You might have read too many romance novels if you don't have a clue about "King Solomon's Mines". Having seen the film adaptations would do. There would be five, where screenwriters embellished the tale with intriguing subplots. Rogue characters hiding in Africa. Nazis wanting to be richer. (Hitler and his cohorts would make perfect villains in any story.) And a damsel who was tough as nails. Don't tell the last one to H. Rider Haggard, the author of this popular book, as he didn't hide his misogynistic tendency in his works.
Allan Quartermain entered the hunting trade at a young age. Africa was synonymous to adventure, and Mr. Quartermain became weary of it. But he had a change of heart after his meeting with Sir Henry Curtis. The aristocrat sought his help in finding his younger brother, George. He set off into the unexplored interior on a quest for King Solomon's Mines.
Forget the 1950 adventure film starring Stewart Granger and Deborah Kerr. (Robert Surtees won the Academy Award for Best Cinematography.) And don't think of the fourth version featuring Richard Chamberlain and Sharon Stone. Many readers would wonder if Haggard's yarn was a result of idleness. He couldn't confirm or deny it, but it won't be difficult to make an educational guess. Let's take a closer look:
A conquistador discovered a hidden treasure in Africa. Haggard's story began when JosÃ© Silvestre reached Sheba's Breasts, a pair of snow-capped mountains. Kokuanaland, an open country, would be on the other side. Three Witches, which was the name of three jagged peaks, was at the other end. The finest ivories, golden artifacts, and uncut diamonds were found there. Silvestre asked a woman to take him there, unaware of her plan. She hated white men and their insatiable desire for wealth. He was quick to escape from her. Vasco da Gama was the first European to reach India by sea, so it would be safe to say that he was the first white to set his eyes on the Cape of Good Hope. But another Portuguese journeyed north. The Spanish Empire was looking at the Americas and beyond. Don't be surprised if the author stumbled into a little-known document about a white explorer in Africa's interior. He was likely in the service of the King of Portugal.
The Phoenicians and Jews were the first to reach Kokuanaland. There were three huge statues on the base of Three Witches, namely Astoreth, the goddess of the Zidonians, Chemosh, the god of the Moabites, and Milcorn, the god of the children of Ammon. It was paganism to some readers, while others would guess the Phoenicians and Jews. They took their share of the ivories and gems, which could explain the extent of their riches. It could suggest Solomon turning away from his (Christian) faith, but this would be up to readers.
Petrification was a ghastly way to preserve deceased individuals. Those who have seen J. Lee Thompson's 1985 version of the novel won't forget the scene where Quartermain stumbled into a huge cave chamber. The preserved body of Queen Sheba was found inside one of the stalactites. The filmmaker didn't deviate from Haggard's tale, but he skipped the gruesome details. The novel described all past rulers of Kukuanaland inside glassy pillars. The Grim Reaper, which was carved from a gigantic stalagmite, overlooked them. Some would see it as the black people's low regard to life, and they were right. Haggard wasn't suggesting the superiority of the white people, which could be seen in other chapters. This might be the part that inspired horror films.