King Solomon's Mines Summary
Allan Quatermain, a hunter and trader now more than sixty years of age, recently has made a great deal of money through his adventures. Although he is no writer, he decides to tell his story at the request of his two companions, Sir Henry Curtis and Captain John Good.
Since he is laid up with a bad leg from the bite of a lion, he decides he might as well take them up on it. Also his son Harry, who is in London studying to become a physician, would be amused by his father’s adventures as a means of passing the time away from his studies. But most importantly, Quatermain has the strangest story to tell, even though there are no women in it.
Quatermain relates that he was born a gentleman but has been nothing but a traveling trader and hunter all his life. Although he has killed many men, none of them have been of innocent blood.
Eighteen months previously, he had been hunting elephant but had run into a lot of bad luck. He decides to return to his home in Natal by boat. He sees another passenger, who is about thirty with blond hair, reminding him of an ancient Dane. He is talking to a stout, dark man who Quatermain immediately decides must be a naval officer, which indeed he turns out to be.
After the boat gets underway, the dark man complains to Quatermain that the pendulum near the engines was not properly weighted. He introduces himself as Captain John Good, a retired naval officer as Quatermain had guessed he must be. Captain Good and Quatermain dine together, meeting Sir Henry Curtis at a nearby table. As the captain and Quatermain talk, Sir Henry interrupts and asks if he is indeed Allan Quatermain, the hunter. When Quatermain assures him that he is, Sir Henry mumbles that it is “fortunate.”
After dinner, Sir Henry invites Quatermain and Captain Good to his quarters. Sir Henry seems to know of Quatermain’s recent travels, asking him if he met a man called Neville. When Quatermain explains that he met him heading into the interior of the continent, Sir Henry explains that Neville is really his brother George. They had had a quarrel, followed by their father’s death.
Sir Henry wants to find his lost brother, from whom nothing has been heard for a long time, because George, who has no profession, might be in a desperate situation. Sir Henry has come to Africa along with Captain Good to seek out Quatermain, who is the last person to have seen the missing man, and to discover where his brother might be.
Sir Henry asks Quatermain what he has heard about his brother’s journey. Quatermain replies that he heard that the man he knew as Neville was heading toward King Solomon’s Mines.
Sir Henry and Captain Good are shocked to hear of this legendary spot and ask where they are. Quatermain says that he saw the peaks of the mountains that border them, but there was more a hundred of miles of desert blocking him, so he did not dare to cross.
Quatermain tells his two new acquaintances of an old elephant hunter named Evans who first told him about the mines. He said that the Suliman Mountains are simply a corruption for the name “Solomon Mountains.” There a race of great wizards lived who had the secret of a mine of “bright stones.”
Evans died a year later, so Quatermain did not think of the mines for another twenty years. Then one day, as he was recovering from fever, a Portuguese man by the name of José Silvestre told him he was taking off on a journey that would make him the richest man in the world and promised to remember Quatermain.
A week passed, and Silvestre returned in an emaciated and starving condition. Quatermain tried to take care of him, but the man was clearly dying. Silvestre pointed off to the Suliman Mountains and told Quatermain that the mines were there.
He gave Quatermain an old map and letter that an ancestor of his passed down through the generations. The letter gave directions for reaching King Solomon’s Mines, which are guarded by Gagool the witch-finder. The explorer must kill Gagool before the treasure can be his. Silvestre soon died, and Quatermain buried him but kept the letter and the map.
Quatermain then answers Sir Henry’s question about his brother. Mr. Neville, as he still refers to him, was attended by a native Bechuana by the name of Jim. Jim tells Quatermain that he is soon leaving with Neville to go after the diamonds at “Suliman’s Berg,” or Solomon’s Mountain.
Quatermain objects that he has heard about the mines but believes that it is a foolish story. Jim disagrees, saying that he once knew a woman who came from there. As Neville leaves, Jim bids Quatermain good-bye since it is doubtful that he will ever return. Quatermain copies the directions on his map for Jim to guide the reckless Neville.
Sir Henry and Captain Good ask Quatermain to come with them on their search for Sir Henry’s brother, but Quatermain refuses, saying that he is too old. Sir Henry says that he will split the wealth of the mines, should they be found, with Good. All expenses will also be paid. At this handsome offer, Quatermain promises to think it over.
Allan Quatermain does not make up his mind about joining the adventure until they reach the port of Durban. As the three men wait to leave the boat, Quatermain announces that he agrees to guide them to the Suliman Mountains on three conditions: one, that he will receive half of all treasure recovered; two, that he will receive five hundred pounds before the trip begins; and three, that should he die, his son Harry will receive an annuity of two hundred pounds for five years.
Sir Henry readily agrees to these conditions, saying that he gladly would give more. Quatermain wishes that he had asked for more, but he will not go back on his word now. He warns Sir Henry and Captain Good that he doubts that they will survive this adventure because no white man has lived to tell the tale in more than three hundred years. He says that he is taking the chance because he believes that God will take him when his time to die has come. Also, he is a poor man and he would like a treasure to leave his son wealthy.
Sir Henry commends Quatermain for his courage, agreeing with the fatalistic attitude that the elephant hunter bears. They drink to seal their bargain.
The following day they go ashore, and Quatermain leads the two men to his shanty, although it is small and humble. They pitch a tent in the garden and sleep there. Quatermain begins to buy supplies, especially a wagon and oxen to carry them and their belongings to the mountains in the north.
A driver, a leader, and two servants are also hired, but a third servant is needed. Quatermain despairs of finding one fit for the journey, when a lighter skinned Zulu approaches him. Quatermain thinks he looks familiar and learns that they encountered each other in the Zulu war.
The Zulu’s name is Umbopa and he is a member of a distant branch of the traditionally dark-skinned Zulu tribe. Umbopa’s people had remained in the north when the Zulus migrated south many centuries ago. Now he wants to join Quatermain and his company, desiring to return to his home in the north.
Quatermain is concerned that Umbopa knew of his trip, even though he had tried to keep it a secret. He presents the Zulu to Sir Henry and Captain Good, who decide that he will be a worthy addition to their company, with Sir Henry proclaiming him his own servant. Umbopa is pleased, stating that he and Sir Henry are both men.
Quatermain, Sir Henry, and Captain Good, along with their servants, leave Durban in January on a journey that extends a thousand miles, the last three hundred having to be made on foot.
In May, the party stops at Sitanda’s Kraal, where they camp. At Inyati, they leave their wagon with a missionary, along with the twelve remaining oxen. Eight of the oxen had died on the way. Goza and Tom, the driver and leader, remain to take care of them. Hiring a half a dozen bearers, Quatermain leads the group off into the wilderness.
After two weeks, they come into a region inhabited by elephants. They also spot a herd of giraffes. Captain Good takes aim and hits one in the neck, severing its spinal chord. They feast that night on giraffe steaks. For their safety, the men build a "scherm," a protected area surrounded by thorn bushes.
As they eat, the men hear the sounds of a lion at a nearby pool, following by the trumpeting of an elephant. Captain Good jumps up, ready to shoot more game. Sir Henry decides that they should stay at this spot for a few days to do some hunting. This surprises Quatermain because Sir Henry always had been the one to push them forward, especially since they had heard at Inyati that a white man named Neville sold his wagon there two years previously.
As they prepare for the night, the men hear sounds of a scuffling at the nearby watering hole. Rushing in that direction, they see the body of a lion impaled on the horns of a dead antelope. Quatermain surmises that the lion had jumped on the antelope and become caught on the horns. He continued to inflict damage to his prey until the antelope and the lion both died.
Quatermain orders the Kafirs, his bearers, to take the bodies back to the camp and skin them the next day. In the morning Quatermain, Sir Henry, and Captain Good, accompanied by Umbopa and Khiva (another of the servants), track down more of the elephants. They kill several before the herd manages to escape.
Captain Good refuses to dress appropriately for the bush, insisting on wearing ceremonial clothing. When an elephant comes running down the path, Good trips on his loose trousers, falling in front of the elephant. Khiva jumps in front of the marauding beast, which seizes him and hurls him to the ground. Stepping on Khiva’s middle, the elephant grabs Khiva’s upper body and rips him in two.
Captain Good grieves that such a brave man died saving his life. Umbopa sighs that Khiva is dead, but he died like a man.
After killing nine elephants, Quatermain and his companions spend two days cutting out the valuable tusks, which they bury under a tall tree. They bury Khiva in an ant-bear hole, providing him with a spear for his journey to the next world.
They then face the next stage of their journey, which is the desert that lies before the Suliman Mountains. They are at the spot where Quatermain had met Silvestre following the Portuguese’s return from King Solomon’s Mines.
Umbopa speaks to Sir Henry as an equal, which angers Quatermain, who thinks that it is not decent for a native to speak to a white man familiarly. Umbopa warns Sir Henry that the way is hard, but Sir Henry...
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Allan Quatermain awakens, dreaming that he was bathing in a running stream. When he becomes aware of his surroundings, he remembers Umbopa’s warning that they would die that day if they did not find water.
Dawn is breaking, so he pulls out a book of poems to read, but the subject of water in the poem is torture. When his companions wake up, they discuss their need for water. Captain Good starts to drink some of the brandy, but Sir Henry stops him, telling him that alcohol in his dehydrated state would finish him off.
The other servant, a Hottentot named Ventvogel, examines the ground and finds signs of a springbok, which do not go far from water. Ventvogel then says that he smells water and...
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Sir Henry determines that the body of the white man is not his brother. Quatermain realizes that it is Dom Jose da Silvestra, the man who made the map he is carrying. The bone pen he used is by his side, and the wound in his left arm is evidently where he drew the blood he used for ink.They set Ventvogel’s body next to him. Sir Henry takes the crucifix that hangs around Silvestra’s neck while Quatermain takes the bone pen.
Leaving the cave, the men see a small herd of antelope. They fire and kill one. Not having anything with which to build a fire, they eat the meat raw, proclaiming it delicious in their hunger.
Below them they see Solomon’s Great Road, although part of it...
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The travelers are led by the guides, Infadoos and Scragga walking with them. Quatermain asks Infadoos who made the road and the sculptures in the ravine, and Infadoos tells him that they were made a long time ago by people from the north.
He also tells the hunter of the last war, which was a civil war between the warriors of Kukuanaland. The current king, Twala, had been born the younger twin of two boys. By tradition, the weaker twin was put to death; in this case, that would have been Twala, but his mother hid him. The other twin, Imotu, was made king at the death of his father, but Gagool, the wise woman, brought out Twala and revealed the serpent tattoo, which was put on the heir when he was born....
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For two days, the native Kukuana lead the white men to Loo, the place where Twala the king is residing. They travel along Solomon’s Great Road, which ends at the mountains that the Kukuanas call the “Three Witches.” These mountains are full of caves.
When Quatermain asks why men came to this place, Infadoos replies that the “men from the Stars,” as he calls the white men, should know. Quatermain says that he has heard that men came for “bright stones, pretty playthings, and yellow iron.” Infadoos tells him that he will have to ask Gagool, the old wise woman.
Umbopa says that the diamonds are there and will be found by the white men, who are so fond of such toys and...
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Quatermain tells Infadoos that it seems to him that Twala is a cruel king. Infadoos agrees and says that the land cries out against his tyranny.
Quatermain asks why the people do not get rid of him. Infadoos replies that they have respect for the office of king, even if they do not like the king himself. Also Scragga is the next in line, and he is even worse than his father.
Umbopa asks if he is sure that Ignosi, the son of Twala’s brother, is dead. He tells them that the queen and her son did not die but escaped over the mountains and were found by a wandering tribe. The queen eventually died and the son became a wanderer, working as a servant and a soldier.
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Infadoos brings six warriors to Ignosi and the white men, asking Ignosi to show them the serpent tattoo. He does so but they are still cautious, saying that he easily could have tattooed himself recently.
The white men are unable to think of another sign until Captain Good shows them in his almanac that a lunar eclipse is to occur the following night. Quatermain is unsure, stating that they could be mistaken about the date, or it might be cloudy during the eclipse.
They have no other choice, however, so they tell the six warriors that they will cause the moon to disappear, and by this they will know that they tell the truth and Ignosi is their king. Ignosi is grateful for their help in...
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Infadoos leads the way out of Loo, journeying for more than an hour as the eclipse passes. They go to a flat-topped hill, shaped like a horseshoe. There is a camping ground at the top where there is usually one regiment of three thousand men, but they see that there are several regiments gathered there.
Infadoos had sent for the white men’s goods along with Captain Good’s trousers, which he gratefully puts on at last. Infadoos regrets that he can no longer see Good’s “beautiful white legs.”
Infadoos explains that he has commanded all the regiments to muster at dawn. There are about twenty thousand warriors supporting Ignosi, although Twala has about thirty-five thousand with the prospect of more...
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As Quatermain and the forces of Ignosi wait on the hilltop, three columns of Twala’s regiments approach, forming a three-prong assault. Captain Good wishes for a Gatling gun, but Sir Henry says there is no use wishing for what they do not have. He urges Quatermain to try a shot at the tallest warrior, who is probably the commander.
Quatermain takes careful aim but misses, killing an orderly a few feet to his left. Good goads him and Quatermain takes aim at the now-running warrior, killing him with the second shot.
The forces on the hillside cheer for the white man’s magic, and Sir Henry and Captain Good begin firing into the native troops below....
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Before the battle, Infadoos rouses his troops. The Greys (along with Sir Henry) and the Buffaloes (with Quatermain) will bear the brunt of the first fighting. Infadoos promises rewards to all should they prove victorious.
Quatermain, looking over the gallant men, realizes that most of them will soon be dead. The troops give their king a salute worthy of a Roman emperor.
Ignosi puts himself at the head of the Buffaloes, which will serve as a reserve force supporting the Greys. Quatermain looks on as the battle commences. Twala’s forces attack the Greys, who give ferocious battle, soon passing over the dead bodies of their foes.
There are heavy casualties,...
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Sir Henry, Captain Good, and Quatermain are taken to Twala’s hut, where their wounds can be treated. Foulata, the woman they saved from dying as a sacrifice to the mountains, serves as their nurse. Although their chain mail managed to save their lives, they are still terribly bruised by the blows of the enemies’ spears.
That night Sir Henry sleeps in the bed of Twala, the man whom he killed. It is a fitful night as the cries of those mourning their dead fill the air, as well as the terrible dreams that haunt their sleep.
In the morning, it is discovered that Captain Good is seriously ill with a high fever and internal injuries. When Infadoos comes to the hut to greet them, he is concerned...
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Quatermain, Captain Good, and Sir Henry are accompanied by Infadoos, Gagool, Foulata, and several guards and attendants as they journey toward the three mountain peaks known as the Three Witches.
Solomon’s Great Road stops at the foot of the central peak. Quatermain is excited to be drawing near to the mines, even though they were the cause of death for so many. Gagool predicts that the same fate will befall them. She warns them not to hurry so quickly toward the evil that awaits them.
At last they come to a great pit where diamonds had been mined. The road goes around the pit toward three giant statues (one female and two male)—the Three Silent Ones....
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Gagool checks on how Twala’s corpse is faring, kissing the lips of his severed head. She lights a lamp and leads the party behind the statue of Death. A rock rises from the floor to reveal an opening to another chamber. Quatermain begins to tremble, anxious to see if there really is a treasure chamber or if it is a hoax after all.
Gagool says that the diamonds were brought from the pit outside by the Three Silent Ones to this chamber. A white man and a woman came and put some diamonds in a goat skin bag. The white man became frightened of something, Gagool did not know what, and left the bag behind as he ran from the cave, holding only one diamond, which the kings of Kukuanas wore on their crown....
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The men try to sleep, but the total silence and thoughts of their impending suffering and death prevent much rest. After a few hours, Sir Henry suggests that they eat some of the food that is still remaining from the basket that Foulata brought with her. Captain Good does not see why; the sooner they die, the better. Eating would just prolong their death, not prolong their life.
Sir Henry then suggests that they yell in case anyone should be looking for them and may be outside in the outer chamber. They cry out, but there is no response. All they hear is silence, so they give in to their despair. Quatermain and Captain Good begin to sob.
The day passes. They soon notice that there is a steady...
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After resting for two days, the men return down the mountain, not really that much worse for their experience. The only consequences seem to be a few more gray hairs on Quatermain’s head. Also, Captain Good has been changed by Foulata’s death, although Quatermain sees it as a blessing in disguise because such a relationship would have been impossible in white civilization, despite Foulata’s beauty.
Before they leave, they return to the Chamber of Death but can find no way to raise the stone doorway to the treasure chamber, although Gagool’s crushed body still remains. They leave the treasure, along with poor Foulata’s bones, to be found by some future explorer.
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Quatermain is walking ahead of the other two down a stream that leads from the oasis until it disappears in the desert sands. He sees a grass hut that has a full doorway instead of the usual short “beehive” entrance.
A white man emerges dressed in skins and having an enormous black beard. He is limping as he walks toward the strangers, then falls down into a faint. Sir Henry cries out that it is his brother George.
Another man, also dressed in skins, appears from the hut. He exclaims when he sees Quatermain. It is Jim, the hunter whom Quatermain met several years earlier as he was leaving to follow “Mr. Neville” in his search for King Solomon’s mines. Sir...
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