Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


*Durban. Port city in the British-ruled colony of Natal on South Africa’s eastern coast that is Quatermain’s base. Durban represents a mean between the exaggerated civilization and inflation of Cape Town and the unexplored, untamed open country of Southern Africa’s interior. Inland expeditions outfit at Durban and depart from and return there; it is a frontier town in which the best and worst of European and African residents can be found. Durban is a busy place in which the unexpected can always be expected to happen. The setting allows a preview of what can be expected in the interior and prepares readers for a fabulous adventure.


Dunkeld. Ship on which Quatermain meets Sir Henry Curtis and Captain John Good while sailing from Cape Town to Durban. Their voyage symbolizes the impact of progress and technology on Africa. Not many years earlier, rounding the Cape of Good Hope was dangerous, and shipwrecks were common. However, European progress and technology have tamed the seas to the point that such voyages have become the common and safe means of transportation between Southern Africa’s two main ports. Eventually, the African continent, like the seas surrounding it, will be tamed by European progress.

*Southern Africa

*Southern Africa. Region below the Zambezi River—which now separates Zimbabwe from Zambia—that is the broad canvas for King Solomon’s Mines. The trek on which Quatermain leads Curtis and Good takes them through dense forests, torrid deserts, and high mountains that exemplify the harshest, most unforgiving, and most extreme opposites in Southern Africa’s wide range of climates and topography. These extreme variations lend a mood of unrest to the novel: a sense of foreboding and danger, which is exactly what the author intends.

Haggard inclined toward the sensational in his writings, and since the British reading audience of his era wanted to be thrilled by near-death adventures set in exotic locales, Haggard obliged them with fantastic tales set mostly in Southern Africa. Drawing on bits...

(The entire section is 876 words.)


(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

The story of King Solomon's Mines takes place in the mid-nineteenth century, a period roughly contemporary with Haggard's own...

(The entire section is 175 words.)

Literary Qualities

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

The book's immense success was the result of Haggard's ability to present such fantastic adventures in a gritty, realistic narrative. Using a...

(The entire section is 479 words.)

Social Sensitivity

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

King Solomon's Mines clearly expresses certain racial prejudices that were dominant attitudes in Haggard's own time. The fact that,...

(The entire section is 475 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Butts, Dennis. Introduction and notes to King Solomon’s Mines, by H. Rider Haggard. New York: Oxford University Press, 1989. Butts’s introduction to the historical background and literary reception of the novel is concise and informative. Notes the novel’s familiar structure as a folktale. Bibliography.

Cohen, Morton. Rider Haggard: His Life and Works. London: Hutchinson University Library, 1960. Scrupulously documented and judiciously restrained in its appreciation of Haggard as a writer. Provides rich historical context for the composition of King Solomon’s Mines.

Higgins, D. S. Rider Haggard: The Great Storyteller. London: Cassell, 1981. Excellent, accessible biography, with limited literary analysis and thorough historical context and publishing history.

Katz, Wendy R. Rider Haggard and the Fiction of Empire: A Critical Study of British Imperial Fiction. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1987. Suggests Haggard’s considerable cultural significance as an imperial propagandist. Discusses his philosophy of life and commitment to empire through an analysis of King Solomon’s Mines and other works.

Sandison, Alan. The Wheel of Empire: A Study of the Imperial Idea in Some Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth-Century Writers. London: Macmillan, 1967. A provocative chapter on the intellectual foundations laid down by Charles Darwin, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, and Karl Marx, leads to the assertion that Haggard adapted to modern thought more readily than did Rudyard Kipling, Joseph Conrad, or John Buchan. Thus he escaped the vice of racial prejudice so prevalent among writers on empire.

Topics for Discussion

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

1. Why does Haggard entitle his book King Solomon's Mines? What do the mines signify to Allan Quatermain, Sir Henry Curtis, and Captain Good?...

(The entire section is 255 words.)

Ideas for Reports and Papers

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

1. Which character, from a movie or another story, reminds you of one of the major characters in King Solomon's Mines? Explain your...

(The entire section is 162 words.)

Related Titles / Adaptations

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

King Solomon's Mines and She continue to be Haggard's most popular works. Though King Solomon's Mines was published...

(The entire section is 501 words.)

For Further Reference

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Barker, Ernest. History of the English Novel London: Witherby, 1938. This work provides a general, if somewhat dated, account of...

(The entire section is 169 words.)