Allan Quatermain

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Allan Quatermain
Allan Quatermain character
A drawing of Quartermain as a middle-aged man seated at a desk
Quatermain depicted by Charles H. M. Kerr in the frontispiece to Allan Quatermain (1887)
Created byH. Rider Haggard
In-universe information
AliasMacumazahn, Macumazana
OccupationProfessional hunter
SpouseStella Carson
ChildrenHarry Quatermain

Allan Quatermain is the protagonist of H. Rider Haggard's 1885 novel King Solomon's Mines, its one sequel Allan Quatermain (1887), twelve prequel novels and four prequel short stories, totalling eighteen works.[1] An English professional big game hunter and adventurer, in film and television he has been portrayed by Richard Chamberlain, Sean Connery, Cedric Hardwicke, Patrick Swayze and Stewart Granger among others.


Allan Quatermain, having waited until the last minute, orders his men to fire in this illustration by Thure de Thulstrup from Maiwa's Revenge (1888)

The character Quatermain is an English-born professional big game hunter and occasional trader living in South Africa. An outdoorsman who finds English cities and climate unbearable, he prefers to spend most of his life in Africa, where he grew up under the care of his widower father, a Christian missionary.

In the earliest-written novels, native Africans refer to Quatermain as Macumazahn, meaning "Watcher-by-Night," a reference to his nocturnal habits and keen instincts. In later-written novels, Macumazahn is said to be a short form of Macumazana, meaning "One who stands out." Quatermain is frequently accompanied by his native servant, the Hottentot Hans, a wise and caring family retainer from his youth. His sarcastic comments offer a sharp critique of European conventions. In his final adventures, Quatermain is joined by two British companions, Sir Henry Curtis and Captain John Good of the Royal Navy, and by his African friend Umslopogaas.

Appearance and character[edit]

The series spans 50 years of Quatermain's life, from 18 to 68; at the start of the foundation novel King Solomon's Mines he has just turned 55, giving him a birthdate of 1830. Physically, he is small, wiry, and unattractive, with a beard and short hair that sticks up. His one skill is his marksmanship, where he has no equal. Quatermain is aware that as a professional hunter, he has helped to destroy his beloved wild free places of Africa. In old age he hunts without pleasure, having no other means of making a living.

About Quatermain's family, little is written. He lives at Durban, in Natal, South Africa. He marries twice, but is quickly widowed both times. He entrusts the printing of memoirs in the series to his son Harry, whose death he mourns in the opening of the novel Allan Quatermain. Harry Quatermain is a medical student who dies of smallpox while working in a hospital. Haggard did not write the Quatermain novels in chronological order, and made errors with some details. Quatermain's birth, age at the time of his marriages, and age at the time of his death cannot be reconciled to the apparent date of Harry's birth and age at death.[2]


Although some of Haggard's Quatermain novels stand alone, there are two important series. In the Zulu trilogy, Marie (1912), Child of Storm (1913), and Finished (1917), Quatermain becomes ensnared in the vengeance of Zikali, the dwarf wizard known as "the-thing-that-should-never-have-been-born" and "Opener-of-Roads." Zikali plots and finally achieves the overthrow of the Zulu royal House of Senzangakona, founded by Shaka and ending under Cetewayo (Cetshwayo kaMpande) (Haggard's questionable spelling of Zulu names is used in the first instance).

These novels are prequels to the foundation pair, King Solomon's Mines (1885) and Allan Quatermain (1887), which describe Quatermain's discovery of vast wealth, his discontent with a life of ease, and his fatal return to Africa following the death of his son Harry.

With She and Allan (1920), Haggard engineered a crossover between his two most popular series, uniting Quatermain with Ayesha, the central character of his hugely successful "She" novels, and bringing in several other key characters from each series—Hans, Umslopogaas, and Zikali from the Quatermain series, and Bilali, Ayesha's faithful minister. This book formed the third part of the "She" trilogy, although in chronological terms, it necessarily served as a prequel to the first two "She" books, since Holly and Leo, the protagonists of the first two books, both die at the end of the second novel.

Chronology of Haggard's Allan Quatermain, Ayesha, and Umslopogaas stories[edit]

Dates of events in Allan Quatermain's life and Ayesha's are given as "Chronological year" (left). Dates of first publication in book form are given as "Publication year" (right).[3]

The four Ayesha novels are marked (*). Allan Quatermain and Umslopogaas appears only in She and Allan (1921), third-published of the four and second in the Ayesha chronology.

The three Umslopogaas novels are marked (**). Ayesha appears only in She and Allan (1921), third-published of the three and second in the Umslopogaas chronology. Allan appears there and in Allan Quatermain (1887), first-published of the three and last in the Umslopogaas chronology—as in Allan's own. That story is set in 1884–1885; only Ayesha: The Return of She (1905) is set later, in 1899.

Allan Quatermain (centre) follows his men carrying a large quantity of ivory, in Maiwa's Revenge: or, The War of the Little Hand (1888) – drawing by Thure de Thulstrup
The sequence
Chronological year Title Publication year
c. 380s BC – c. 330s BC (*) Wisdom's Daughter 1923
c. 1800 – c. 1829 (**) Nada the Lily 1892
1835–1838 Marie 1912
c. 1830s – c. 1840 The Ghost Kings 1908
1842–1843 "Allan's Wife", title story in the collection Allan's Wife 1889
1854–1856 Child of Storm 1913
1858 "A Tale of Three Lions", included in the collection Allan's Wife 1887
1859 Maiwa's Revenge: or, The War of the Little Hand 1888
1868 "Hunter Quatermain's Story", included in the collection Allan's Wife 1887
1869 "Long Odds", included in the collection Allan's Wife 1887
1870 The Holy Flower 1915
1871 Heu-heu: or, The Monster 1924
1872 (*)(**) She and Allan 1921
1873 The Treasure of the Lake 1926 (Posthumous)
1874 The Ivory Child 1916
1878 "Black Heart and White Heart - A Zulu Idyll", included in the collection Elissa 1896
1879 "Magepa the Buck", included in the collection Smith and the Pharaohs 1912
1879 Finished 1917
1880 King Solomon's Mines 1885
1881 (*) She: A History of Adventure 1886 (revised until 1896)
1882 The Ancient Allan 1920
1883 Allan and the Ice-gods 1927 (Posthumous)
1884–1885 (**) Allan Quatermain 1887
1899 (*) Ayesha: The Return of She 1905


Books written by H. Rider Haggard[edit]

  1. King Solomon's Mines (1885)
  2. Allan Quatermain (1887)
  3. Maiwa's Revenge: or, The War of the Little Hand (1888)
  4. Allan's Wife and Other Tales (1889)
    1. "Allan's Wife"
    2. "Hunter Quatermain's Story"
    3. "A Tale of Three Lions"
    4. "Long Odds"
  5. Marie (1912)
  6. Child of Storm (1913)
  7. The Holy Flower (1915) (first serialised in the Windsor Magazine, December 1913 – November 1914)
  8. The Ivory Child (1916)
  9. Finished (1917)
  10. The Ancient Allan (1920)
  11. She and Allan (1920)
  12. Heu-heu: or, The Monster (1924)
  13. The Treasure of the Lake (1926)
  14. Allan and the Ice-gods (1927)
  15. Hunter Quatermain's Story: The Uncollected Adventures of Allan Quatermain (collection, 2003)
    1. "Hunter Quatermain's Story" (first published in In a Good Cause, 1885)
    2. "Long Odds" (first published in Macmillan's Magazine February 1886)
    3. "A Tale of Three Lions" (first serialized in Atalanta, October–December 1887)
    4. "Magepa the Buck" (first published in Pears' Annual, 1912)

Books written by Alan Moore[edit]

The character was used by writer Alan Moore and artist Kevin O'Neill in their comic book series The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, adapted to film in 2003, based on the premise that he faked his death to enjoy a quiet retirement.

  1. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Volume One ("Allan and the Sundered Veil")
  2. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Volume II ("The New Traveller's Almanac")
  3. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Black Dossier
  4. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Volume III: Century

Other literary works[edit]

The Allan Quatermain character has been expanded greatly by modern writers; this use is possibly due to Haggard's works passing into the public domain, much like Sherlock Holmes.

One of the Sherlock Holmes pastiches of James Lovegrove, The Devil's Dust (2018), features both Holmes and Quatermain.

In 2005, an Allan Quatermain and Sherlock Holmes novel by Thomas Kent Miller, The Great Detective at the Crucible of Life, was published by Wildside Press.[4][5]

In film and television[edit]

The Allan Quatermain character has appeared in the following film and television works:

In addition, the 1959 film Watusi, a sequel to the 1950 film King Solomon's Mines, stars George Montgomery as Allan Quatermain's son, Harry Quatermain.


The real-life adventures of Frederick Selous, the British big game hunter and explorer of Africa, inspired Haggard to create the Allan Quatermain character. Haggard was also heavily influenced by other larger-than-life adventurers whom he later met in Africa, most notably American Scout Frederick Russell Burnham. He was further influenced by South Africa's vast mineral wealth and by the ruins of ancient lost civilizations being uncovered in Africa, such as Great Zimbabwe. The similarities are striking between Haggard's close friend Burnham and his Quatermain character: both were small and wiry Victorian adventurers in Africa; both sought and discovered ancient treasures and civilizations; both battled large wild animals and native peoples; both were renowned for their ability to track, even at night; and both men had similar nicknames (Quatermain, "Watcher-by-Night"; Burnham, "He-who-sees-in-the-dark").[6][7][8]

The beliefs and views of the fictional Quatermain aped those of Haggard himself, and beliefs that were common among the 19th-century Europeans. These include conventional Victorian ideas concerning the superiority of the white race; an admiration for "warrior races," such as the Zulu; a disdain for natives corrupted by white influences; and a general contempt for Afrikaners (Boers). But in other ways Haggard's views were advanced for his times. The first chapter of King Solomon's Mines contains an express denunciation of the use of the pejorative term "nigger." Quatermain frequently encounters natives who are more brave and wise than Europeans, and women (black and white) who are smarter and emotionally stronger than men (though not necessarily as good; cf. the title character of "She"). Through the Quatermain novels and his other works, Haggard also expresses his own mysticism and interest in non-Christian concepts, particularly karma and reincarnation, though he expresses these concepts in such a way as to be compatible with the Christian faith.[7][8]


Quatermain was one of the templates for the American film character Indiana Jones.[9][10][11]

The route to King Solomon's Mines described by Haggard was also referred to in the movie The Librarian: Return to King Solomon's Mines, specifically the reference to Sheba's Breasts and Three Witches Mountain, which are geographical features mentioned by Quatermain in the novel.

In the Graham Greene novel The Heart of the Matter (1948), the main character Scobie remembers Allan Quatermain as his childhood hero.

In popular culture[edit]

  • The video game Deadfall Adventures explores the adventures of James Lee Quatermain, the great-grandson of Allan, in the 1930s.[12]


  1. ^ Miller, Thos. Kent. "Fate as a Character: H. Rider Haggard's Secret Currents". In Wormwood (magazine): Literature of the Fantastic, Supernatural and Decadent. New Yorkshire UK, Tartarus Press, 2013 ISSN 1744-2834.
  2. ^ "The Wold Newton Universe - Articles by Philip José Farmer, Part II". Retrieved 2021-01-29.
  3. ^ From J. E. Scott, "A Note Concerning the Late Mr Allan Quatermain", in A Bibliography of the Works of Sir Henry Haggard 1856–1925, London: Elkin Mathews Ltd, 1947.
  4. ^ Miller, Thomas Kent The Great Detective at the Crucible of Life. Wildside Press 2005
  5. ^ Drew, Bernard A. Literary Afterlife: The Posthumous Continuations of 325 Authors’ Fictional Characters, McFarland 2010, p. 10
  6. ^ Hough, Harold (January 2010). "The Arizona Miner and Indiana Jones". Miner News. Archived from the original on 2013-05-26.
  7. ^ a b Mandiringana, E.; Stapleton, T. J. (1998). "The Literary Legacy of Frederick Courteney Selous". History in Africa. African Studies Association. 25: 199–218. doi:10.2307/3172188. JSTOR 3172188. S2CID 161701151.
  8. ^ a b Pearson, Edmund Lester. "Theodore Roosevelt, Chapter XI: The Lion Hunter". Humanities Web. Retrieved 2006-12-18.
  9. ^ "Indiana Jones franchise". Violet Books. Archived from the original on 2009-01-13. The entire Indiana Jones franchise – films, television's Young Indiana Jones, books, games, comics, merchandise, Disneyland adventure-ride, & Indy imitations such as Romancing the Stone – owes everything to H. Rider Haggard as filtered through lowbudget film serials (themselves frequently inspired by Haggard). Harrison Ford plays Indiana Jones as a hyperactive American version of Allan Quatermain
  10. ^ Brennan, Kristen. "Other Science Fiction". Moongadget. The Republic Serials were most strongly influenced by Sir Henry Rider Haggard's "white man explores savage Africa" stories, in particular King Solomon's Mines (1886)
  11. ^ "News". Superheroflix. Archived from the original on December 5, 2008. Based on an 1885 novel by Henry Rider Haggard, the exploits of Alan Quartermain have long served as a template for the Indiana Jones character. In this particular film, King Solomon's Mines (1950), Quartermain finds himself unwillingly thrust into a worldwide search for the legendary mines of King Solomon. The look and feel of Indiana and his past adventures are quite apparent here, and his new quest follows some very similar through lines. Like Quartermain, Jones is reluctantly forced into helping the Russians find the Lost Temple of Akator and the Crystal Skulls mentioned in the film's title. Both Quartermain and Jones are confronted by angry villagers and a myriad of dangerous booby traps. Look to King Solomon's Mines for a good idea on the feel and tone Lucas and Spielberg are after with their latest Indiana Jones outing.
  12. ^ "It's Deadfall Adventures Time!". Destructoid. Retrieved 2014-01-13.


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