Fun Facts Friday: King Solomon’s Mines

March 30, 2012

Sometimes the story behind the book is more interesting than the book. King Solomon’s Mines (my thoughts) by H. Rider Haggard also has an interesting story behind the novel that inspired such characters as Indiana Jones.

King Solomon's Mines by H. Rider Haggard

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1 ) When the novel was first published in London, 1885, it was marketed “ The Most Amazing Book Ever Written” and became an immediate best seller

2 ) At the time explorations around the globe were major headlines, however Africa largely remained a mystery. King Solomon’s Mines was the first novel, published in English, to capture the public’s interest.

3 ) Haggard has traveled in Africa when he was 19 and witnessed the Anglo-Zulu War as well as the First Boer War.

4 ) Alan Quatermain is based largely on famed British white hunter and explorer Frederick Courteney Selous.

Frederick Courteney Selous

Frederick Courteney Selous

5) The part in the novel about Captain Good taking out his false teeth and terrifying the locals is based on a true story. Jospeh Thomson, a Scottish explorer, has documented this even in his book Through Masai Land where he scared Kenyan warriors taking out his false teeth and putting them back. Haggard was accused of plagiarism and Thomson published his own novel (which failed to sale).

6 ) The novel was written as a five shilling bet between the Haggard brothers. The bet: That H. Merryl could not write a novel has as good as Treasure Island (my thoughts) by Robert Louis Stevenson.

7 ) King Solomon’s Mines is credited with creating the “Lost World” genre which would inspire such authors as Rudyard Kipling, HP Lovercraft, Lee Falk, Edgar Rice Burroughs and Arthur Conan Doyle.

8 ) Kukuanaland, where the expedition is heading, is said to be “forty leagues north of the Lukanga river” which would place it in modern day Zambia.

9 ) Some argue that the greatest value the novel has is the documentation of colonialist attitudes towards Africans.

10) While the book may look racist to us today, it is much less than the later books. Quatermain refuses to use the “n” word and concludes that many Africans are noble and deserve the title “gentleman” more than their European counterparts. Haggard even gives Captain Good an African girlfriends (who was conveniently killed before the end of the novel). Despite trying to discourage the relationship, the narrator has no objection to the lady as a person who is “beautiful” and “noble”.

Zohar – Man of la Book

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