King Solomon's Mines

King Solomon's Mines Summary and Analysis of Chapters 15 and 16


Following Sir Henry’s defeat of Twala, both he and Captain Good are carried, exhausted and spent, into Twala’s hut. Quatermain notes his own discomfort, particularly the residual effects of his earlier blow to the head, but reflects on the men’s good fortune at being alive to feel pain rather than dead on the field of battle. Foulata, the young Kukuana girl whom Sir Henry and Good rescued from becoming a sacrifice, brings herbs to aid in the men’s recovery. Captain Good plies his skills as a medic to stitch both Sir Henry’s and his own wounds. That night, Sir Henry sleeps upon the couch of his now-dead adversary, Twala. Quatermain attempts to sleep, but cannot due to his own exhaustion and the sound of Kukuana women wailing for their lost husbands and sons. His only sleep comes in fitful bursts, full of battle-borne anxiety startling him into wakefulness time after time. The next day, Good’s condition worsens and he begins to spit blood. Quatermain decides that he had suffered an internal injury from the lone Kukuana’s spear-strikes the previous day. Infadoos visits the men and stands in particular awe of Sir Henry due to his amazing acts of battle prowess in the fight against Twala. In fact, Sir Henry’s mighty deed becomes legendary among the Kukuanas, who eventually come to call any amazing feat of strength or deadly blow “Incubu’s blow.”

Quatermain ponders aloud to Ignosi that the new king had “swum to the throne in blood.” Ignosi concurs, but mitigates the statement with the belief that the Kukuana people require massive bloodshed from time to time in their history in order to stabilize the society. Looking upon the crowned Ignosi, Quatermain reflects on his first impression of the man when he seemed a lone Zulu warrior of proud bearing seeking to join the party’s search for diamonds and Sir Henry’s brother. Quatermain is moved to hail Ignosi as king, to which Ignosi humbly replies that he is king by the grace of the three white men. Quatermain asks Ignosi what he plans to do with the witch Gagool. Ignosi intends to kill her so that her evil will not spread again, but Quatermain is forced to point out that she possessed valuable knowledge which will be very difficult to accumulate again. He reminds Ignosi that Gagool alone knows the secrets of the “Three Witches” mountains and the diamonds which rest there. Ignosi agrees to think on the matter.

Quatermain then goes to visit Good, who has been moved to the white men’s original hut along with Quatermain and Sir Henry. Good is feverish and delirious, but has picked up a devoted follower in Foulata. In fact, the Kukuana girl gives sole credit for her rescue to Good and seeks to preserve his life as he preserved hers. While Foulata nurses Good back to health, Ignosi commands that the huts, which are three hundred yards away from Good’s resting place, be vacated to maintain peace for the recuperating hero. Foulata remains with Good for three days and nights, tending him in his delirium. When Quatermain comes to see Good, he believes Good to have died, but is reassured by a sigh from Good that he yet lives. He notes that Foulata’s fingers clasp Good’s, and continue to do so for many hours to come. Eventually, Good comes around and is informed by Sir Henry that Foulata sat motionless beside him for eighteen hours to comfort him in his illness. Good is moved to thank her for her devotion, to which Foulata responds that she was only returning the mercy Good had shown her. Quatermain takes a moment to meditate on the easily-infatuated nature of sailors and believes that Good’s affection for Foulata will be short-lived.

A few days later, Ignosi holds council and honors the remaining Greys by parading them before the village and granting them lavish gifts. Sir Henry, Good, and Quatermain are also honored by Ignosi’s declaration that they be greeted with the royal salute and respected equally with the king so long as they were in Kukuanaland. Ignosi also repeats his mandate that no man’s blood would again be shed without fair trial. After the ceremony, the white men remind Ignosi of their desire to find the diamonds of King Solomon’s Mines. Ignosi has decided to let Gagool choose her fate: aid the men with her knowledge and live, or refuse to help and die slowly and painfully. When these options are presented to her, Gagool attempts arrogance in declaring her knowledge superior and her fear of death nonexistent. But when Ignosi prods Gagool with his spear, she changes her attitude and agrees to help. However, she reminds the men that at another time a woman named Gagool showed a white man the way to the “Silent Ones,” and he met an evil fate. She hints that perhaps she was that same Gagool, and that these men’s fate will be no better. She finishes her rant by declaring the journey will be a “merry one” as they will be able to see the bodies of the fallen on their way.

Three days out from Loo, the party consisting of Quatermain, Good, Sir Henry, Foulata, Infadoos, Gagool, and some guards and attendants makes camp at the foot of the “Three Witches” –three mountain peaks rising up in a triangle from a single wide mountain base. Seeing Solomon’s Road stretching before them for five miles more until ending at the furthest of the three peaks, the party presses on for an hour and a half before Gagool’s litter-bearers ask the white men to move more slowly that they may keep up. Gagool continues to taunt the men that evil will befall them when they enter the place they seek. Before reaching the third peak, the group comes across a wide hole in the ground, nearly half a mile around and three hundred feet deep. Quatermain identifies this as Solomon’s Mine, having seen similar diamond mines at Kimberly.

Solomon’s road divides around the mine to reach the far peak, so the group continues onward, curious to see what the three towering objects they can discern near that peak might be. As they draw nearer, they see that the three objects are three massive statues, two males and a female, which are likely the Kukuanas’ “Silent Ones.” The female, set between the two males, is nude and beautiful, with the emblem of the crescent moon arcing up from either side of her head. The flanking male figures were different from one another, the right-hand figure having the face “of a devil” and the left-hand figure possessing a countenance reflecting “the calm of inhuman cruelty.” After some discussion the three white men conclude that these statues may in fact represent Ashtoreth, Chimosh, and Milcom, three divinities favored by the people to who Solomon’s faith went astray later in his reign. Sir Henry bolsters their argument by identifying Zidonian Ashtoreth with the Phoenician Astarte and Greek Aphrodite, who were represented by the horns of the half moon.

The men then decide to push on into the “Place of Death” rather than wait any longer, but prudently take some food with them as they do not know how long they will be there. Gagool rises from her litter to lead the men into the “Place of Death.” Foulata balks at entering the burial chamber at first, but decides to follow Good wherever he may lead. As they enter the dark chambers, bats fly past them and hit their faces. Then they enter a huge cave, larger than any structure built by man. ice-like pillars—actually massive white stalactites—extend from the ceiling to the floor, adding to the cathedral-like quality of the cavern. Some of the stalactites take the vague form of beasts and the walls are covered in “fan-like ivory tracings” from the dripping water.

Gagool hurries the party to the far end of the cave and through another passageway. From there they enter the “Place of Death.” Upon entering, Quatermain is at first only able to see a vast table, at the head of which sits a huge white figure, and which is surrounded by several man-sized white figures. Then he and the rest of the party discern the huge figure to be Death, scythe and all, leaning forward from its seat to hold the scythe over the table. Quatermain nearly runs out of the cavern, but is restrained by Sir Henry. Gagool shows the men the table, upon which sits Twala’s decapitated body, his head in his lap. Then the men notice that the water is dripping from the Death-figure’s scythe upon Twala, inexorably covering his body in mineral deposits similar to the stalactite columns in the larger chamber. It then dawns on the men that the various human-sized figures around the room are former kings, each one turned into a stalactite-statue over time.

Quatermain later ponders the ghastly scene in a more objective light and concludes that the huge figure of Death was sculpted many centuries ago by some Old World sculptor who came here with the peoples working in King Solomon’s mines. The detail on the sculpture—made entirely out of a single massive stalactite—is perfect and suggests the same sculptor for the “Silent Ones” without. Quatermain believes it was the presence of this sculpture which led the Kukuanas to make this a place to bury their royal dead.


The necessity of bloodshed, particularly in the case of “savage” cultures, is described by Ignosi: “The Kukuana people can only be kept cool by letting the blood flow sometimes…After this the land would be quiet for a while” (Haggard 222). This statement is a response to Quatermain’s own amazement at how bloody the path to kingship was for Ignosi. The contrasting views: that there should be other solutions to political disputes beyond violence, and that some nations need violence in order to remain stable, demonstrate again the European attitude toward African (or even non-European) philosophies of life and their own. A civilized people would have no need for a cycle of violence to keep the peace, therefore the Kukuanas, for all their virtues, are still savages. Ignosi himself seems inured to bloodshed. He would have Gagool executed, and does not understand the importance of keeping the knowledge the old woman has accumulated available to future generations. Quatermain must argue that her information is the best way to get to the diamond mines (a practical consideration) because Ignosi has no concept of keeping a history of ideas available to his people. Again, the civilized European tendency to seek and protect knowledge is contrasted to the primitive ignorance of the Kukuanas.

Quatermain also expresses his concern over interracial relationships regarding Captain Good’s serious injury and Foulata’s nursing him back to health: “I did not like Miss Foulata’s soft glances, for I knew the fatal amorous propensitie3s of sailors in general, and Good in particular” (Haggard 226). Although Quatermain puts the burden of ignominious behavior on Good as a Naval man, it is clear that Quatermain’s default view is that whites and blacks should not intermarry. Nonetheless, Quatermain seems genuinely concerned about Foulata’s feelings. It is interesting to note that Haggard is one of the first author’s to include interracial marriage in his works.

Twala is dead, but the true evil in Kukuanaland—Gagool—yet lives. In typical adventure yarn fashion (and by way of popularizing a style that was yet in its infancy), Haggard has created his climax early in the novel. Ignosi has reclaimed his lost throne; the usurper has been destroyed. All that remains now is to clean up the remaining fallout and complete the white men’s quest for diamonds and for Neville. However, Gagool is still a potential threat, despite her seeming acquiescence to Ignosi’s demands. From this point on in the novel, the dangers are more personal to the men and less based on notions of honor than they are on desire for wealth and the need to survive.

Aside from Gagoo’s alleged longevity, this scene is the most supernatural Haggard has included in his novel. The men’s attempts to rationalize and comprehend the three statues outside the Place of Death, along with Quatermain’s later reflection on the origin of the figure of Death itself, show the European mindset: if one can understand something’s origins or workings, then that object holds no mystery. Of course, Quatermain’s first reaction to the Death statute—fleeing in terror—shows the fragility of this mindset. Note again, however, that the Kukuanas are not responsible for the creation of these statues. Phoenician sculptors or others from Solomon’s day are given credit for the artifice. The assumption is that the Kukuanas are too primitive to create lasting art (or science), and so remain in awe of the achievements of the past. However, even this explanation leaves the question of why the early sculptor chose the figure of Death and a table prior to the Kukuanas’ using the place as a royal burial chamber unanswered.

Twala has arrived before the white men; he again “welcomes” them into his presence, this time as a king of the dead. The mineral-encrusted former kings surround the table, seemingly forming a royal court for Death, but in the present instance also petrified in a stance of obeisance toward Twala. Even here, Gagool’s chosen king has his throne. Of course, he holds his once-crowned head in his hands—a testimony to Sir Henry’s method of dispatching the Kukuana ruler.

The idea of the dripping water creating stalactites out of the dead kings offers a physical—and primitive—view of immortality for the Kukuanas. These bodies are not buried or cremated—they are forever preserved in rock for all of time. However, only Gagool visits the Place of Death repeatedly, so their afterlife is limited to Gagool’s accounts. The old wise woman seems to commune with the dead kings, dashing around and whispering to them in view of the white men. Certainly she has learned many secrets from the past—but whether this is through paying attention to details while the kings lived or through some form of necromancy here in the Place of Death is left uncertain.