“An Adventurer – He that goes out to meet whatever may come!” This is the credo of Allan Quatermain, the quintessential, swashbuckling protagonist of Allan Quatermain by H. Rider Haggard. Quatermain first makes his appearance as a character in Haggard's most famous bestselling adventure tale, King Solomon's Mines. Published in 1885, this Victorian action novel depicts a group led by Allan Quatermain who travel to a remote region in Africa in search of the missing brother of one of them. It is considered the very first English adventure tale set in what was perhaps disparagingly then called the “Dark Continent.” King Solomon's Mines was also an early example of marketing hype. The book became an instant bestseller following weeks of relentless publicity on billboards, newspaper ads and posters in London. It was also published at a time when expeditions to Egypt and other ancient civilizations were underway, thus generating huge interest in unexplored lands. In Allan Quatermain, the second book in the series, Rider Haggard tells of the further adventures of his cult hero. Quatermain is a professional big game hunter and trader. He is a typical colonialist and imperialist who believes that Africa needs to be “civilized” by the efforts of the White Man. However, he also believes that the native people should have a say in their own affairs. His faithful old servant, a Hottentot named Hans, accompanies him on most of his adventures. The book is set in the years following the King Solomon's Mines episode. The opening chapter, The Consul's Yarn begins with Quatermain's two friends Sir Henry Curtis and Captain John Good visiting him to condole him on his young son's untimely death. Quatermain is bored with his uneventful life in civilization and plans to return to the Africa. The friends agree to accompany him and this is the start of another fast paced saga, replete with blood thirsty tribal people, Masai warriors, meeting with an old Scottish civil servant and much more. Author of more than 60 books, Henry Rider Haggard was sent to Africa by his relatively wealthy father who felt that the boy would never amount to much. He returned from Africa following a moderately successful career as a government servant and settled down to write about his experiences. His novels did not meet with much initial success, but with the publication of King Solomon's Mines, his name became a byword for adventure. He was also passionately interested in agricultural reform and social uplift of the colonies. Allan Quatermain is a great read and a good addition to your collection of adventure sagas.
At the beginning of the book, Allan Quatermain's only son has died and he longs to get back into the wilderness. He persuades Sir Henry Curtis, Captain John Good, and the Zulu chief Umslopogaas to accompany him, and they set out from the coast of east Africa into the territory of the Maasai. While staying with a Scottish missionary, Mr. Mackenzie, they run into a group of Maasai who kidnap Mr. Mackenzie's daughter. The Maasai demand the life of one of the party as ransom, but instead they lead an attack on the Maasai, catching them by surprise and slaughtering them. The group then travel by canoe along an underground river to a lake (which turns out to be the sacred lake of Zu-Vendis) in the kingdom of Zu-Vendis beyond a range of mountains. The Zu-Vendi are a warlike race of white-skinned people isolated from other African races; their capital is called Milosis. At the time of the British party's arrival, they are ruled jointly by two sisters, Nyleptha and Sorais. The priests of the Zu-Vendi religion are hostile to the explorers as they had killed hippopotamuses – animals sacred to the Zu-Vendis – on their arrival, but the queens protect them.
Both sisters fall passionately in love with Curtis, but Curtis loves only Nyleptha. Together with Nyleptha's rejection of the nobleman Nasta, the lord of a highland domain, a civil war breaks out. Sorais' and Nasta's forces fight against those of Nyleptha, Curtis and Quatermain. After a battle in which Queen Nyleptha's forces emerge victorious despite being outnumbered, it turns out that Queen Nyleptha is threatened by the treachery of the priests, who plan to murder her in her palace before her army's return. Umslopogaas and one loyal warrior manage to save her by defending the main doorway of the palace, while killing the attackers including Nasta and the chief priest Agon, although both are mortally wounded. Defeated and jealous, Sorais takes her own life. Nyleptha and Curtis become queen and king, while Quatermain dies from a wound suffered in the battle.
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