Other Literary Forms
Rudyard Kipling’s literary career began in journalism, but his prose sketches and verse brought him early fame. He wrote several novels, most lastingly Kim (1901), and he also wrote works of history, including a study of his son’s military regiment from World War I. In his lifetime as well as posthumously, however, his fame depended upon his poetry and short stories, both of which he wrote for adult audiences and for children. Kipling’s autobiography, Something of Myself: For My Friends Known and Unknown (1937), was published after his death.
By his early twenties, Rudyard Kipling had become one of the best-known writers in the English language. His first poems and stories were written and published in India, but his popularity quickly spread throughout the English-speaking world and beyond. Although he published several novels, the short-story form proved to be his most successful métier. Drawing upon his experiences in India, many of his early stories featured the adventures of ordinary soldiers, junior officers, and civil officials, and his use of dialect was a recognized feature of his literary technique. Awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1907, he also received honorary degrees from many universities.
Kipling wrote extensively about the benefits of the United Kingdom’s paramount position in the world, and over time his public persona was perceived to be that of a political reactionary. Although some of his finest short stories were written in the last two decades of his life, by that time, to many of his contemporaries, he had become yesterday’s man, irrevocably associated with political imperialism, a dying creed even before his death in 1936. After his death, however, his stories received much critical study and acclaim, and Kipling is considered to be one of the major practitioners of the short-story art ever to write in English.
Other literary forms
Best known for his short fiction, Rudyard Kipling wrote more than 250 stories. His style of leaving a story open-ended with the tantalizing phrase “But that’s another story” established his reputation for unlimited storytelling. Although the stories are uneven in quality, W. Somerset Maugham considered Kipling to be the only British writer to equal France’s Guy de Maupassant and Russia’s Anton Chekhov in the art of short fiction.
Kipling’s early stories both satisfied and glorified the Englishman in India. The empire builder, the man who devotes his life to “civilize the sullen race,” comes off in glowing colors, as in the story “The Bridge Builders.” Some of his best stories skillfully blend the exotic and the bizarre; the early “The Man Who Would Be King” (1888), which is about two drifters and their fantastic dream to carve out a kingdom for themselves in Central Asia, is an excellent example of such a story. Some stories reflect the pain, suffering, and dark melancholy of Kipling’s later life: “A Madonna of the Trenches,” with its strange, occult atmosphere; “The Children of the Zodiac,” about a young poet who dreads death by cancer of the throat; and “The Gardener,” with its unrelieved sadness and autobiographical reflections on the death of a son.
The stories that make up The Jungle Book (1894) and The Second Jungle Book (1895) were written in Brattleboro, Vermont, when Kipling’s mind “worked at the height of its wonderful creative power.” They are in the class of animal stories and folktales that make up such world literary creations as the ancient folktales of Aesop’s Fables (fourth century b.c.e.) and the Buddha birth stories known as the Jataka Tales. Into the Jungle Book stories, Kipling incorporated not only the clear and clean discipline of the British public school but also his favorite doctrine of the natural law. This law had a great impact on the Boy Scout movement and the origins of the Wolf Cub organization, found in the Mowgli tales.
Kipling was a prolific writer, and, as a journalist, he wrote a considerable number of articles,...
(The entire section is 2,974 words.)