Critical Evaluation

This story of the search for King Solomon’s legendary lost treasure, hidden in the land of the Kukuanas, provides absorbing reading for children and adults alike. The slaughter provoked by the cruelty of King Twala and the character of the ancient sorceress, Gagool, make King Solomon’s Mines a book that is not soon forgotten. This, the first great African adventure novel, set the pattern for a host of jungle stories to follow, from Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Tarzan epics (the first of which was published in 1912) to serious novels such as Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness (1899) and Saul Bellow’s Henderson the Rain King (1959).

H. Rider Haggard chooses his heroes for maximum dramatic effect. Allan Quatermain, the narrator, is the thorough professional. He is a moderate, practical, cost-conscious man, courageous when he has to be but quite willing to avoid danger if given the option; he is a firm believer in brain over brawn. Sir Henry Curtis is the more typical hero. Where Quatermain is rational and careful, Curtis is emotional and extravagant. Quatermain is the mechanical expert, especially with guns, but Sir Henry is most at home with primitive weapons and becomes fearsome in hand-to-hand combat. In short, Sire Henry is the natural warrior; it is he who kills the one-eyed villain, King Twala.

Captain John Good, the former naval officer, is the one hero who seems out of place in the depths of Africa. He is fastidious and fussy. His personal quirks and unusual accessories—such as his monocle, his false teeth that “snap” into place, his formal attire,...

(The entire section is 664 words.)