Download Just So Stories Study Guide

Subscribe Now


(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

Kipling once said that his “original notion” as a writer was “to tell the English something of the world outside England.” An Englishman reared in India, Kipling grew up to be fascinated with other cultures. As an adult, he traveled extensively, visiting or living in such places as South Africa, Japan, the United States, and Bermuda. He sought to introduce his readers to distant lands through the exotic settings of Just So Stories: South America, the Middle East, India, and Africa, among other places.

In addition to enlightening readers about other cultures, Kipling’s stories reveal his connection with and understanding of the world of children. He wrote Just So Stories when his three children were small, completing the book after the death of his eldest, favorite child, Josephine. The intimate narrative tone of the book suggests that the stories were written, on one level, to allow Kipling to reexperience his close relationship with his daughter.

This personal tone is expressed through Kipling’s innovative use of language. His language is colloquial and informal, with rhythms closely matching those of speech. He uses words incorrectly and misspells them, as a child might. For example, it is the elephant child’s “’satiable curtiosities” that get him into trouble. Kipling’s style is also lushly descriptive in a way that delights children. He uses poetic devices such as onomatopoeia, forming a word by imitation of a sound made or associated with its referent (“greeny-crackly melons,” “twirly-whirly eel,” “ooshy-skooshy” sea); alliteration, starting two or more words of a word group with the same letter (“great grey-green, greasy, Limpopo River”); and repetition of phrases to evoke time, place, and mood.

Although verses follow each story, sometimes Kipling uses rhythm and rhyme within a story for whimsical...

(The entire section is 615 words.)