The Jungle Books - Rudyard Kipling

>>  Thursday, May 04, 2017

The Jungle Books isn't just about Mowgli and his extraordinary life, it is actually a wonderful collection of stories.

When I was about 8 years old I read Rikki-tikki-tavi, it was the first time I had read any Rudyard Kipling and I was captivated.  He was a mongoose, brave and clever, nose to tail with curiosity.  A family are kind to him and he repays them, saving the little boy's life, by killing the cobra snakes Nag and Nagaina.  It is a short and engaging story.

Written in 1894, it came before the beautiful Just-So stories, but it is totally in the same light.  As is 'Toomai of the Elephants' and 'Servants of the Queen' both also stories in the Jungle Books.

In Servants of the Queen you are party to a conversation between many different types of animals discussing their parts in the game of war.

You have to remember it is written in a different time and we are all familiar with the inherent colonialism of Kipling and, in some places, eye brow raising enough to know that it could only be seen as racism today.  At the time it was written though it was as it was, now it would not be acceptable but if I can black-line through the eyebrow raisers there is poetry in his writing that rolls with the animals and is a wonder to read.

Kipling was an incredibly popular writer in his time, he was the first English-language writer to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature.

He will always be seen now as a controversial writer but he has a legacy no one could argue with: he is responsible for the phrase 'known unto God' for all unknown soldiers and he worked with Winston Churchill to ensure that all gravestones were the same shape and size, regardless of military rank. The long lines of matching gravestones lining war cemeteries is his legacy.

I was given the Jungle Books, published by Alma Classics, over a year ago and, whilst I have had a difficult year with little time to read, it has sat by my bedside and been my go to in the small hours when I've been unable to sleep.  I struggle to put my mind to reading much these days, but like Peter Pan,  this book is lovely, the font makes it easy reading and has meant it has stayed by my side when everything else was put away.

I will on occasion pull the Just-so Stories off the shelf too, because o-best-beloved, sometimes running back to our childhood is the most beautiful way to escape today and for that reason I will always be able to read Rikki-tikki-tavi until the ink has worn off the page.


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