I want to welcome Robbie Cheadle to the U. L. S., The Underground Library Society! This group is an unofficial collection of people who deeply value books. It is based on the idea of The Book People from Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. Robbie is the newest member of this group of book lovers!
King Solomon’s Mines by H. Rider Haggard
I decided to read King Solomon’s Mines as it is set in South Africa in the late 19th century. I am currently finalizing my first adult novel, A Ghost and His Gold, which is set during the Second Anglo Boer War. I hoped that King Solomon’s Mines would give me insight into life in southern Africa during this period.
Rider Haggard spent time in South Africa after he took a position as the assistant to the secretary to Sir Henry Bulwer, Lieutenant-Governor of the Colony of Natal in 1875. In 1876, he was transferred to the staff of Sir Theophilus Shepstone, Special Commissioner for the Transvaal. It was in this role that Sir Haggard was present in Pretoria, capital of the then Boer Republic of the Transvaal, in April 1877 when it was officially annexed by Britain. Sir Haggard was tasked with the duty of raising the Union flag and reading out much of the proclamation at the annexation event after the official originally entrusted with this duty lost his voice.
I had an interest in Sir Rider Haggard and his books because he lived in Ditchingham, a town close to my mother’s hometown of Bungay in Suffolk, England. When her brother was a young man he was employed by Sir Haggard and Sir Haggard daughter, Lilias Haggard, edited a book entitled The Rabbit Skin Cap which told the story of an old man who was well known to my mother. My mother’s memories of Sir Rider Haggard’s house and his daughter, Lilias, are included in the fictionalized memoir of her life, While the Bombs Fell, which we wrote together.
King Solomon’s Mines literary importance
King Solomon’s Mines is a book that is worth preserving because it is a rollicking good story with lots of action, written along similar lines to the famous Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stephenson. The author has a wonderful gift of descriptive writing and shares the beauty and mystery of Africa in a most appealing and interesting way. The author demonstrates a thorough knowledge of southern Africa and the way of life among the hunters of the time. An example of this glorious language is as follows:
“But just before you come to Durban there is a peculiar richness about the landscape. There are the sheer kloofs cut in the hills by the rushing rains of centuries, down which the rivers sparkle; there is the deepest green of the bush, growing as God planted it, and the other greens of the mealie gardens and the sugar patches, while now and again a white house, smiling out at the placid sea, puts a finish and gives an air of homeliness to the scene.” Although this sentence is long by modern book writing standards, it describes the scene vividly. The language used by the writer is not complex and overwhelmingly ornate like many other books from this same period, but rather is written in a simple and conversational style.
Another wonderful description is of the Kalahari Desert: “On, on we went, till at last the east began to blush like the cheek of the girl. Then there came faint rays of primrose light, that changed presently to golden bars, through which the dawn glided out across the desert. The stars grew pale and paler still, till at last they vanished; the golden moon waxed wan, and her mountain ridges stood out against her sickly face like the bones on the cheek of a dying man.”
I must state that this book is set in Southern Africa in the late 19th century and contains some language that is offensive to modern readers. This book also expresses some of the colonialist thinking of the time, particularly in its descriptions of certain relationships between the Europeans and the Africans. These views and relationship depictions are dated and reprehensible by modern standards, but it is of literary interest that the author was progressive for the time and this was reflected in his work.
Haggard demonstrates respect of the African culture and describes many of the African warriors, including Ignosi, one of the main characters in the book, as brave and heroic. Twala, the existing king of the Kukuana people, when the three European travelers and Ignosi arrive in Kukuanaland, and Gagool, the witch doctor, are described as being cruel and barbaric but this is in line with their roles as the villains of this story. The story also includes a romance between Englishman, Captain Good, and a Kukuana maiden called Foulata, which would have been socially unacceptable at the time.
My review of King Solomon’s Mines
King Solomon’s Mine is a thrilling tale of Allan Quatermaine, a European hunter living in Durban, South Africa, who partners with Sir Henry Curtis, a huge Adonis of a man from a wealthy English family, and his colleague Captain Good, to cross the Kalahari Desert in search of Sir Curtis’ younger brother, Neville and the legendary mines of King Solomon. Being on the wrong side of 50 years old and with his career as an elephant hunter drawing to an end, Mr Quatermaine agrees to accompany the pair on their ambitious journey.
Allan Quatermaine is rather pessimistic by nature and does not believe he will live to return to his home in Durban. His terms of engagement include making provision for his son in the likely event of his death. He does not see himself as a brave man, but his actions demonstrate this he is brave, and clever and levelheaded too.
Sir Henry Curtis is beset with guilt as he believes himself responsible for his brother’s rash action in crossing the desert, a journey very few have survived. He is determined to look for his brother and redeem himself, even if it results in his own death. Sir Curtis is brave and strong, the kind of man admired by many for his physical attributes. He fights alongside Ignosi’s best warriors when a tribal war erupts later in the story. Sir Curtis is kind and compassionate and is not corrupted by greed like many men are, even when he learns of the treasure hidden in King Solomon’s mines.
Captain Good is an ex-navel man and quite precise in his behaviour and beliefs. He is prim and proper and takes great care of his personal appearance, a characteristic that nearly results in his death early in the story but proves to be of great assistance to the adventurers later on.
Ignosi enters the story as an African servant named Umbopa. He is a huge man, strong and clever, who does not fit well into the role of a servant. Despite this, Sir Henry and Quatermaine decide he is perfectly suited to accompany them on their journey. Good has some reservations but these are swept aside by his traveling companions.
The book tells the story of the four men’s journey from Durban to a small African village on the outskirts of the desert. It provides a lot of insight into life at the time and describes travelling by ox wagon, an exciting elephant hunt that ends in tragedy and the life-threatening trek across the desert.
Once the men manage to traverse the desert and the mountain and enter Kukuanaland, the story becomes even more exciting when they encounter the evil Twala, a Shaka Zulu styled tyrant with no respect for human life, and Gagool, a powerful witch doctor with a taste for murdering beautiful young girls.
Readers are treated to a ferocious tribal war, an exciting trip to the mines of King Solomon and an evil trap. This is an exciting and fast paced story which demonstrates the author’s knowledge of southern Africa and the lifestyles and cultures of the time from both the European and African perspective.
Potential readers should be warned that this book was written during the colonialist era and contains some language and ideas that are offensive to modern readers. If you can set this aside as a function of the politics and ideology of the era, it is a fantastic adventure story along the lines of Indiana Jones.
A Ghost and His Gold by Roberta Eaton Cheadle – Cover reveal
About Robbie Cheadle and Roberta Eaton Cheadle
Hello, my name is Robbie, short for Roberta. I am an author with seven published children’s picture books in the Sir Chocolate books series for children aged 2 to 9 years old (co-authored with my son, Michael Cheadle), one published middle grade book in the Silly Willy series and one published preteen/young adult fictionalised biography about my mother’s life as a young girl growing up in an English town in Suffolk during World War II called While the Bombs Fell (co-authored with my mother, Elsie Hancy Eaton). All of my children’s book are written under Robbie Cheadle and are published by TSL Publications.
I have recently branched into adult and young adult horror and supernatural writing and, in order to clearly differential my children’s books from my adult writing, I plan to publish these books under Roberta Eaton Cheadle. My first supernatural book published in that name, Through the Nethergate, is now available.
I have participated in a number of anthologies:
Two short stories in #1 Amazon bestselling anthology, Dark Visions, a collection of horror stories edited by Dan Alatorre;
Three short stories in Death Among Us, an anthology of murder mystery stories, edited by Stephen Bentley;
Three short stories in #1 Amazon bestselling anthology, Nightmareland, a collection of horror stories edited by Dan Alatorre; and
Two short stories in Whispers of the Past, an anthology of paranormal stories, edited by Kaye Lynne Booth.
I also have a book of poetry called Open a new door, with fellow South African poet, Kim Blades.
Thank you to Robbie Cheadle! Please visit her sites.