Form and Content

(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

Just So Stories is a collection of whimsical tales accompanied by the author’s excellent pen-and-ink drawings and humorous verse. The stories are written in the first person and addressed to “O Best Beloved.” (The “beloved” is Rudyard Kipling’s eldest child, Josephine, who died at age six in 1899.) The narrative tone is the intimate voice of a doting father talking to a favorite child.

Like Aesop’s fables, some of the tales in Just So Stories anthropomorphize animals to illustrate human virtues and failings. Like traditional folklore and myths, other stories in the collection explain the origins of natural phenomena.

“The Elephant’s Child,” one of the book’s most popular tales, combines elements of folklore and allegory. Kipling tells how an elephant child’s curiosity led elephants to acquire long noses. Since no one will answer the elephant child’s question, “What does the Crocodile have for dinner?,” the elephant child decides to ask the crocodile himself. The crocodile answers that he will “begin with Elephant’s Child” and grabs the end of the elephant child’s heretofore short nose. After a vicious tug-of-war match, the crocodile finally lets go, leaving the elephant child with a stretched-out nose. Yet, instead of being an indictment of curiosity, the ending of the tale validates this childlike quality: The elephant child finds several good uses for his long nose. “How the...

(The entire section is 512 words.)