The Sunbird

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The Sunbird
First edition
AuthorWilbur Smith
CountrySouth Africa
Publication date

The Sunbird is a 1972 novel by Wilbur Smith about an archeological dig.[1][2]

The novel was a favourite of Smith's, who claimed it was heavily influenced by H. Rider Haggard.[3] Smith:

It was a very important book for me in my development as a writer because at that stage I was starting to become enchanted by the lure of Hollywood. There had been some movies made of my books and I thought "whoa, what a way to go… All that money!" and I thought "hold on – am I a scriptwriter or am I a real writer?" Writing a book that could never be filmed was my declaration of independence. I made it so diffuse, with different ages and brought characters back as different entities. It was a complex book, it gave me a great deal of pleasure but that was the inspiration – to break free.[4]

Smith later named his home "Sunbird Hill".[5]

Academic Martin Hall has criticized The Sunbird for an alleged inherent stance against African nationalism and implicit defense of white rule in southern Africa.[6]

Film rights to the book were bought by Michael Klinger who filmed two other Smith novels. However, as of 2016 no film has resulted.[7]

Progressive death metal/rock band Opeth took its name from the word "Opet", which in the novel is the name of a fictional Phoenician city in South Africa and whose name is translated as "City of the Moon".


  1. ^ The Sunbird at Wilbur Smith's page
  2. ^ "THE RUINS IN ZIMBABWE". The Canberra Times. 3 March 1973. p. 11. Retrieved 5 December 2015 – via National Library of Australia.
  3. ^ Interview with Wilbur Smith accessed 14 March 2013
  4. ^ "Wilbur Smith answers your questions", BBC News, 6 April 2009 accessed 14 March 2013
  5. ^ "The secluded life that inspires best-sellers". The Australian Women's Weekly. 7 April 1982. p. 58. Retrieved 5 December 2015 – via National Library of Australia.
  6. ^ Martin Hall, "The Legend of the Lost City; Or, the Man with Golden Balls". Journal of Southern African Studies, Vol. 21, No. 2 (Jun., 1995), pp. 179-199.
  7. ^ Andrew Spicer, Rethinking Authorship in Film: The Struggle for Creative Control between Michael Klinger (Producer) and Wilbur Smith (Writer)