Thursday, March 25, 2010

King Solomon's Mines

I am more accustomed to handle a rifle than a pen, and cannot make any pretence to the grand literary flights and flourishes which I see in novels - for sometimes I like to read a novel.
- H. Rider Haggard, Allan Quatermain's preface to King Solomon's Mines

Having enjoyed the novels of Robert Louis Stevenson my whole life it was with some pleasure that I found a resonance with his novel Treasure Island when I bean to read the novel King Solomon's Mines by H. Rider Haggard. Only after reading the novel did I find out that Rider Haggard was inspired to write his novel after having read Stevenson's. H. Rider Haggard was a prolific English writer, who published colorful novels set in unknown regions and lost kingdoms of Africa, or some other corner of the world: Iceland, Constantinople, Mexico, Ancient Egypt. His best-known work is the romantic adventure tale King Solomon's Mines.

I found the adventure tale a tremendously enjoyable read with an appealing narrator in Allan Quatermain. It is a story of a group of treasure hunters searching legendary diamond mine in a lost land. In the story the veteran hunter Allan Quatermain with his friends Sir Henry Curtis and Captain John Good, accompanied by Umbopa, their native servant, set off to reveal the fate of Curtis's missing brother - he has gone to look for the treasure of King Solomon in the land of Kukuanas. They cross imposing deserts, nearly freeze in the mountains, and after a long journey they reach their destination. Umbopa turns out to be a king of the Kukuanas and, with the help of Quatermain and his friends, he defeats the villainous King Twala, who dies in the combat with Curtis. The adventurers find Solomon's mines, but are left to die in an underground vault by Gagool, a mysterious witch-doctor. After an escape, with a few handfuls of diamonds, they find Curtis's brother and return to the civilization. Suspense abounds and the story reads like a precursor to some of the adventures of "Indiana Jones". They are Rider Haggard originals, however, and merely serve as the models for many adventurers who followed them in literature and film. Reading this book reminded me of my early love of the wonder I found in the adventure tales of Robert Louis Stevenson.

King Solomon's Mines by H. Rider Haggard. Folio Society, London. 1995 (1885)

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