Book Summary: King Solomon’s Mines by Sir Henry Rider Haggard

Are you looking for a book summary of King Solomon’s Mines by Sir Henry Rider Haggard? You have come to the right place.

I jotted down a few key points from Sir Henry Rider Haggard’s book after reading it.

You do not have to read the entire book if you don’t have time. This book summary provides an overview of everything you can learn from it.

Let’s get started without further ado.

In this King Solomon’s Mines book summary, I’m going to cover the following topics:

Who is the Author of King Solomon’s Mines?

Sir Henry Rider Haggard KBE was an English writer of adventure novels set in exotic places, especially Africa, and a pioneer of the lost world literary genre. He was also committed to land reform throughout the British Empire.

King Solomon’s Mines Book Summary

Having endured a disappointing elephant hunt, the intrepid colonial explorer Alan Quatermain was returning home to Natal by ship. During the passage, chatting over whiskey and pipes, he made the acquaintance of two distinguished English gentlemen: Sir Henry Curtis, an enormous man with thick yellow hair and beard, and Captain John Good, a stout, dark naval officer who sported a monocle in his right eye.

The two were journeying together to Africa in search of Sir Henry’s estranged younger brother George. The brothers had quarreled after their father had died without a will, leaving his estate to pass through rights of progenitorship to the firstborn son, Sir Henry.

Embittered, George had changed his surname to “Neville” and vanished into the African outback “in the wild hope of making a fortune.” Sir Henry had since come to realize that “blood is thicker than water.” Now he hoped to find George and make amends.

As it happened, Quatermain had heard of this “Neville” chap; it seems he had set out on a safari in search of the “countless diamonds” of King Solomon’s legendary mines. In fact, Quatermain himself had some connection to the mines. Ten years earlier a Portuguese treasure hunter dying of a “bilious fever” had bequeathed him a fragment of linen – purportedly a map showing the way to the remote and fabled horde.

Upon receiving this information, Sir Henry immediately arranged an expedition to search for the mines. If Quatermain would join him, he promised he would pay any amount requested. Quatermain acquiesced; the money would help provide for his son, a medical student in London.

But even Quatermain, who regarded himself as a cautious and conservative man, underestimated the hardships that would befall them in Africa’s remote bush country.

The party left Durban in high spirits; not until one of their Zulu bearers was trampled by a rampaging wild bull elephant did the explorers take a more sober appraisal of the dangers that might await them. “Man must die,” intoned their native guide, Umbopa, enigmatically. “Like a storm-driven bird at night we fly out of Nowhere; for a moment our wings are seen in the light of the fire, and, lo! we are gone again into the Nowhere.”

The expedition soon entered a region that seemed to fit Umbopa’s cryptic designation of Nowhere: a boundless wilderness of desert. But despite the native’s somber admonition to turn back, the explorers pressed forward. There in the vast, waterless sands, heat “danced over the surface of the desert as it dances over a cooking stove” – but still the thirst-maddened men trudged on.

At last, at the moment of total despair, one of the bearers happened upon an oasis, and the rejuvenated party pressed forward on their blazing 520-mile trek to the walled mountain range that allegedly sheltered Solomon’s mines.

According to Quatermain’s map remnant, the mountain peaks concealed a “great road” which would lead them on a three-day journey to the King’s Palace. The company scaled the narrow, volcanic cliffs and finally gained the summit, and there beneath them, “cut out of solid rock [and] fifty feet wide,” winding in splendor across a plain bordered by green forests and undulating rivers, stretched King Solomon’s Road.

Descending to the road, the men stopped to rest near a small brook. Good had just scrubbed himself and was in the process of shaving, when suddenly a throng of towering natives appeared, clad in short cloaks of leopard skins covered with black plumes. “…No strangers may live in the land of the Kukuanas,” announced a fierce old warrior in broken English. Good responded to this ominous decree by removing his false teeth.

The sight of his detachable jaw, his toothless, half- shaven face, his bare white legs, and his strange eye-piece, probably saved their lives. The awed warriors promptly escorted these “white lords from the stars” to meet their king, Twala the Terrible.

Twala was an enormous, dreadfully cruel, repulsive man with “one gleaming black eye.” To underscore his power, the King ordered that one of his own servants be slain in full view of the explorers.

After the visitors were housed in a Kukuana hut, Umbopa slipped out of his clothes, and, to their surprise, displayed the royal image of a great snake that had been tattooed around his waist. His true name was Ignosi, he revealed – and he was “rightful king of the Kukuanas!”

Many years earlier, his father had been murdered by Twala, and Ignosi’s mother had fled the land with her young son. Now his one wish, as legitimate heir to the throne, was to avenge his father’s death, “overthrow this tyrant and murderer,” reclaim his royal birthright, and lead his people in peace.

Hearing these words, Infadoos, their aging Kukuana escort-guard, suddenly knelt before Ignosi, took his hand, and, presenting himself as Ignosi’s uncle, vowed to help his nephew and his white friends overthrow Twala. Their attack would be launched, they decided, from the town of Loo, where the “great annual witch hunt” was to be held on the following day.

The witch hunt proved to be a gruesome affair, led by a wizened old witch- doctoress named Gagool. Yielding to her fearful, monkey-like countenance and thin, piercing hate-filled voice, attendants moved through the crowd, dooming victim after victim to death with a ghoulish shriek: “I smell him, the evil-doer!”

Then, with corpses of Loo’s citizens littering the ground, Gagool closed the hideous spectacle by choosing an extraordinarily beautiful young woman named Foulata to be sacrificed to the gods.

Once again, however, Good’s quick-wittedness came through. Remembering that his almanac for that day had predicted the occurrence of a solar eclipse, he now commanded that the sun’s light be dimmed; and sure enough, all witnessed at “the edge of the great orb … a faint rim of shadow.”

The distraction was working – until Twala’s son, infuriated that a white man would possess such wondrous power, tried to spear Good. But somehow the Englishman managed to turn the spear on the false prince; and in the ensuing panic the expedition party fled into the hills.

They were accompanied by Foulata and a large number of Kukuana chiefs who had long opposed Twala’s atrocities and now wanted to help Ignosi reclaim his throne. Together they mustered a force of some 20,000 Kukuana warriors.

At dawn, Twala’s army struck; but although they were severely outnumbered, Ignosi’s gallant band overcame the odds. Twala, his warriors either scattered or dead, found himself deserted by all but Gagool. His final wish to “die fighting” was quickly fulfilled as Sir Henry beheaded the tyrant with a single, mighty blow from a Kukuana battle-ax.

Once enthroned as king of Kukuanaland, Ignosi commanded the crone Gagool to lead his white benefactors, along with the girl Foulata, into the “deep cave in the mountain” where Solomon’s treasure was hidden. She had no choice but to obey.

A three-day march led them to a labyrinth of caves dotting the secluded slopes of a snow-capped mountain. Through the entrance portal the group passed into a huge, vaulted cathedral-like cavern, half-a-mile round and pillared by exquisite stalactites. However, the next cavern proved to be a chamber of horrors: there, seated on benches beneath a huge figure of Death himself, was a roomful of petrified human corpses – the past kings of Kukuanaland.

And on a table in front of these silent stonewatchers lay Twala’s decapitated body. “My lords are not afraid?” jeered Gagool in contempt as she advanced into the shadows of a narrow passageway. At this point she triggered a hidden lever, lifting a massive stone door.

Inside lay one last chamber brimming with untold stores of gold and ivory, and countless heaps of huge diamonds, glimmering in the lamplight. But while the men stood gaping, awestruck by the marvelous hoard before them, Gagool “crept like a snake” toward the doorway and pulled the lever that would entomb her adversaries alive. When she saw Foulata moving to block her escape, Gagool stabbed her ferociously.

Then, grappling to disentangle herself from the grip of the dying girl, the old sorceress lunged again for the opening. But she was too late: all thirty tons of the massive door came crashing down upon her. For a while, all was silent within the chamber. After the gentle Foulata had breathed her last, tenderly enfolded in Good’s loving embrace, the three Europeans desperately scanned the sealed room.

They found no exit, however, and eventually the flames of their lamps dimmed and died. For hour upon hour they sat in darkness, “buried in the bowels” of a lost mountain, quietly awaiting death. “… Around us lay treasures enough to pay off a moderate national debt,” mused Quatermain, “yet we would have bartered them gladly for the faintest chance of escape. …”

Then suddenly Quatermain noticed how “perfectly fresh” the air in the chamber was. There must be a vent somewhere to the outside. His hunch soon paid off. In the blackness, a loose stepping stone was discovered, beneath which they found a staircase descending into a lair-like earthen enclosure.

Some hearty digging followed, and at last they were free! Before exiting their underground prison, however, Quatermain had filled his pockets with enough diamonds to ensure many lifetimes of wealth.

This was indeed a provident act, for when the men returned later to search for the opening to the treasure chamber, they could find no trace of it. Having bid farewell to honorable King Ignosi, Quatermain, Sir Henry and Good started out on the grueling return trip home. Again they passed through the scorched desert, and, chancing on an oasis that had previously eluded them, they encountered a rude yet cozy hut situated under a fig tree.

Limping out to greet them came a lame “white man clothed in skins and an enormous black beard.” “Great Powers!” cried Sir Henry. “It is my brother George!” Disabled by a leg injury on his quest for Solomon’s diamonds, George Curtis had been living by the spring for nearly two years.

Sir Henry at last could smile. Pressed upon to accept a third part of the diamonds which Quatermain had carried from the treasure vault, Sir Henry declared “that his share should be handed to his brother” as a token of his love and joy.

Another third portion was generously bestowed by Quatermain on Good. And so the four adventurers set off for Durban, where Quatermain bid a reluctant goodbye to his friends. His farewell was a vow to take up a pen once he was safely home and set down an account of their most remarkable adventures.

King Solomon’s Mines Characters

Alan Quatermain, a British explorer

Sir Henry Curtis, a British aristocrat in search of his lost brother

Captain John Good, Sir Henry’s devoted friend and fellow explorer

Umbopa, a native guide of uncertain origins

Gagool, an aged Kukuana shamanness

Foulata, a beautiful Kukuana girl

King Solomon’s Mines Review

King Solomon’s Mines, an obvious prototype for the exploits of modern movie heroes like Indiana Jones, is a fine example of what was once termed a “boy’s adventure tale” – a genre which emphasized plot over character and moved from one action-packed scene to another.

But H. Rider Haggard’s novel is an adventure story with remarkable moral depth. Haggard refrains from stereotyping either his characters or the landscapes they traverse, taking great care in characterizing the Kukuanas, who, despite their warlike appearance, emerge as expert craftsmen, gifted storytellers, and fundamentally peace-loving citizens who must endure the cruelties of a tyrant.

Furthermore, underlying the grandiose adventure and break-neck action of the storyline is a deeper theme of loyalty and familial devotion: from the outset, Sir Henry’s search for King Solomon’s mines is not motivated by greed but rather his concern for his brother.

Likewise, Good accompanies Sir Henry as an act of fellowship; Quatermain joins them in order to provide for his son; and Ignosi guides them to Kukuanaland with the aim of fulfilling his own birthright and restoring order in his homeland.

Camaraderie, then, and not bravado, inspires these characters to tackle and surmount the odds of their journey. And the diamonds carried from the Kukuana burial vaults are not trophies of greed but tools of good. Long may Haggard’s characters adorn the worlds of literary and cinematic adventure.

Further Reading

If you like the book King Solomon’s Mines, you may also like reading the following book summaries:

Buy The Book: King Solomon’s Mines

If you want to buy the book King Solomon’s Mines, you can get it from the following links:

Related Lists

Or, browse all book summaries.

Leave a Comment