Advertisement

Children of the Zodiac: The Jungle Book and Captains Courageous

  • William B. Dillingham

Abstract

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.

Keywords

Prepositional Phrase Human Spirit True Word Wolf Pack Telegraph System 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Notes

  1. 1.
    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
  2. Quoted in Introduction, Kipling: The Critical Heritage, ed. Roger Lancelyn Green (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1971), 9. As a rule modern commentators have been more charitable, but often they have been put off by what they perceive as the obstinacy of obscurity, that is, what seems Kipling’s willful muddying of the waters.Google Scholar
  3. R. E. Harbord expresses the opinion of many when he writes that “The Children of the Zodiac” is both “difficult” (which of course it is, especially for a work of this early stage in Kipling’s career) and “disappointing.” The Readers’ Guide to Rudyard Kipling’s Work (Canterbury: Gibbs, 1963–70), 3: 1272. Charles Carrington complains that “no satisfactory explanation” of the work “has been offered by any commentator.” Rudyard Kipling: His Life and Work, rev. ed. (London: Macmillan, 1978), 542. Philip Mason contributes several tentative insights, but he confesses that when as a youth he first read the story, “I did not understand it at all,” and “I am not sure that I wholly understand it now.” Kipling: The Glass, The Shadow and The Fire (London: Jonathan Cape, 1975), 111–12. The most obvious sign of modern disapproval, however, is neglect. Though often mentioned in one context or the other, it seldom receives more attention than a few sentences. If many Kipling enthusiasts appear indifferent to “The Children of the Zodiac,” it is probably because of its reputation as an oddball story, the seeming offspring of an inexplicable temporary eccentricity and consequently pretty much undecipherable.Google Scholar
  4. 2.
    See, e.g., Lloyd H. Chandler, A Summary of the Work of Rudyard Kipling (New York: Grolier Club, 1930),42; Harbord, 3:1272;Google Scholar
  5. J. M. S. Tompkins, The Art of Rudyard Kipling (London: Methuen, 1959), 171;Google Scholar
  6. Angus Wilson, The Strange Ride of Rudyard Kipling: His Life and Works (New York: Viking, 1978), 8, 336;Google Scholar
  7. Bonamy Dobrée, Rudyard Kipling: Realist and Fabulist (London: Oxford University Press, 1967 ), 147; and Carrington, Rudyard Kipling, 585.Google Scholar
  8. Hilton Brown avoids these labels for another one when he calls “The Children of the Zodiac” the “first of Kipling’s obscure stories.” Rudyard Kipling ( New York: Harper, 1945 ), 141.Google Scholar
  9. 7.
    Sandra Kemp and Lisa Lewis, eds., Writings on Writing by Rudyard Kipling (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), xxi.Google Scholar
  10. 14.
    Philip Mason, Introduction, “Proofs of Holy Writ” by Rudyard Kipling (Edinburgh: Tragara Press, 1981), x.Google Scholar
  11. 25.
    Because Mowgli—who is, it should be remembered, a rare person—finds in the Seonee wolf pack and its friends what he as an individual needs to shape properly his personality and belief system, some commentators argue that Kipling has presented the jungle world at large as a sort of Eden. See James Harrison,“Kipling’s Jungle Eden,”Mosaic7 (Winter 1974): 151–64. Repr. Orel, Critical Essays on Rudyard Kipling, 77–92. W. W. Robson feels that “How Fear Came,” which depicts the jungle as a fallen world, “is not altogether in harmony with the other [Mowgli] stories, in which it is innocent and Eden-like.” Introduction, Rudyard Kipling: The Second Jungle Book (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987), xxv–xxvi.Google Scholar
  12. 26.
    Frequently, the stories about Mowgli as well as the other tales in the two Jungle Books are seen collectively as an allegory of “Imperialism” or of “Empire.” See, e.g., John A. McClure, Kipling and Conrad: The Colonial Fiction (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1981)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. and Don Randall, Kipling’s Imperial Boy: Adolescence and Cultural Hybridity (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2000). W. W. Robson writes that “it cannot be denied, then, that the message of the Mowgli stories is political” (xix).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Laura C. Stevenson, on the other hand, disagrees with the interpretation of the Mowgli tales as political allegories and argues that they are based on the pastoral romance. “Mowgli and His Stories: Versions of Pastoral.” Sewanee Review, 109 (Summer 2001), 358–78. W. J. Lohman, Jr., regards The Jungle Book as allegory but of another sort entirely: “The allegory presents the major event of his [Kipling’s] own life.” The Culture Shocks of Rudyard Kipling ( New York: Peter Lang, 1990 ), 249.Google Scholar
  15. 27.
    For an account of Kipling’s membership in this lodge, see Andrew Lycett, Rudyard Kipling ( London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1999 ), 128–29.Google Scholar
  16. 32.
    Albert Pike, Morals and Dogma of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry (Charleston, SC: A. M. 5632, 1871). In its function as a cry for help, it also bears a general resemblance to the “Grand Hailing Sign of Distress of the Master Mason.”Google Scholar
  17. See John J. Robinson, Born in the Blood: The Lost Secrets of Freemasonry ( New York: M. Evans, 1989 ), 217.Google Scholar
  18. 33.
    David Stevenson, The Origins of Freemasonry: Scotland’s Century, 1590–1710 ( Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988 ), 6.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 36.
    Albert G. Mackey, An Encyclopaedia of Freemasonry, rev. ed. ( Philadelphia, PA: L. H. Everts, 1886 ), 889.Google Scholar
  20. 40.
    Joseph Fort Newton, The Builders: A Story and Study of Masonry (New York: George H. Doran, 1914), 286. John J. Robinson points out that those close relatives and perhaps ancestors of the Masons, the Knights Templars, used the sentence “Lets all drink from the same cup” (an expression close in meaning to Kipling’s Master Words) for purposes of establishing identity and insuring fraternal assistance (162). Related to the ideal of fraternity is that of friendship. For a discussion of “the cult of friendship” in Freemasonry, see Stevenson, The Origins of Freemasonry, 184–85.Google Scholar
  21. 41.
    Vaughan Bateson, Masonry and Magic of Frater Rudyard Kipling ( Oxford: Mandrake Press, 1993 ), 7.Google Scholar
  22. 52.
    Tompkins writes that in The Jungle Book, “the tales were first systematically provided with their songs” (105). See also Peter Keating, Kipling the Poet (London: Secker and Warburg, 1994), 36–37.Google Scholar
  23. 53.
    Quoted in Lord Birkenhead, Rudyard Kipling ( New York: Random House, 1978 ), 164.Google Scholar
  24. 56.
    Florence Macdonald, “Some Memories of My Cousin,” in Kipling: Interviews and Recollections, ed. Harold Orel (Totowa, NJ: Totowa, 1983 ), 1: 19.Google Scholar
  25. 71.
    Ben Zion Wacholder, “Josephus, Flavius,” in The Oxford Companion to the Bible, ed. Bruce M. Metzger and Michael D. Coogan ( New York: Oxford University Press, 1993 ), 384.Google Scholar
  26. 72.
    The passage in the Antiquities in which Jesus is described was being discredited even at the time Kipling wrote Captains Courageous even though a great many people still believed it to be authentic. H. J. White could write as late as 1918: “Yet there are quite independent critics who still uphold the authenticity of the passage as it stands.” Select Passages from Josephus (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1918), 6. Modern scholars believe a Christian hand is evident in the passage and that Josephus did not write it.Google Scholar
  27. See Leon Bernstein, Flavius Josephus: His Life and His Critics (New York: Liveright, 1938), 282–87.Google Scholar
  28. For a discussion of Josephus’s view of history, see Nahum N. Glatzer, Introduction, Jerusalem and Rome: The Writings of Josephus (New York: Meridian, 1960),25–27.Google Scholar
  29. 73.
    Quoted in Benjamin Wirt Farley, “Providence of God,” in the Encyclopedia of the Reformed Faith, ed. Donald K. McKim ( Louisville, KY: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1992 ), 307.Google Scholar
  30. 75.
    See Wendell Barrett, “John Greenleaf Whittier,” in Stelligeri and Other Essays Concerning America (New York: Scribner’s, 1893). Rpr. Critical Essays on John Greenleaf Whittier, ed. Jayne K. Kribbs (Boston, MA: G. K. Hall, 1980), 140. Barrett writes: “It is perhaps instructive… to learn from a note in the final edition that, twenty-two years after the original publication, Whittier was credibly informed that Ireson had really been innocent. Against the skipper’s will, it appeared, his refractory crew had compelled him to desert his sinking townsfolk; and then, to screen themselves, they had falsely accused him, with the direful result commemorated by the poet” (140). In writing his note for the final edition, Whittier must have felt that he had “done full justice” (as Barrett puts it) to Ireson’s memory, for “he proceeds to reprint his ballad” (140) and, consequently, to defame him all over again!Google Scholar
  31. 76.
    For a discussion of this and others of Whittier’s historical inaccuracies, see Edward Wagenknecht, John Greenleaf Whittier: A Portrait in Paradox ( New York: Oxford University Press, 1967 ), 133.Google Scholar
  32. 77.
    Samuel Roads, Jr., The History and Traditions of Marblehead, 3rd ed. ( Marblehead, MA: N. Allen Lindsey, 1897 ), 294.Google Scholar
  33. 78.
    Ronald S. Wallace, Calvin’s Doctrine of the Christian Life ( Edinburgh: Oliver and Boyd, 1959 ), 98.Google Scholar
  34. 83.
    B. B. Edwards, Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge ( Brattleboro, VT: Fessenden, 1837 ), 1046.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© William B. Dillingham 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • William B. Dillingham

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations