What is the meaning of "brother a to Prince and fellow to a beggar if he be found worthy" in Rudyard Kipling's novella "The Man Who Would Be King"? Does it have to do with Masonic brotherhood and...

What is the meaning of "brother a to Prince and fellow to a beggar if he be found worthy" in Rudyard Kipling's novella "The Man Who Would Be King"? Does it have to do with Masonic brotherhood and fellowship?

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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Rudyard Kipling, whose father was a Freemason, became a Freemason and Lodge Secretary in Punjab, India. Freemasonry very much affected Kipling, as he valued its "idea of secret bond, of a sense of community, and of high principles" ("Rudyard Kipling and His Masonic Career," Pietre Stones Review of Freemasonry). Within Freemasonry, social class and caste systems do not exist, an idea that deeply moved Kipling. Therefore, principles of Freemasonry are often themes in his works. Kipling opens his novella "The Man Who Would Be King" with the statement, "Brother to a prince and fellow to a beggar if he be found worthy," which alludes to Masonic principles.

The statement, or "Law," as Kipling's narrator calls it, reflects Masonic principles by speaking of treating those who are highest above you, such as princes, as brothers and those who are the greatest in need, such as beggars, as your fellows or companions so long as the beggars are virtuous. In referencing the two greatest extremes of the social class system—the prince being a member of the highest class, whereas the beggar is a member of the lowest class—Kipling is referencing the Masonic disbelief in class distinctions.

In his opening paragraph, Kipling further asserts that the "Law" he opens with is not easy to follow. He has not yet been able to follow it because he never had the opportunity to "be brother to a Prince," and, though he has been "fellow to a beggar" multiple times, he has never been able to find out if the beggar was really worthy of fellowship. He goes on to recount the story of his encounter with two fellow Freemasons who were vagabonds, Daniel Dravot and Peachy Carnehan. Through the encounter with Dravot and Carnehan, Kipling weaves Masonic and anti-imperialistic themes together.

Kipling uses the story of Dravot and Carnegan to question their worthiness as Freemasons because they tricked Afghanistan natives, who practiced Freemasonry, into believing Dravot was the "Grand-Master of all Freemasonry in Kafiristan" and to set Dravot up as reigning equally with Carnehan as King of Kafiristan. By doing these things, they broke the principles of Freemasonry because they lied and declared themselves to be above others. In addition, as imperialists, they took advantage of the natives' so-called "lesser intelligence," but, by the end of the story, they received their just desserts. Kipling uses the story of breaking Masonic codes of behavior by treating colonists as subordinates to show the wrongfulness of imperialism.

d-nelson | Student

"Brother to a Prince and fellow to a beggar if he be found worthy" is the subtitle of The Man Who Would Be King, by Rudyard Kipling. The line derives from Kipling's poem "Banquet Night":

But once in so often, the messenger brings Solomon's mandate: "Forget these things! Brother to Beggars and Fellow to Kings, Companion of Princes-forget these things! Fellow-Craftsmen, forget these things!"

The poem tells of King Solomon summoning "the Brethren" to "mess" where they meet "As Fellow-Craftsmen-no more and no less." On the surface, the poem seems straightforward: the Brethren are Solomon's fellow rulers, each with mastery of a certain craft.

Solomon issues the invitation while watching his quarry workers; among those invited are "Hiram of Tyre, Felling and floating our beautiful trees" and "Hiram Abif- Excellent master of forge and mine."

"Mess" refers to dining together.

"Fellow-Craftsmen-no more and no less" suggests that the Brethren meet as equals without royal rank, and with no distinction based on nationality, ethnicity, or class.

A deeper look reveals Masonic symbolism: According to The Kipling Society the Freemasons are a brotherhood; Masons address one another as "Brother." There is equality among the brothers, without regard to race, creed, or color. "Mess" refers to a banquet. Masons' meetings conclude with banquets. "Fellow-Craftsmen" refers to the second of three degrees of Craft: Apprentices, Craftsmen, Master Masons.
So, the answer is yes, the subtitle is a reference to the Masons. It suggests that the title character shares the Masonic ideal of brotherhood, placing value on character above station or class. 

fcatexpert1 | Student

It means that the person has no regard for class, but great regard for character. He would be as close to a prince as a brother, a relationship tie difficult to obtain. He would just as easily be afriend to someone in need, if he was of good character. It's interesting to note that only the beggar has to be found worthy. The masons encourage that kind of brotherhood across class lines as much as any group that charges a membership fee can.

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