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Glossary and Character Taxonomy Breakdown by Country of Origin Bibliography Table of Contents The Best of the Encyclopedia
Quatermain, Allan. Allan Quatermain was created by H. Rider Haggard (Ayesha) and appeared in a number of stories and sixteen novels and short story collections from 1885 to 1927, beginning with King Solomon’s Mines.
Allan Quatermain is an Africa Hand. He is a big game hunter and guide, but he is not particularly daring. In his own words, “I am a timid man and dislike violence; moreover, I am almost sick of adventure.” He is not tall and muscular and athletic, nor is he young:
As I looked at him I could not help thinking what a curious contrast my little dried-up self presented to his grand face and form. Imagine to yourself a small, withered, yellow faced man of sixty three, with thin hands, large brown eyes, a head of grizzled hair cut short and standing up like a half worn scrubbing brush–total weight in his clothes, nine stone six–and you will get a very fair idea of Allan Quatermain.
He is considerably more conscientious, and respectful of the natives, than many of the Quatermain imitators who followed him. Before battles Quatermain’s thoughts are not of gaining glory for himself but rather of those warriors around him who are going to die and the petty reasons for which they will die. Quatermain does not glory in war; he is glad to fight for a good cause, but he sees the waste to it, as well. Nor is he particularly brave. He describes himself as a coward, and if this exaggerates the case he is certainly not eager to fight. Quatermain is an experienced guide, well-respected by everyone, white and black, in the Natal. His word is trustworthy, he is a crack shot, and he is rather clever: “‘Macumazahn.’ That is my Kafir name, and means the man who gets up in the middle of the night, or, in vulgar English, he who keeps his eyes open.” Because he has been in Africa for so long, he knows and is known to many, most notably Umslopogaas, the boastful, deadly, eloquent, and good-humored Zulu warrior.
* I'm including the Allan Quatermain stories and novels in the Best of the Encyclopedia list because they are historically important, they are well-written, and they are fun to read. Historically, the Allan Quatermain stories were a primary influence on 20th-century fantasy fiction. They were read by and imprinted on Robert E. Howard (see Conan), Edgar Rice Burroughs (see John Carter), and J.R.R. Tolkien. The first Quatermain novels, King Solomon's Mines, sparked the craze for Lost Race novels that would last for decades. And the Quatermain stories and novels were responsible for a craze of novels set in Africa. In terms of quality they are on the high end of middle-class adventure entertainments of the kind that were quite popular in the 1880s, 1890s, 1900s, and 1910s. They're also racist, predictably. But if (if) you can get past the racism, you'll find some very good entertainment, and even the occasional moving movement, in the Quatermain stories and novels. Recommended.
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