The Brushwood Boy Summary
by Rudyard Kipling

Start Your Free Trial

Download The Brushwood Boy Study Guide

Subscribe Now

The Brushwood Boy Summary

(Masterpieces of British Fiction)

When he was three years old, Georgie Cottar was frightened by a dream about a policeman and screamed out in terror; but by the time he was six years old, his dreams fused into the stories he told himself while he was going to sleep. These dreams always started the same way. Near a beach was a pile of brushwood. Around this heap of brushwood, Georgie ran and played with other boys and girls. Strange and beautiful things happened in his dream story. Iron railings turned soft and could be walked on; houses filled with grown-up people were pushed over by the children. These wonderful things happened, however, only so long as Georgie knew he was dreaming. As soon as he thought them real, his dream left him sitting on a doorstep doing multiplication tables.

The princess of his dreams and his favorite, he called by the two names he thought the most beautiful in the world, Anna and Louise. These he ran together and pronounced Annieanlouise. She applauded his slaying of dragons and buffaloes and all the other brave deeds he performed in the country of dreams.

At age seven, Georgie moved with his family to “Oxford-on-a-visit.” While there, he was taken to a magic show, where he sat next to a little girl who in a lisping voice admired the cut in Georgie’s finger. The cut was the work of Georgie’s first knife, and he was intensely proud of it. He hoped it might give him lockjaw. His conversation with the little girl was cut short by his nurse, who told him he must not talk to strangers. Georgie knew his friend was not a stranger, but he could not explain the fact to a grown-up. That night he had a new dream, and the girl of the theater waited for him at the brushwood pile, and the two played wonderful games around the brushwood.

Georgie spent the next ten years at an English public school. Those busy years did not leave much time for dreaming. In each form, he became a leader, excelling in athletics and dealing with the boys’ personal quarrels. In his last year at school, he was the acknowledged leader of the students and a friend of the headmaster himself. From public school he went to Sandhurst, where he again started at the bottom of the Lower Third Form and worked his way up to a position of leadership. After Sandhurst, he received a commission as a subaltern in one of Her Majesty’s regiments.

His training for leadership during his school years served him well in his new position of minor authority in the Indian service. His natural way with men made him a good leader; the poorest soldiers became men under his training. He knew his own men as few officers did, and they would follow him through any danger or through the boredom of garrison duty. He passed off heroic deeds as no more than duty. Although ladies of the garrison sought his favor, he was oblivious to their attentions.

In India, his dreams started again. They began like his dreams of old: by a brushwood pile. A sea lay beyond the brushwood pile, and on it he would travel far. Somewhere there was a lamppost, at which any wonderful thing could happen. Sometimes he raced for that lamppost in his dreams, for he knew it was a place of safety. Once a policeman waited there for him and filled him with terror, just as the policeman had terrified him in his babyhood dream. Sometimes his dreams were filled with pleasure. He sailed in a clockwork steamer, stopping by lilies labeled Hong Kong or Java. He knew that he had reached the world’s end. Then a person unknown...

(The entire section is 959 words.)