Searching through the Jungle for Rudyard Kipling
Rudyard Kipling. We all know that he wrote The Jungle Book, one of the most famous pieces of children’s literary works from the Victorian era, spawning of number of big screen adaptations and a plethora of jungle-based adventure stories. We also know he spent time in India, but what else? I, for one, know very little else about the author apart from his celebrated poem ‘If’ and that he was loathed and loved in equal measure (George Orwell viewed him as a ‘jingo imperialist’ who was ‘morally insensitive and aesthetically disgusting.’) But in celebration of my family’s recent visit to Pench Tiger Reserve, the park in central India that inspired the setting for The Jungle Book, I thought it would be interesting to find out a few lesser known facts about Kipling, the literary giant who created Mowgli and Shere Kahn.
✧ Kipling’s parents, John Lockwood Kipling and Alice MadDonald, met in 1863 and courted at Rudyard Lake in Rudyard, Staffordshire. They adored the beauty of the area so much that they named their first-born after it. When Rudyard was 2, the family moved to Bombay.
✧ At the tender age of 5, Ruyard and his 3 year old sister were shipped back to England to be educated. They boarded with a family who cared for children of British families in India. The experience was to leave an indelible mark on the young Rudyard who characterised the period as one of neglect and cruelty, leading him to suffer a breakdown.In 1877 Kipling’s mother returned to England and collected him from ‘The House of Desolation’ as he called it. He was not to return to Bombay until the age of 16.
✧ Kipling’s eldest, beloved daughter, Josephine died of pneumonia in 1899. He sought solace in his work and started to write Kim, a novel many critics believe to be his finest.
✧ Kipling’s son John was killed in action in the First World War in 1915, at the age 18. After his son’s death, Kipling wrote, ‘If any question why we died / Tell them, because our fathers lied.’
✧ Rudyard Kipling died in 1936 in London, and his ashes are interred in the Poet’s Corner of Westminster Abbey, London, close to those of TS Eliot.
‘My first impression is of daybreak, light and colour and golden and purple fruits at the level of my shoulder.’
Kipling writing about India in his posthumously published autobiography Something of Myself for My Friends Known and Unknown
I’ll leave you with Kipling’s poem If. It’s quite a ‘male’ poem, as you’ll read (thinking about it, in A Room of One’s Own, Virginia Woolf had a few things to say about Kipling’s chauvinism as a writer). It does, nonetheless, have a special message.
Fascinating. I’ve been intrigued by Rudyard Kipling ever since having an artist paint in golden italics and vines part of Kipling’s poem “The Glory of the Garden” around the top of my living room walls in San Francisco. Thank you for doing the research into his, it would seem, quite tragic life. I much admire his “If you can keep your head” poem. After reading your blog here, I was thinking how much I wish I had met Rudyard Kipling! I was sent off to boarding school in England at age 9; I cannot imagine how terrifying it must have been for him to be sent away from his parents at only age 5, and his sister at 3. How appalling. But, that’s how it often was in England back in those times. Thanks again, for enlightening me. Now I don’t have to look him up myself! Succinct blog-writing, too. Thanks, again.
Hi Shirley, thanks so much for the comment. I will have to look up The Glory of the Garden! Boarding school at 9 🙁 Yes, as you say it was very common back then. But age 5 and 3 certainly must have caused considerable damage, poor old Rudyard..