kings, Mohlomi visits Hellboy during the latter's travels across Africa. Even though Mohlomi at this point had been dead for almost two centuries. It also seems that following his death Mohlomi has given up his ascetic ways and taken up smoking.
Mohlomi offers to Hellboy a protective talisman in the form of a bell, he claims it is his 'medicine' and that it will keep him safe. This bell, seemingly imbued with magic, is crucial to saving Hellboy's life on a number of occasions, even miraculously reappearing after previously being eaten by a shark. And it is on this subject that the words of the real world Mohlomi take on a deep significance for Hellboy's story.
The story goes that when a young, ambitious Moshoeshoe first met with Mohlomi, he requested magical assistance or medicine from the wise man, to help with his campaign to become a powerful chief. To this Mohlomi responded with the aforementioned quote that “the heart is the medicine.” As Hellboy lies dying on a forgotten and uncharted island; his bell lost, his heart impaled and his own blood congealing into the demonic form which he fears lies dormant inside him, Mohlomi returns to speak with him again.
In this meeting between life and death, Mohlomi hands the missing bell back to Hellboy, stating that “nothing's lost”, in doing so restoring Hellboy to life and giving him the required power to defeat the nightmare version of himself. It is not however the bell, not the medicine, that gives Hellboy this power, but it is the heart and conviction that Mohlomi returns to him. Hellboy reaffirms that he will fight to the last against his supposed destiny, rather than a magical trinket, Mohlomi restored his heart.
Hellboy is not the only one who would receive visits from Mohlomi. In 1882, mere decades after his death, Mohlomi appeared in London to the celebrated Witchfinder, Sir Edward Grey. The two clearly formed an association from this point, as they would later be present at he moment that Hellboy succeeds in retrieving Excalibur.
*Ryan Coogler, director of 'Black Panther' 2018 has stated that he based his version of Wakanda on Lesotho. Extrapolating this we could say that Moshoeshoe I is the original 19th Century Black Panther.
If Mohlomi doesn't appear to you in a vision, you can find out about him in:
The Third Wish
The Wild Hunt
Witchfinder: City of the Dead
And for some background on the real Mohlomi:
A Chief is a Chief by the Grace of His People: Once We Had Leaders – Max du Preez Tafelberg Press 2012