September 28, 2021

#08-140: King Solomon's Mines

Sensationalized cover of a comic-book version

Note: The works of H. Rider Haggard represent a 19th-century Englishman's idea of "adventure"--and the limited rights (or even humanity) of non-European peoples. This is among the most famous.

Get Ready: Do you know the meaning of the word "colonialism"? (If not, look it up.) What are the pluses and minuses for the colonizers? And for the colonized?

The African adventurer Allan Quatermain first appears in H. Rider Haggard's 1885 novel King Solomon's Mines, a reference to a fabulously rich treasure mentioned in history but not found to this day (the novel notwithstanding).

The story begins when Quatermain is asked to find a man who got lost while searching for the mines. The adventurer has a map purporting to lead to the mines, so he organizes an expedition and sets out in exchange for a share of whatever's found (or a stipend for his son if he should be killed).

After several adventures (the killing of a servant by an elephant; nearly dying of thirst before reaching an oasis; and finding the remains of a 16th-century Portuguese explorer in a cave) they reach a lush valley called Kukuanaland. The Kukuana have a well-organized army which is about to kill the party when one member, Captain Good, begins fidgeting with his false teeth, scaring the natives. They convince the Kukuana they are visitors from the stars, ensuring their safety.

Ruthless King Twala of the Kukuana and his advisor, an ancient, evil hag named Gagool, try to kill Quatermain's companion Umbopa, but the hunter saves his life. It is soon revealed, however, that Umbopa is actually Ignosi, the brother that Twala thought he had killed years before in taking over the throne. The Englishmen take up Ignosi's cause, and gain support from the natives by correctly predicting the occurrence of a lunar eclipse.

The rebels win, Twala is executed, and Gagool is forced to lead them to King Solomon's Mines, where she shows them a treasure room full of gold, diamonds, and ivory. She then double-crosses them and attempts to trap them in the mountain, but she is crushed under the stone door as it comes down. The party is trapped for days with little food and water and, preparing to die, they find an escape route and emerge with their pockets full of treasure.

Heading back to (their) civilization by a different route, they come across the lost man they had set out to find, nursing a broken leg at an oasis. Eventually they reach England with enough treasure to live comfortably for the rest of their lives.


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Practice: Match the term to its definition below:

  1. double-crosses
  2. fidgeting
  3. hag
  4. ivory
  5. lush
  6. notwithstanding
  7. oasis
  8. purporting
  9. ruthless
  10. stipend

  1. playing with something nervously
  2. claiming, possibly falsely
  3. a white material from the tusk of an elephant
  4. nevertheless; in spite of
  5. a periodic payment
  6. an ugly old woman, perhaps a witch
  7. a green place with water in the desert
  8. filled with plants
  9. betrays
  10. cruel; merciless

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for September 28, 2021

1 comment:

  1. Answers to the Practice: 1. i; 2. a; 3. f; 4. c; 5. h; 6. d; 7. g; 8. b; 9. j; 10. e