Rudyard Kipling published The Jungle Book in 1894, a collection of his highly imaginative stories and poems for children, written especially for his daughter. They were fables with moral teachings, and the stories and characters became beloved the world over. My favorite story in the book was “Rikki-Tikki-Tavi,” which told of the mongoose that saved the English family living in India from the villainous cobras Nag and Nagaina. I also enjoyed reading about Mowgli, the boy who was raised by the wolves, and about the White Seal who witnessed the brutal clubbing of the seal cubs and was determined to find a place where the seals could be safe from the hunters and those killing fields.
Somehow, I didn’t read this book when I was a child, and I’m sorry to say that I didn’t read it during my teaching career, either. It would have been interesting to read aloud some of the stories to my own children or to my students. I wonder how they would have felt about them?
Kipling was a brilliant writer (he was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1907) and a very complex man with a strong personality. I’ve been quite fascinated with learning more about him since watching “My Boy Jack,” starring Daniel Radcliffe, which was the poignant story of the loss of his son in WWI. It was Kipling who pressured military friends to allow his son to enlist despite the fact that Jack was severely nearsighted and had already been rejected by the military numerous times. A combination of Kipling’s own prejudices and stern beliefs, plus the social pressures on the young men of wartime England, brought Jack Kipling to the battlefield in France, where he lost his life on the second day of the Battle of Loos. Kipling never got over that terrible loss.
As so often happens with me, I am captured by both the writer’s life and by his works. I’m going to continue reading and learning about Kipling, and soon I’d like to read his Kim, Captains Courageous, and Puck of Pook’s Hill.