In Chapter One of King Solomon's Mines we have the first reference to one of the main antagonists of the story:

Stop, though! there is Gagaoola, if she was a woman, and not a fiend.

Throughout the rest of the book, however, her name is Gagool. For example, in Chapter Nine:

“White people,” he said, “it passes in my mind to kill you. Gagool has spoken strange words. What say ye?”

I found but one instance where her name is not Gagool, but in that case it is not Gagaoola either; instead it is Gagoola. From Chapter Seventeen:

"Enter white men from the stars," said Gagool, advancing into the doorway; "but first hear your servant Gagoola the old.

Thus, we now have three different versions of her name, two of them being used just once apiece.

The above is all based on the Dover Thrift Edition of the book. In case this was merely the result of editorial errors in this edition, I checked two editions available online as well — Wikisource and Project Gutenberg. Notably, neither one of them had the variant Gagoola in Chapter Seventeen. However, the Gutenberg edition had Gagaoola in one additional instance, in Chapter Nineteen:

“Tell me, when thou wast little, didst thou know Gagaoola the witch doctress?”

Also, the Wikisource edition did not have Gagaoola in Chapter One. Apparently it maintained the the name Gagool throughout the book.

So what is the explanation of these variations? Is it the result of multiple editorial mistakes across multiple editions? Is it the result of an original authorial mistake (which was then either maintained or corrected in different editions)? Or is it deliberate and the character is actually meant to have variations in her name (which might either have some meaning in her native language or may be a form of endearing nicknames like Tom/Tommy)?

1 Answer 1


The name “Gagaoola” appears in Haggard’s Cetywayo and his White Neighbours (1882), a journalistic account of the Anglo–Zulu War of 1879 and the First Boer War of 1880–1881. Appendix III describes a case of assault and robbery committed by Boer farmers against Indabezimbi, a Zulu man, and his family, including transcripts of testimony by Indabezimbi and his wives Nongena and Gagaoola:

Gagaoola, also wife of Indabezimbi, states:—“I have heard all that Nongena has told you. Her words are true; I was present when the assault and robbery took place.”

These statements were made to us at Hilldrop, Newcastle, Natal, on the Twenty-second of August, Eighteen hundred and eighty-one. A. H. D. Cochrane. H. Rider Haggard.

H. Rider Haggard (1882). Cetywayo and His White Neighbours; or, Remarks on recent events in Zululand, Natal, and the Transvaal, p. 250. London: Trübner.

Turning to King Solomon’s Mines, the Internet Archive does not have a copy of the original 1885 Cassell edition, but it does have an 1887 reprint by the same publisher, and in this edition, the spelling “Gagaoola” appears three times, in chapters 1, 17 and 19:

I am going to tell the strangest story that I know of. It may seem a queer thing to say that, especially considering that there no woman in it—except Foulata. Stop, though! there is Gagaoola, if she was a woman and not a fiend. But she was a hundred at least, and therefore not marriageable, so I don’t count her.

H. Rider Haggard (1885). King Solomon’s Mines, pp. 8–9. London: Cassell.

“Enter, white men from the stars,” said Gagool, advancing into the doorway; “but first hear your servant, Gagaoola the old.”

Haggard (1885), p. 272.

“Tell me, when thou wast little, didst thou know Gagaoola the witch doctress?”

Haggard (1885), p. 303.

So, given the facts that Gagaoola was a Zulu woman whom Haggard had met, and that “Gagaoola” is how the fictional character names herself in chapter 17 of the 1887 edition of King Solomon’s Mines, the most plausible explanation is that “Gagaoola” represents her real name, and “Gagool” represents a nickname or a form that is easier for non-Zulu-speakers to pronounce; and that the Dover, Wikisource and Project Gutenberg editions quoted in the question have typographical or editorial errors in chapters 1, 17 and 19.

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