King Solomon's Mines

King Solomon's Mines Summary and Analysis of Chapter 3


The Dunkeld arrives in the port of Durban, but so late in the day that the passengers remain on board for the night. Allan Quatermain gives Sir Henry his terms: all expenses are to be paid by Sir Henry, any ivory obtained along the way is to be divided equally between Quatermain and Good, Sir Henry is to pay Quatermain 500 English pounds as a retainer for his service throughout expedition, and Sir Henry is to approve a deed guaranteeing 200 pounds annually for five years to Quatermain's son Harry should misfortune befall Quatermain in the expedition. Sir Henry readily agrees to these terms.

Quatermain then explains his reasoning for these specific terms of hire. He has not been able to make provision for his son's time at medical school to guarantee the boy will be able to complete his studies and acquire a livelihood. Furthermore, Quatermain believes he is living on borrowed time, as he has outlived most elephant hunters five times over, so he knows his time of death draws near. Finally, he believes the expedition to the Suliman Mountains will end in disaster, as the previous three known explorers died without having found their goal. Sir Henry is not daunted by Quatermain's fatalism, so driven is he to find his brother.

Upon disembarking to Durban, the three men immediately take care of the deed required for Quatermain's service. Once that is legally approved, Quatermain sets about outfitting the expedition. He buys a sturdy wagon and a team of oxen, and then supplies it from Sir Henry's cache of weapons and local goods. Quatermain readily finds a Zulu driver, Goza, and a Zulu leader, Tom. In search of three servants, Quatermain at first only finds two likely candidates: Ventvogel, a Hottentot tracker, and Khiva, a Zulu who speaks English. Quatermain decides to leave the third servant position to be filled as they begin their journey.

However, the evening before they set out, the mysterious Umbopa comes to Quatermain and requests to enter his service on the expedition. Quatermain recalls that he made Umbopa's acquaintance briefly during the Zulu Wars. Umbopa has spoken out that his side of the conflict was ill-fated that day, just prior to their defeat. Umbopa explains that he is a man without a kraal who wishes to use his skills in this endeavor. Quatermain believes Umbopa to be an honorable man who is not telling the whole truth. Sir Henry, however, wholeheartedly approves of Umbopa when he sees how tall and strong he is. Umbopa notes, as he stands beside the equally powerfully-built Sir Henry, “We are men, you and I.”


Haggard continues evoking the concept of a reluctant hero in Quatermain’s grudging acceptance of Sir Henry’s offer. He cites his own impecunious circumstances and his son’s upcoming financial needs as his rationale for accepting the quest. Haggard draws a parallel to Odysseus’ own reluctant acceptance of the mission to sack Troy, wherein the Ithacan king was forced to give up his deception of madness in order to spare his baby son’s life.

In the person of Umbopa, Haggard introduces the lost-son motif common to many adventure tales and heroic quests. Umbopa is taken to be a Zulu by Quatermain, but he is “very light-coloured for a Zulu” (Haggard 42). Quatermain takes notice that Umbopa is a “ringed man,” meaning that he wears a black ring worked into his hair “usually assumed by Zulus on attaining a certain age or dignity” (Haggard 42). Umbopa’s air of equality with Sir Henry annoys Quatermain, but hints to the reader that Umbopa may be more than a mere Zulu guide and hunter looking for work.

Quatermain’s frustration at Umbopa’s attitude belies a deeper conviction of the ignorance, and therefore inferiority, of the African peoples to Europeans. This sense of European, white superiority arises throughout King Solomon’s Mines, and is not limited merely to a comparison between Europe and Africa. Earlier in the chapter, noting the abuse the luggage is taking at the hands of Kafir porters, Quatermain tells the Kafirs that the champagne they have just drunk—after having broken it in their negligent handling—is “the white man’s strongest medicine, and that they were as good as dead men” (Haggard 32). Inexperienced with the bubbling of champagne, the Kafirs believe him.

Haggard’s personal views on racial relations are harder to pin down from this novel, for Quatermain is already established as an unreliable narrator. The future fate of Umbopa, too, indicates a higher respect for the African people than is present in many of Haggard’s contemporaries. Ultimately, the reader sees that Quatermain reflects a somewhat liberal view common to the white men of nineteenth-century England. This mixture of respect and patronizing will be seen in later chapters.