The Sunbird

The Sunbird

First edition
Author Wilbur Smith
Country South Africa
Language English
Publisher Heinemann
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 its 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 (ACT : 1926 - 1995). ACT: National Library of Australia. 3 March 1973. p. 11. Retrieved 5 December 2015.
  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 (1933 - 1982). 1933 - 1982: National Library of Australia. 7 April 1982. p. 58. Retrieved 5 December 2015.
  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)
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