The Great Allan Quatermain Read at Chrons -- Weird Adventures of Rider Haggard's Hunter Hero

I'm struggling a bit with KSM now, I might have to shelf it back to my tbr file.
It's a bit too far from my comfort zone
Zikali and Hans the Hottentot appear in Marie, and I think I confused them.

Since the proposal was publication order, but responding to Hugh I decided to go ahead with Marie and its two Zulu Trilogy sequels, shall I hold off on posting comments here for a while so that those who want to read King Solomon’s Mines and Allan Quatermain won’t feel distracted? But I’m keen for this rereading of Marie, first in chronological order. Sorry if I’ve annoyed anyone!
I don't expect to read more than the very occasional volume, and certainly not in sequence, but I've begun a re-read of Ayesha (pronounced Assha according to the author's note) in case I locate She and Allan. It's been over fifty years and I remember nothing except that at the time it was a disappointment.

I've only read a few Haggard, but they definitely include KSM, She, Allan Quartermain, Nada the Lily, Ayesha. However, that picture of Kigali definitely rings a bell.
It's only in the last few years (through Chrons) that I've realised there were more books featuring Allan Quartermain. My first read of KSM was in the Classics Illustrated edition and I still remember vividly some of the pictures.
It was as the big Zulu guide was spouting poetry (when they sighted the distant mountains) and it all got a bit metaphysical - I finally bashed on through that and am still in the book
It was noted many years ago that when Haggard characters start talking about Life, the writing sags. That's probably a bigger problem with She and the other Ayesha books (Ayesha: The Return of She, She and Allan, Wisdom's Daughter) than most of the Allan books. I love C. S. Lewis's quip: If She really was Wisdom's Daughter, all we can say is she did not take after her parent!

These considerations might help:

1.Those philosophical passages are always or almost always (as I recall) intended, at least, to help to give a character depth. That is, the passages are not stuck into the story as an arbitrary interruption of the action. They are more integral to the development of the character and the story than that.

2.The passages are often the words of characters not from the author's and audience's own society, which Haggard tended to see as obsessed with money and status. However inadequate some of those passages about Life are, the implied or overt criticism of a materialistic way of life might have some merit. Often, the narrator who hears these passages/tirades/harangues is a bit humbled by them or is depicted as having been given something to think about.

3.At the least, the reader might need a break from the account of great effort and even suffering or suspense and bloody violence. One way an author can give the reader/audience relief is by adding something funny, as Shakespeare did with the drunken porter in Macbeth. There's quite a bit of humor at the beginning of KSM. But witty repartee, buffoonery, or the like later on might be inappropriate at the place the story has reached. Sometimes a bit of philosophizing gives the reader a break, without making him grin or laugh.
I rather liked the philosophising in KSM, especially Quartermain's musings before the battle, which a lesser Victorian author would probably have turned into a literal sermon in a Muscular Christianity sort of way. It's not a perfect book by a long way, but in almost every respect, KSM is a better and more sophisticated novel than you might expect, and still pretty exciting.

It's interesting to read it as a sort of non-SFF SFF, about wild adventures in a strange land. I can't remember if I read Allan Quartermain before I wrote Space Captain Smith, but I think it must have seeped into my mind somehow.
Well I've finished "Ayesha: The Return of She" (1905)
I'm sure I've re-read She in the last few years, but Ayesha I probably read just the once when I was fifteen or sixteen, so it's been a while. All I remembered was an unlikely-shaped mountain and a battle towards the end.
Anyway, I enjoyed the first two thirds or so, consisting mainly of the travels and adventures of Leo and Holly searching for the mountain of their vision. Haggard, like Tolkien, has a great feel for landscape and so the journey was never dull. Sadly I found much of the last third, after they've reached their destination a little tedious and the various dialogues with Ayesha, for the most part, uninteresting.

One particular point of interest for me, which I'm sure will have been noted by Tolkien researchers, including, I expect, yourself @Extollager : this passage is very reminiscent of The Black Riders/Elrond/Glorfindel at the Ford of Bruinen......


Leo and Holly have been pursued by the pack of Death Hounds unleashed by the crazed Khan. They have made it to a river (about a hundred yards wide), though Holly is painfully wounded in his right arm from a bite, and have managed to cross to a small island about thirty yards out, where they've collapsed and fallen asleep. Leo has a dream, though subsequent events show this not to have been a dream.
"he heard those accursed death-hounds in full cry. Nearer and nearer they came...... Then suddenly a puff of wind brought the scent of us upon the island to one of them which lifted up its head and uttered a single bay. The rest clustered about it, and all at once they made a dash at the water....
Giving tongue as they came, half-swimming and half-plunging, the hounds drew near to the island where we slept. Then suddenly Leo saw that we were no longer alone. In front of us, on the brink of the water, stood the figure of a woman clad in some dark garment. He could not describe her face or appearance, for her back was towards him. All he knew was that she stood there, like a guard, holding some object in her raised hand, and that suddenly the advancing hounds caught sight of her. In an instant it was as though they were paralysed by fear - for their bays turned to fearful howlings. One or two of those that were nearest to the island seemed to lose their footing and be swept away by the stream. The rest struggled back to the bank, and fled like whipped curs. Then the dark commanding figure, which in his dream Leo took to be the guardian Spirit of his Mountain, vanished."

Later they are told that the river marks the boundary of Ayesha's realm and entering it is forbidden.

There are obvious parallels here. Leo and Holly are in desperate straits. One of them is wounded (as was Frodo). Their terrible pursuers enter a river protecting the realm of someone with special powers (Rivendell and Elrond) and it seems to be all over for Leo and Holly. A mysterious figure intervenes. One or two of the pursuers are swept away, the others flee. The mysterious figure had held some object in her raised hand, paralleling Glorfindel (and others) holding flaming branches. Note also the acute sense of smell of the pursuers.


I've now located "Allan and She" and will probably make a start on it in the next few days.
Last edited:
Hugh, around 15 years ago I read a lot of Haggard looking for plausible traces of possible influence on Tolkien. I read Ayesha just before this intensive period, and so might not have been very alert to the Tolkienian elements. The only thing I seem to have noticed that struck me as possibly influencing JRRT was the description of a landscape in Chapter 8 as perhaps contributing to Tolkien's vision of Mordor. In any event, I have to hand it to you, you have found a really intriguing parallel there, which deserves to be circulated among a wider audience.

It's long been my hypothesis that Haggard influenced the composition of LotR. (Tolkien himself acknowledged influence of She.) The situation he was in at the start of composition especially would have been likely to make him "vulnerable" to influence from his reading of adventure fiction. The fact was that he had not intended to write a sequel to The Hobbit; his heart was with the legends of the Elder Days, i.e. the Silmarillion. His publisher insisted that a sequel to the successful tale of Bilbo should be written and so Tolkien set himself to supply one -- without knowing what to do about it. Further adventures of Bilbo as the hobbit sought a wife? He decided quickly that the Ring must be involved somehow. but Tolkien really seems to have been improvising as he got started. He thought of the book that was to be written as being something aimed at readers of the earlier book, who would be older by the time the sequel was published -- and so something more like a boy's adventure book would be appropriate.

I think there are various plausible (at least) Haggard-traces in Tolkien's writing. More might have been noticed except that, it seems, a lot of people assume that Haggard wrote Imperialist Fantasies in Fusty Victorian English and that they wouldn't like them -- and maybe they wouldn't. But Tolkien did like at least some of Haggard's romances, as did, more openly, his friend C. S. Lewis, whether or not Haggard appeals to those whose tastes have been shaped by current education, etc. And, as we are already seeing on this thread, the "imperialist" matter is, with Haggard, more complicated and more interesting than it evidently sounds to a lot of people who have hardly read him....
@Extollager wrote:
He thought of the book that was to be written as being something aimed at readers of the earlier book, who would be older by the time the sequel was published -- and so something more like a boy's adventure book would be appropriate.

It's easy to see a Haggard influence in the landscape descriptions. Tolkien, born in 1892, would have grown up on these books.

I've just got out the Scull/Hammond Tolkien Companion and Guide.
In the section on Haggard it reads:
"Both She and King Solomon's Mines and their sequels have been examined by commentators on Tolkien as sources of possible influences on his works."
There's no reference to the Ford of Bruinen. A quick googling also yields no results. Maybe these commentators were so blinded by the beauty of She-who-must-be-obeyed that they concentrated on parallels with her and Galadriel and passed over this section of text. Maybe, again, it's hard to believe no one has noticed.
The lines that caught my attention were:
One or two of those that were nearest to the island seemed to lose their footing and be swept away by the stream. The rest struggled back to the bank, and fled like whipped curs.
Last edited:
I’m enjoying Allan Quatermain. I was amused to note that when the intrepid adventures are learning the language of Zu-Vendis, the teaching method is described as being not unlike ‘Wackford Squeers’. I liked how Haggard just assumed everyone would get the reference without explaining it, so taking his cue, I won’t either (I know many on this thread will get it anyway).
I have in my possession serveral books by Haggard which ive not got around to reading as of yet.

Allan Quatermain
The People of the Mist
Eric Brighteyes
The Wanderers Necklace

Ans ond hardcovered edition of The Ring of Sheba
I've finished my rereading of Marie, which deals with a young Allan Quatermain though written later than King Solomon's Mines and Allan Quatermain. Marie is the first book in the Zulu Trilogy. Related to the Zulu Trilogy is the bloody-even-for-Haggard Nada the Lily. The Zulu Trilogy and Nada deal with historical people such as Chaka, Dingaan, & others (I used Haggard's spellings).

Marie impressed me. It showed perhaps more attention and investment on Haggard's part than he sometimes paid at this point in his career.

I was not troubled by Haggard's "idealized" portrayal of Marie and the romance with Allan. Those who like their heroines to play a part in battle may take note of the pictures of Marie and Allan below.

I found no evidence of any influence of this tale on Tolkien. However, if he did read it, he might well have felt an emotional connection with the Allan-Marie romance because it is somewhat like his own romance with Edith. Tolkien's guardian forbade Tolkien from communicating with the young woman he loved till he should come of age, while Marie's father forbade Marie to marry Allan till she was old enough to be able to disregard his wishes. (Edith was a few years older than Tolkien, which might be a tad unusual, while in Haggard's novel Marie is as tall as Allan or a trifle taller, also unusual.)

The fiction intersects with history at various points. The story generally seems to me a good popular historical novel about an interesting time and place ... except that the final episode is quite a descent into melodrama and even near-farce, when a more fitting conclusion would have attained a quality of tragedy.

I think I’ll go right on to the next book in the Trilogy, Child of Storm, about Allan and the Zulu Helen of Troy, Mameena, which Peter Haining said was “Haggard’s favorite among all his books” — I’m not sure on what authority.
I'm enjoying Child of Storm, with the grotesque and eerie figure of Zikali. He does not appear on this dust jacket:

That image is taken from this site:

There's a good example of Haggard just not taking enough trouble with his prose early in the book:

“Baba!” (that is the Zulu for father), said Saduko, “this white
Inkoosi, for, as you know well enough, he is a chief by nature, a man
of a great heart and doubtless of high blood [this, I believe, is true,
for I have been told that my ancestors were more or less distinguished,
although, if this is so, their talents did not lie in the direction of
money-making], has offered to take me upon a shooting expedition and to
give me a good gun with two mouths in payment of my services. But I
told him I could not engage in any fresh venture without your leave,
and—he is come to see whether you will grant it, my father.”

But one just grins and keeps reading!


I finished Allan Quatermain, and mostly enjoyed it very much. The end is very well done, with the race back to the city to try and save Nyleptha being really exciting. In a more recently written book the awful hypocrisy of the lead characters would lead to more criticism from me, whereas in a 19th century novel my thoughts are more in the line of an interested observation:

Quatermain, Curtis and Good turn the land of Zu-Vendis upside down, and the huge war they effectively instigate is clearly something they can see coming some time in advance. They could have helped avoid the mass killing of literally tens of thousands of men if Curtis could have simply kept his thoughts to himself, or if the group had simply moved out of the temple and tried to leave the land as soon as they realised both Queen's were in love with him. In time, Curtis dictates that he'll let no one else into the land in future to preserve the people's simple barbarism from modern ideas, though this is after he has already done exactly that himself and been directly responsible for the deaths of so many of them. Kind of odd! But perhaps the adventurers' hypocrisy was missed by the 19th century readership and is more of a contemporary notion. In any event, the book was an exciting romp, and I can forgive an awful lot from this era, so while these observations tarnished the book, they didn't ruin it for me.

Next up, I'll probably divert from Quatermain per se, and read She, which Haggard wrote around this time, before I get back to AQ with Maiwa's Revenge.
It's a long time since I read that one, Bick, but thanks for those comments on AQ. I look forward to your thoughts on the Zulu Trilogy.

Similar threads