Thoughts on: King Solomon’s Mines by H. Rider Haggard

March 29, 2012

King Solomon’s Mines by H. Rider Haggard is a novel first published 1885. This novel is the first to feature adventurer Alan Quatermain.

  • 368 pages
  • Publisher:Oxford University Press, USA (August 13, 1998)
  • Language:English
  • ISBN-10:0192834851

Thoughts on: King Solomon’s Mines by H. Rider Haggard

My rating for King Solomon’s Mines – 3

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Part of the League of Extra­or­di­nary Gen­tle — Men of la — Book Chal­lenge (Vol. 1)
Part of the League of Extra­or­di­nary Gen­tle — Men of la — Book Chal­lenge (Vol. 1)

King Solomon’s Mines by H. Rider Haggard is an easy to read, fast paced and light read. The important thing to remember when reading books such as this is not to take them too seriously.

This is a simple tale, filled with swashbuckling adventures and explorations galore. Some of the book simply drags, other parts are offensive in today’s terms (which I don’t hold it against the book) and some parts are simply funny. I especially found the pompous attitude of some of the characters (mostly Quatermain) hilarious.

“”How is it, O strangers,” asked the old man solemnly, “that this fat man (pointing to Good, who was clad in nothing but boots and a flannel shirt, and has only half finished his shaving), whose body is clothed, and whose legs are bare, who grows hair on one side of his sickly face and not on the other, and who wears one shining and transparent eye- how is it, I ask, that he has teeth which move of themselves, coming away from the jaws and returning of their own will?”

Haggard’s tale is certainly written to target the Britain of the times, colonial is big, Africans are belittled and the white hunter is all but god among men. Many other adventure stories, sans the racism, have used this formula where the hero can overcome any odds and still keep a good attitude and calm disposition.

Haggard goes into great details about which supplies Quatermain and his crew took on their adventures, including the type of wagons and even immunizing cattle. I couldn’t decided if these were simply tedious details to ensure some semblance of authentic or just sheer bragging of the author.

This is not a book for politically correct minded people, the protagonist’s description of Africans and animals usually has a negative connotation to them. Quatermain continually dismisses the native population as beneath him and/or other Europeans. As this is not unexpected, it is still somewhat amusing to read how people thought a few decades ago.

The book’s premise is that Quatermain is telling this story to his son – some sort of a fireside story. While it’s a nice introduction, it does of course ruins the mystery of whether or not he will survive.

The characterization in the novel is not much to write about (pun intended). Quatermain really never comes alive, the rest of the characters are two dimensional cardboard mannequins which play up to the stereotypes of the time. For such an adventurer, Alan Quatermain lacks the inspiration which so many real explorers have, and use to their advantage to raise funds and lead parties through hardships.

Overall, this is a fun book which cannot be taken too seriously. While I didn’t think the novel stood the test of time, I’m certainly glad I read it.

So tell me, ever read classics which you didn’t think stood the test of time?

The adventurer and white Hunter Alan Quatermain is approached by Sir Henry Curtis and his friend Captain Good to lead an expedition into the heart of Africa to find Curtis’ brother. The brother was in search of the fabled King Solomon’s Mines.

Quatermain, who is in a possession of a map to the mines which he never taken seriously, agrees to go but don’t think they’ll return alive. The adventurers brave heat, cold, dessert and jungle on their arduous journey.

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Disclaimer – I got this eBook for free.

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  • JonathanMarch 29, 2012 at 1:42 pm

    Hey, this one is on my “to read” list too. Sounds like it’ll be a worthwhile read. Thanks for twsring the wayers for me!

  • AlyceApril 3, 2012 at 12:35 am

    I’ve been curious about this book because it seems like it would be very much in line with Indiana Jones, being the precursor. However, I’m not a fan of boring lists or racist attitudes, so I might pass on this one, or at least keep all that in mind if I give it a try.

    • Zohar - Man of la BookApril 3, 2012 at 7:35 am

      You should give it a shot Alyce, I try not to judge past works by today’s moral standards.

  • RyanApril 4, 2012 at 3:01 pm

    It’s alwasy a shock to read a book written before racial attitudes shifte or when it was even permissable to say such things. And while it may shock, you really can’t hold it against a book. It’s like watching a great movie filmed in the 1930s that has lawn jockey furniture.

    I have been intersted to read this book for a while and I must say I think me desire to do so is even stronger now. If only to say I’ve done it.

  • Reading PleasureOctober 20, 2014 at 8:09 am

    I really like your review. This is on my list as a re-read but I read it a long time ago when I was young and missed the racist undertones. .

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