Children of the Zodiac: The Jungle Book and Captains Courageous

  • William B. Dillingham


From the seedbed of Kipling’s pessimism, from his despairing sense of life as a place of suffering, emerged in him a powerful conviction: it was possible through understanding and sheer willfulness to avoid the degradation of self-pity and the disgrace of frantic self-protection even when pain, defeat, and annihilation are inevitable. Even in hell it is possible to find something to believe in that exalts the human spirit for its nobility amid forces that would debase it. The creed that became Kipling’s religion and occupied the center stage of his writing involved certain specific ways of thinking and acting among which was a realistic awareness of the hellish nature of existence and of the terrible inevitability of extermination, a keen sensitivity to the overwhelming unfairness that characterizes the human condition, and a rare ability born of courage and resentment to withstand certain ignoble temptations with which we are cursed from birth—the temptation cravenly to whine or panic when the certainty of our mutual destiny is made clear; the temptation to forgo discipline, dignity, and order when meaninglessness and chaos emerge as the prevalent aspects of existence; the temptation to forget duty, self-sacrifice, and service amid universal selfishness, and the temptation to abandon the ideals of fidelity to self and to truth in the face of almost universal dishonesty, deception, and blindness.


Prepositional Phrase Human Spirit True Word Wolf Pack Telegraph System 
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    Contemporary reviewers judged it harshly. George Saintsbury, e.g., liked it least among the stories collected in Many Inventions (1893), though he was generally sympathetic toward Kipling. Andrew Lang praised several other stories in the collection but complained that “the fun of ‘The Children of the Zodiac’ I fail to see.” Cosmopolitan, 15 (September 1893), 616. Writing in the Academy, Percy Addleshaw called it (along with two other stories) “quite the worst things Mr. Kipling ever wrote” and judged it as “very bad.”Google Scholar
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© William B. Dillingham 2005

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  • William B. Dillingham

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