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.
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.
The Jungle Book stories was purely sourced out of Kipling’s imagination and his talents as an acute observer and story 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.
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.
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 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.
To see more publications of Rudyard Kipling go here