King Solomon’s Mines

King Solomon’s Mines by Henry Rider Haggard, © 1885

Reading Level: 10th Grade

This book is difficult to define but my gut desires to call this book the “most masculine” book I have ever read. In my opinion, that is a good thing. Jane Eyre this book is NOT. And, I loved it! I’ve read many masculine tales such as: Ben Hur, Horatio Hornblower, Starship Troopers, and The Aeneid, but this book is “different.” Why is that? To me it is because of the epic battle scene. — This is Lord of the Rings edge-of-your-seat gripping, nail-biting, groan-out-loud, hyperbolic stuff.

They were foredoomed to die, and they knew the truth…And yet they never hesitated, nor could I detect a sign of fear upon the face of a single warrior. There they were—going to certain death, about to quit the blessed light of day for ever, and yet able to contemplate their doom without tremor. Even at that moment I could not help contrasting their state of mind with my own, which was far from comfortable, and breathing a sigh of envy and admiration.

King Solomon’s Mines

At first I must say that the book was slow going, which in itself isn’t a bad thing. Sometimes appreciation comes in digesting poetic language – taking time to savor its flavor. I am tender-hearted by nature and I almost didn’t return to the book after the elephant hunt (Chapter Four) but I am glad I did pick it up again. The action starts in Chapter 8 and doesn’t stop there.

The tale begins with a estrangement between two brothers. Sir Henry Curtis seeks his lost brother who left for the heart of Africa in a daring quest to seek his fortune by locating the legendary King Solomon’s Mines. The famous adventurer Allan Quartermain is hired to lead Sir Henry and Captain John Good to seek the the lost brother. They almost die of dehydration while crossing a desert. Friends die. They are rough, raw men prone to swearing yet have a sense of justice and loyalty that can’t be bought. They are gentlemen.

Turns out one of the hired Zulu guides is a long lost prince of Kukuanaland. Allan, Henry, and John face a difficult decision: continue to seek the lost brother who may be dead or help a living friend who bled with them almost starved with them reclaim his birthright from his villainous uncle, King Twala, who is concentrated evil. If he covets another man’s wife he takes her by force. If he desires another’s kraal, or property, it is seized in the middle of the night. But worst of all, he is ensnared by a twisted, foul, demonic witch. He is a murderer. He is an opportunist who uses a famine to his advantage and the witch heralds him ‘king.’ “Now the people being mad with hunger, and altogether bereft of reason and the knowledge of truth, cried out—‘The king! The king!’” This is a reflection of America today.

Parents may object or even ban this book for its content. For starters, “Sheba’s Breasts” the mountain range the hero and his companions have to traverse is mentioned no less than 27 times. As previously mentioned, there is an elephant hunt. There is also the early 19th Century view that the world is to be tamed and conquered. Native people are referred to as savages. Fact is we are all savages but for Christ’s redemption and compassion. Allan recognizes that a person may be a “savage” but can still be a gentleman. When a tribe engages in virgin sacrifice, I’d agree with Quartermain’s interpretation that it is wrong. When innocent men who dare question tyrannical leadership are singled out in a witch-hunt and slaughtered without trial, I agree that is barbaric. Even at the end, Allan Quatermain looks upon the fallen, friendless king with “a pang of compassion.” — Through it all, this book is a treasure.

Critical Race Theory is a threat to our nation. (If France1 can see the danger of “wokeness” that should say it all.) As a result, classic lit is under attack2 in many public school districts as part of the CRT agenda. To where should our young men turn “when shipwrecked in life’s solemn main?” (Longfellow, “A Psalm of Life”) How do they learn to be heroes? By studying the art and grammar of heroes! We need Calebs, Davids, and Joshuas. Let us “be not like dumb, driven cattle!” We need heroes. Let us return to the classics for guidance.

* Sources:

  1. https://www.dailysignal.com/2021/02/18/if-france-can-reject-wokeness-so-can-we/
  2. https://www.westernjournal.com/california-school-district-bans-use-classic-books-classroom-racism-complaints/, and https://thefederalist.com/2020/11/27/schools-ban-classic-novels-as-much-for-laziness-and-ignorance-as-politics/

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