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King Solomon's Mines Summary and Analysis

by H. Rider Haggard

Chapters 7 and 8

Summary

The men come to their senses outside the cave of death. Sir Henry states his intention to go back inside to determine if they have just been frightened by the remains of his lost brother. The others accompany him. They discover that the corpse is not George’s, but instead that of the old Dom, Jose da Silvestra, who journeyed here three hundred years ago. They are amazed by the cave’s preservation of his body, but ascribe it to the extreme cold and lack of sunlight so far back in the cavern. They find the bone he used to draw the ancient map, as well as the “ink” he used: blood drawn from a self-inflicted wound in his left arm. Before they leave, Sir Henry places the frozen body of Ventvogel next to Jose da Silvestra and takes the dead Dom’s crucifix from his frozen hands.

The men travel about half a mile and come to the edge of a plateau. When the morning mists clear, they are able to see a herd of what are apparently antelopes grazing in the distance. Forced to choose between guns which are either more accurate or more deadly, Quatermain chooses the deadlier weapons, counting on the three men firing to take down at least one of the animals. The men fire and see one of the animals in its death throes while the others flee. They are unable to determine which shot killed the creature, but Quatermain believes Captain Good secretly gave himself credit for it as a follow-up to his amazing feat of shooting the giraffe earlier in their expedition. The men butcher the dead animals, but have no means of starting a fire so they must eat the meat raw. Despite the primitive preparations, they find the meal satisfying and restorative. Upon closer inspection, Quatermain determines that the animal is some donkey-sized species of antelope which he has never seen before.

Their hunger satisfied, the men take in the scene around them. Where they previously traveled in desert wastes or snowy bleakness, they now find themselves surrounded by a flowing stream on one side, grassy veldt on another, and forests in the third direction. Consulting the map, they see an indicator for “Solomon’s Road,” and so follow the direction to see if they can find it. Soon they find the remains of the man-made road, dressed stones and all, but are bewildered by the fact that it appears to begin at their location. Captain Good postulates that the road at one time extended much further through the mountains, but that the sands of the desert have covered it over time.

The men follow the road and find stones upon which are engraved scenes of chariot-borne men in combat or leading slaves into captivity. While they recognize their route as the “Solomon’s Road” of the map, Sir Henry declares that the images are of Egyptians who were there long before Solomon. Once they reach the lower part of the mountain, the men come to a wood of silvery-leafed trees. They use the wood to build a fire and cook the meat they have stored. The nearby stream lulls the men into restfulness. Even Quatermain takes time to close his eyes for a while.

When he rouses himself, Quatermain looks about for Captain Good. He finds the man wearing only his flannel shirt and boots, attempting to shave himself with a safety razor and animal fat. When he is halfway through shaving his face, something bright flashes near him. Now alert, the men see a group of men remarkably similar in skin color to Umbopa approaching with spears at the ready. The men ready their firearms, but the strangers advance. From this, Quatermain deduces that the men are unfamiliar with guns and so orders the rest of the party to lower their weapons. The strangers draw near and ask who the party is and where they come from, since the three white men are a strange sight to them. They proceed to tell the hunters that their lives are forfeit for having trespassed upon the land of the Kukuanas.

Captain Good chooses this moment to continue his nervous habit of removing his false teeth with his tongue. The Kukuanas see this and are amazed at the sight. Good subtly removes them entirely from his mouth, giving the aggressors a toothless smile to prove that they are gone. He then puts them back in and smiles, convincing them that he can withdraw and grow his teeth at will. The Kukuanas are frightened by this strange man who grows hair on only one side of his face (he had not finished shaving), has a shining eye (the monocle he constantly wears), walks about only in a shirt to show off his white legs, and can remove and regrow his teeth. Quatermain seizes upon this bewilderment to claim that the three white men are indeed spirits from a distant star, and that Umbopa is their servant. The Kukuanas leader decides that the men are spirits and must be feared and obeyed, but he still has reservations. The Kakuanas speak a dialect of Zulu much older than the one currently employed by Quatermain and Umbopa, so he senses a problem in their knowledge. Quatermain changes the stakes by getting his “talking stick” (a rifle) and killing an antelope from far away. Claiming that he can kill with only a sound, he challenges any of the Kakuanas to try their skepticism against his firepower. They of course decline.

The old man introduces himself as Infadoos and the young man who threw his knife at Good as Scragga. Scragga is the king’s son, and Infadoos is his uncle. Their king (and Infadoos’ brother) is “Twala the One-eyed, the Black, the Terrible.” Quatermain demands that they be taken to Twala. The party begins to set out, but Infadoos and the other Kakuanas are mystified by Captain Good’s attempt to put his trousers on. They cannot conceive of his covering his “beautiful white legs” and the rest of the party agrees: Captain Good must play the part of strange spirit by keeping his pants off and his face half-shaven for the remainder of their trip. Good is frustrated by this, but Quatermain is barely able to withhold his laughter. They two groups set off together.

As the party travels along the road, Quatermain asks Infadoos about its origins. Infadoos admits that neither he nor his people know who built this roadway originally; all he knows is that the king keeps it from becoming overgrown with weeds. When asked who carved the sculptures in the walls the men saw previously, Infadoos must again plead ignorance. When Quatermain asks Infadoos about the arrival of the Kukuanas to this land, Infadoos is more well-informed. He claims his people came to this area “ten thousand moons ago” but could travel no further because of the great ring of mountains. Here they prepare for combat until such time as war erupts. When asked who they could fight, being isolated as they are, Infadoos explains that there is an open area to the north from which another people sometimes descend upon the Kukuanas, although the Kukuanas have always been successful in defending themselves. But the last war against the outer tribe was fought long ago, so Quatermain wonders if the warriors do not become weary of training without actually finding combat.

Infadoos explains that there was a recent conflict—a civil war. Infadoos’ father, Kafa, had twin sons by another wife. These twins were Twala (the current king) and his slightly elder brother, Imotu. Despite the Kukuanas custom of killing the weaker twin, the wise woman Gagool hid Twala from the rest of the tribe until he was fully grown. Imotu was made king upon Kafa’s death, but when Imotu became ill Gagool and Twala made their move: Gagool presented Twala to the tribe as their “hidden” king, indicating a serpentine birthmark around his waist that indicates his royal heritage. Imotu hears the people crying out for their new king and exits his tent to investigate, only to be treacherously stabbed by his brother Twala. Imotu’s wife and child flee and are never heard from again.

Quatermain asks about this child, whose name is Ignosi (the lightning), and if he would be the rightful king Infadoos believes he would be, were he to possess that special mark of kingship, the snake image around his waist. Quatermain then discovers that Umbopa has been taking a keen interest in this story, but does not delve into why this should be.

The men reach an outlying Kukuana kraal and take in the sights. The land is more lush and verdant than the Transvaal, and the people are amazing to behold. The men all seem to be at least forty years old and tall—the shortest is about six feet tall, and many are several inches taller. The women are dark-skinned like the men, but possess more European features than their counterparts among the Zulus. An ox is killed and a feast begun in honor of these supernatural guests. While the food is good, Quatermain fears that the Kukuanas are losing their sense of awe over the white travelers from the stars as they see the men walk, talk, eat, and sleep like normal human beings. While maintaining outward serenity, the men hold in check an inner fear of betrayal at the hands of the Kukuanas. At night, the four men agree to keep at least one man on watch, while the others sleep.

Analysis

It is in this chapter that the “Lost World” motif of Haggard’s tale is introduced. It comes subtly, first hinted at by the unknown species of antelope the men are able to hunt for food. That an experienced hunter such as Quatermain can confess, “I had never seen one like it before, the species was new to me” (93) introduces a detail of the unknown for the reader to assimilate prior to the more otherworldly elements about to be presented.

First among the more alien details is the discovery of Solomon’s Road. Moving from the uninhabited desert to the only slightly populated mountains, the men find themselves suddenly traveling along a path of dressed stones, “with arches pierced at the bottom for a water-way, over which the road went sublimely on” (97). The find “quaint sculptures mostly of mailed figures driving in chariots,” which leads Sir Henry to declare the lost roadworks to predate even King Solomon: “the Egyiptioans have been here before Solomon’s people ever set a foot on it” (97). The mystery of their destination is thus further deepened by the antiquity of this now-departed civilization.

Finally, Haggard plunges his readers firmly into the “Lost World” with the arrival of the Kukuanas, hunters who have no experience with white men or their ways. Thus, Good’s false teeth, monocle, and white legs lead them to conclude the men are spirits. Again the spirit of the age shows itself in the exploitative stance Quatermain takes with the Kukuanas: “We come from another world, though we are men such as ye; we come…from the biggest star that shines at night” (103). The assumed ignorance and gullibility of the Africans is contrasted with European ingenuity in this encounter, and nowhere is it cast in more stark relief than when Quatermain uses a European rifle to kill an antelope buck from afar. The Kukuanas burst into a “groan of terror” and are thoroughly convinced of the white men’s “magic.” Only Scragga, son of the king, is not frightened by the display, although he refuses to place himself in the same spot as the buck to test his position. The reluctance of Scragga to accept Qutermain’s alleged divinity foreshadows his father’s own refusal to be cowed by them later.

Another foreshadowing occurs earlier, when Quatermain notes the similarities between Umbopa’s appearance and that of the newly-arrived Kukuanas. Clearly the reader is meant to make the connection: Umbopa’s confidence in the travelers’ success stems from his own belief that there must be a way to reach Kukuanaland, for his presence in the “outer world” proves that such a route exists. What role he has to play in this Lost Civilization is yet to be detailed, but later readers can easily see the “Lost Throne” motif being set up through the frequent indications of Umbopa’s dignity and princely bearing. When Haggard first published his novel, however, the very genre of adventure novels was in its infancy; many critics argue that this motif was first utilized in the nineteenth century by Haggard himself.

The Lost Throne motif becomes clearer with Umbopa’s interest in Infadoos’ account of recent Kukuana history. The “inferior” twin hidden by the aged crone, the usurpation of the throne by the lesser brother’s murder of the rightful king and the rightful heir’s subsequent flight to safety all echo the legends of old (not to mention the more recent work of Shakespeare in Hamlet). Infadoos even provides the sign by which the rightful king can be recognized: the serpent mark around his waist. Clearly, we are meant to see Umbopa’s interest as indicative of his connection to the legend of this lost prince.

In this chapter Haggard also offers another sample of the contradictory European attitude toward Africans. Although the Kukuanas are a fictional people, Haggard based their activities and appearance somewhat on the Zulu people. Quatermain’s earlier frustration with non-whites claiming equality with their European betters here gives way to awe as he describes the Kukuana men: “not a one of them was under six feet in height, whilst many were six feet three or four…A Kukuana warrior can throw [his knife] with great accuracy at a distance of fifty yards, and it is their custom on charging to hurl a volley of them at the enemy as they come to close quarters” (Haggard 115). Clearly there is one area—that of physical prowess—where Quatermain’s European mores will allow him to see the positive attributes of the African man.

Quatermain continues his admiration of the people, noting that their village is well-constructed and aesthetically pleasing, while the Kukuana women are “for a native race, exceedingly handsome. They are tall and graceful, and their figures are wonderfully fine” (Haggard 116). Even here Haggard cannot keep the patronizing “for a native race” words out of Quatermain’s description, and in fact he goes on to have Quatermain say the women were “as well-bred in their way as the habituées of a fashionable drawing-room, and in this respect differ from Zulu women, and their cousins the Masai” (Haggard 116-117). These terms of qualified admiration hint at the greater European attitude of the nineteenth century toward the African peoples as little more than children, who surprise their “betters” when they seem more civilized than most others of their kind.

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