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Rudyard Kipling’s Enduring, Just So Stories

Kipling’s Enduring Just So Stories

Rudyard Kipling has long been recognised as onJust So Stories by Rudyard Kiplinge of the most authentic writers during the British Empire of the early 20th century. Some of his works are clearly of their period yet the Just So Stories have endured the passage of time. They are as appealing to children today as they were when they were written in 1902.

The stories of how animals came to be as they are remain fanciful and intriguing. Each tale relates how the animal is modified from it’s original form by the acts of mankind, or some other magical act. For example, The Camel refuses to work and is given a hump as a punishment, allowing him to work for longer with less food breaks. The Whale swallowed a sailor, who then tied a raft inside the whale’s throat to impede further ingestion of men. The end result was a smaller throat for the Whale.

Kipling first attempts at this style of writing is evident in The Second Jungle Book of 1895 where he fantasizes how the tiger got his stripes  in the story of “How Fear Came“. He no doubt developed the tales when he was telling bedtime stories to his daughter, Josephine or “Effie”. Kipling commented, ...in the evening there were stories meant to put Effie to sleep, and you were not allowed to alter those by one single little word. They had to be told just so; or Effie would wake up and put back the missing sentence. So at last they came to be like charms, all three of them,—the whale tale, the camel tale, and the rhinoceros tale. Tragically his daughter died of fever in 1899. Three of the stories were published in a children’s magazine. A few years later the stories were published in book form in 1902.Just-So-Stories-By-Rudyard-Kipling-First-Edition

Kipling uses an amusing and grand style of language with playful invention of words. He includes a delightful poem after each story. The reader is addressed as Best Beloved engaging a feeling of intimacy with the audience – a technique which clearly worked as the book has appealed to children since it’s publication in 1902.

The book is illustrated with his own images and includes two woodcuts with each story. The images are remarkably fresh today. His skill may well have derived from inheriting some artistic talent from his father who was an artist and Principal at the then Mayo School of Arts, in Lahore, British India.Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling

Many of the stories have been made into films and musicals. For example, the Just So Stories were adapted as a 1984 musical, called Just So at the Watermill theatre in England. Also a French-British animated co-production of Just So Stories was produced in 2008. It is testimony to Kipling’s talent of writing and illustration that a rare first edition book is still in demand today and remains a collectable item. As Kipling said, Hear and attend and listen; for this befell and behappened and became and was: O my Best Beloved, when the tame animals were wild, and children are still listening.

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Kipling’s Original Jungle Book

Kipling’s Original Jungle Book

The release of a new film about The Jungle Book has generated a good deal of interest in Rudyard Kipling’s tales of the jungle and allows an opportunity to reflect on the original story and influences behind this classic tale.

Jungle-book-two-first-editions-rudyard-kiplingInspiration:

It seems as if becoming a father inspired Kipling to write for children as he began writing the Jungle Book when he was expecting his first child. After living in Pakistan and London he was settling down to domestic bliss in Vermont with his new wife. Kipling dedicated the book to his baby daughter Josephine in 1894 who was, by then, just one year old. Five years later, both she and her father came down with pneumonia and tragically Josephine succumbed to the illness. A rare proof edition which was dedicated to his daughter was found in a collection of Kipling’s works that belonged to his second daughter, Elsie. She lived at Wimpole Hall from 1938 to 1976 and the book is now on display in Cambridgeshire there. Kipling’s loss was only heightened when he lost his son, John, in the first World War. The deaths left Kipling brokenhearted and he wrote in 1920 that “the pain gets acuter when peace comes because one thinks what might have been”. According to Kipling’s surviving daughter, Elsie, Kipling used to recite from the Jungle Books with the lights out in a semi-darkened room.

Imagination:

The Jungle Book stories was purely sourced out of Kipling’s imagination and his talents as an acute observer and storyThe -Second-Jungle-Book-1895-Rudyard-Kipling teller of life may have been honed in his apprenticeship as a journalist in Lahore, Pakistan. He admitted to one colleague that he called upon nearly everything he had “heard or dreamed about the Indian Jungle” to write the stories. Certainly Kipling had never visited the jungle area in India and appears to have been inspired by photographs and stories of his friends who had been there.  He may have been similarly influenced by the writings of Sterndale’s 1877 book, Seonee: Or, Camp Life on the Satpura Range and Robert Armitage Sterndale,  Mammalia of India.

Illustrations:

The iconic images which contributed to the success of the stories were taken from his father, John Lockwood. He was an illustrator, museum curator and art teacher and spent years in India. Rudyard Kipling was born and spent some of his early childhood in Lahore. His father had observed and drawn images of Indian jungle life in his book, Beast and Man in India: A Popular Sketch of Indian Animals in Their Relations with the People, which was published in 1891. He went on to contribute images to The Jungle Book and to Kipling’s later publication of Kim.First Edition of The Second Jungle book by Rudyard Kipling

Social History:

Kipling used more than just his imagination for the story plots as the books hints at Kipling’s philosophy of life and influences of the political and social setting of the time. The Jungle Book has a thread of “the Law of the Jungle” running through it which parallels the state of the British Empire and the politics in his day.The Jungle Book and The Second Jungle Book, First Edition by Rudyard Kipling

The new 3D animation film by Jon Favreaux will attract new audiences and the ownership of a first edition copy of The Jungle Book might make a marvelous gift for those who enjoy the film. Looking at a first edition of The Jungle Book is rare reminder of the remarkable ability of Kipling to write a book that still hold attraction for an audience 122 years since it was first published.

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Rudyard Kipling – A Very British Author

Captains-Courageous-Rudyard-Kipling-first-editionRudyard Kipling  A Very British Author

Arguably one of the great 19th Century British authors is Rudyard Kipling. He was born in 1865 in Bombay, India to British parents. After an education at the United Services College, Bideford, England he returned to India pursue a career in writing. Kipling was an avid writer producing his first book, Schoolboy Lyrics, at the age of 16. This was followed by the book of verses, Echos, published in 1884 whilst he was a journalist at the Anglo-Indian newspaper, The Lahore Civil and Military Gazette. Kipling’s career was launched after the publication of Departmental Ditties in 1886, which became successful with the British in India. He then achieved his own fictional column at a larger newspaper. His stories were taken and published in an inexpensive paperback production called The Railway Series Library. Kipling drew inspiration from the Indian and colonial influences in his writings, and many of his tales draw on the experiences of the British soldier. His short stories, Plain Tales from the Hills (1888), and Soldiers Three (1888) are particularly careful reflections on the life of the military and the common soldier.

To further his career as an author Kipling moved to England  where he wrote an astounding number of poems, stories and essays. He married Carrie Balestier in 1892 and moved to Vermont. Over a span of four years, he produced many literary works which have remained popular today. These include The Barrack Room Ballards (1892) containing the now famous poems of Gunga Din and Mandelay. The Jungle Books were written a few years later (1894, 95) to international success. The Seven Seas (1896) and Captains Courageous (1897) followed shortly afterwards. After a family feud Kipling returned to England and went on to produce two more recognised works, Kim in 1901 and Just So Stories in 1902.Just-So-Stories-By-Rudyard-Kipling-First-Edition

During the First World War Kipling released some propaganda material. Following his son’s death in combat he released a history of his son’s regiment,  The Irish Guards in the Great War in 1923. Kipling continued to write up until his death in 1936. His final work was a collected edition of his works, The Sussex Edition. His publisher, Macmillan, limited the production to only 525 pre-signed sets and it was published posthumously in 1939. Kipling’s ashes are buried in the Poet’s Corner in the south transept of Westminster Abbey next to the Graves of Thomas Hardy and Charles Dickens.

Rudyard Kipling was the recipient of many honorary degrees and other awards during his life. At the peak of his career in 1907  he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. This was followed in 1926 by the Gold Medal of the Royal Society of Literature, which only Scott, Meredith, and Hardy had been awarded before him. Kipling is known as a romantic imperialist for which there has been criticism, yet his stories have endured over time and they remain classic literature today.  The American Poet Laureate and critic, Randall Jarrell, summaries Kipling’s success eloquently.  “After you have read Kipling’s fifty or seventy-five best stories you realize that few men have written this many stories of this much merit, and that very few have written more and better stories.”

Take a look at a selection of First Edition books by Rudyard Kipling on our book site here.Collected-verse-of-Rudyard-Kipling-Limited-edition

 

Jarrell, Randall. “On Preparing to Read Kipling.” No Other Book: Selected Essays. New York: HarperCollins, 1999.