Rudyard Kipling

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If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue
Or walk with kings, nor lose the common touch
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you
If all men count with you, but none too much
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds worth of distance run
Yours is the Earth, and everything that's in it

And, which is more, you'll be a man, my son.
If...

English writer and Nobel prize winner, born in India. These days Kipling is perhaps best known as the creator of Mowgli, star of The Jungle Book, though he wrote many other stories.

Many of Kipling's works, including The Jungle Book, are set in British India, and popularised most of the associated tropes. His other works include some early Science Fiction, while his literary style, particularly indirect exposition, was a significant influence on Campbell, Bertolt Brecht and Robert A. Heinlein.

Kipling's stories include:

Poems include:

  • "The White Man's Burden"
  • "If--" ("If you can keep your head when all about you / Are losing theirs and blaming it on you" -- one of his most famous poems, much quoted. It can be seen by players entering Centre Court at Wimbledon.)
  • "My Boy Jack"
  • "The Thousandth Man"
  • "Recessional"
  • "The Three Decker"

He lost a son in World War I and was responsible for choosing two of the common phrases associated with Remembrance in the UK: "Their Name Liveth For Evermore" and "Known Unto God" (on the graves of Unknown Soldiers). And... referred to it in Double Entendre of all ways:

If any question why we died,

Tell them, because our fathers lied.
Epitaphs of the War, "Common Form"

Poems from Kipling, sometimes set to music, are popular references in any military fiction or Sci Fi. His work (as well as that of Tennyson) received a recent boost in public attention after they were quoted by former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich (ironically enough considering his quote about Chicago that appears on The Windy City trope page).


Kipling's work includes the Trope Namers for:

Kipling's works with their own trope pages include:

Other works by Kipling provide examples of:
  • Affectionate Parody: The Just So Stories is this for various different oral traditions (hence all the repetition), most obviously The Butterfly That Stamped, which is a parody of the Koranic style ("Now listen and attend!")
  • Alas, Poor Yorick
    • Including a rather... unconventional scene in The Ballad of Boh Da Thone.
  • Alternate Character Interpretation: A common trick of Kipling's was to follow up a short story with a poem looking at it from the point of view of a secondary character or villain. The results can be startlingly different -- compare 'The Knife and the Naked Chalk' to 'The Song of the Men's Side'.
  • Author Tract. Be grateful for the common workers and soldiers that hold the empire together, not least the soldiers who, just before Kipling's time had been looked down upon by middle-class British.

For it's tommy this and tommy that and shuck him out the brute
But it's savior of his country when the guns begin to shoot

Is the torrent in spate? He must ford it or swim.
Has the rain wrecked the road? He must climb by the cliff.
Does the tempest cry halt? What are tempests to him?
The service admits not a "but" or and "if."
While the breath's in his mouth, he must bear without fail,
In the Name of the Empress, the Overland Mail.

Now Chil the Kite brings home the night, that Mang the bat sets free
The herds are shut in byre and hut, for loosed til dawn are we
Now is the hour of power and pride. Talon and tush and claw.
Come hear the call, good hunting all, that keep the Jungle Law.

  • Bad Cop, Incompetent Cop: Not much, but... one meets Cool and Unusual Punishment in Steam Tactics.
  • Bad Liar: The weather in "Danny Deever" is -- odd.
  • Beast of Battle: Parade Song of the Camp Animals
  • Boarding School
  • Chekhov's Gun: Parodied mercilessly in the Just So Stories, specifically How The Whale Got His Throat, in which we are reminded practically every paragraph not to forget that the protagonist wears suspenders (braces). In the end these do play a part in the story (he ties a grate in place with them in the whale's throat) but this is hilariously minor compared to the leadup.
  • City of Spies: Lahore in Kim
  • Creator Breakdown: Kipling was an ardent imperialist. Then his only son died in World War I, after dad had pulled some strings to get him into the service when medical conditions might otherwise have kept him out. His "Epitaphs of War" afterwards were extremely bitter about the nature of the conflict, including the famous "our fathers lied" segment.
    • Not to mention:

I could not dig, I dared not rob;
Therefore I lied to please the mob.
Now all my lies are proved untrue
And I must face the men I slew.
What tale shall serve me here among
Mine angry and defrauded young?

What is the sense of 'ating those
'Oom you are paid to kill?

  • Don't You Dare Pity Me!
  • Dying Moment of Awesome/Heroic Sacrifice: "Giffen's Debt." A disgraced ex-officer realizes the (poorly-constructed) dam is about to give way, and rides to warn the people of the valley to get to high ground. Precisely how many he saves isn't made clear, but enough that twenty-five dead is considered a very small loss of life. He doesn't make it to safety, because he's too busy warning others. The survivors honor him as "an incarnation of the local god" thereafter.
  • Elephants Child
  • Exact Words: Both "A Smuggler's Song" and "The Shut-Eye Sentry" are about people being warned to look the other way at certain moments, so they'll be able to truthfully say afterwards that they didn't see any sign of wrongdoing.
  • Framing Device: Kipling makes extensive and careful use of framing devices in his short stories and narrative verse, sometimes doubly framing stories (a story within a story within a story).
  • Friend to All Living Things
  • Funny Foreigner: Played with in nearly every way possible.
    • Often enough the English are the funny foreigners.
    • Kipling had a reporter's attitude toward people and "superior", "inferior", and/or "equal" were just theories to him and often not that important of theories. The most important way of categorizing people was "colorful" as far as he was concerned. He did have prejudices against Germans and Russians which sometimes seems to go beyond political or ideological rivalry.
  • God Guise
  • Greedy Jew: Subverted in The Treasure and the Law. Jews are indeed greedy for wealth but then gentiles are greedy for power. And the Jewish narrator sacrifices his greed to help bring about justice in England.
  • Heterosexual Life Partners: The gist of "The Thousandth Man".
  • Hurricane of Puns: The poem "Brown Bess" describes the history of the musket that was standard for British troops for over a century. Kipling plays on the fact that lots of words referring to killing are also used to speak of being beautiful or making people fall in love with you, and speaks as if this musket was actually a sexy woman:

At Blenheim and Ramillies fops would confess
They were pierced to the heart by the charms of Brown Bess.

    • Also, the word "rout" can apply either to panicked retreat or to a fashionable party, so he says Brown Bess was responsible for many successful routs.
  • I Have This Friend: In "Gloriana," the woman who tells the story implies she was a lady-in-waiting at the court of Elizabeth I. But when speaking of Elizabeth's actions, she several times slips and says "I" did thus-and-such.
  • Knight in Sour Armor: The protagonist of Tommy. Also a Deadpan Snarker.
  • Lawful Neutral: Some of his political opinions come across as this.
  • Local Hangout: Ballad of the King's Jest is told between two caravaners hanging out at the local bazaar in Peshawar.
  • Locked Out of the Loop: "Marklake Witches" plays with the trope by having it narrated by the character who's locked out of the loop -- and who, at the close of the story, still hasn't realised there's a secret being kept from her, let alone learned what it is. Recognising that her various moments of bemusement are connected, and figuring out the nature of the connection, is left as an exercise for the reader, and if achieved alters the tone of the story significantly.
  • Malaproper: The narrator of Just So Stories, with such famous ones as "'satiable curtiosity" (for 'insatiable curiosity').
  • Mama Bear
  • Manly Men Can Hunt: Captains Courageous and The Jungle Book

The Jackal may follow the tiger, but cub when thy whiskers are grown, remember the wolf is a hunter, go forth and get food of thine own

We have spent two hundred million pounds to prove the fact once more,
That horses are quicker than men afoot, since two and two make four;
And horses have four legs, and men have two legs, and two into four goes twice,
And nothing over except our lesson--and very cheap at the price.

They shall not return to us, the resolute, the young,
The eager and whole-hearted whom we gave:
But the men who left them thriftily to die in their own dung,
Shall they come with years and honour to the grave?

  • Not So Different: Zig-zagged. Sometimes he described Europeans as just another tribe, sometimes as superior. Perhaps the summation was that he in fact thought Europeans were another tribe (and thus shouldn't make too much heavy weather) but that, by chance they happened to be a tribe that had a lot to teach other tribes.
    • Also Kipling was a good character writer and had a great fascination for how other people lived. His characters seem like real people that happen to be following the customs of their respective tribe/caste/whatever and not merely extensions of stereotypes.
    • The Roman Centurion's Song is about a Roman Centurion pleading not to be sent home to Rome, as he has lived among the 'primitives' of Britain so long that he has gone native. Kipling was making the obvious comparison of how many British soldiers felt after living in India, and pointing out that once upon a time it was the Britons that were the subject of colonial ambitions by a 'more civilised' power and were viewed as savages by their colonial masters.
  • The Paragon: "Kitchener's School" claims the English in general are this:

That the magic whereby they work their magic--wherefrom their fortunes spring--
May be that they show all peoples their magic and ask no price in return.

Damnable! Oh, damnable! But I'll be considerate. I'll be merciful. By gad, I'll be the very essence o' humanity! Did ye, or did ye not, see my notice-boards? Don't attempt to deny it! Ye did.

  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Invoked in Ballad of East and West when a British subaltern surrounded by Pathans warns the Pathan chieftain that his tribe will be ravaged by the British Army if he is killed.
    • Also invoked in the short story "Wee Willie Winkie" about a six-year-old boy, son of a British regimental commander, facing down some other Pathans. One of them warns his comrades:

"He is the heart's heart of those white troops.... [I]f he be taken, the regiment will break loose and gut the valley ... and we shall not escape. That regiment are devils ... and if we touch this child they will fire and rape and plunder for a month, till nothing remains.... I say that this child is their God, and that they will spare none of us, nor our women, if we harm him."

He spoke of the heat of India as the "Asian Solar Myth";
Came on a four months' visit, to "study the East," in November,
And I got him to sign an agreement vowing to stay till September.
...[The summer temperature hits one hundred twenty] That was an end of the business. Pagett, the perjured, fled
With a practical, working knowledge of "Solar Myths" in his head.

  • Trickster: Several, including Stalky (Stalky in Land & Sea Tales, Stalky & Co., A Deal in Cotton in Actions and Reactions, The Honours of War in A Diversity of Creatures), who fought anything unpleasant in Boarding School with tricks and little provocations. And won.

Stalky: Now, we must pull up. We're injured innocence -- as usual. We don't know what we've been sent up here for, do we?
M'Turk: No explanation. Deprived of tea. Public disgrace before the house. It's dam' serious.

Nilghai: It’s a chromo,’ said he,--’a chromo-litholeo-margarine fake!

Dick: Then the art-manager of that abandoned paper said that his subscribers wouldn’t like it. It was brutal and coarse and violent,--man being naturally gentle when he’s fighting for his life. They wanted something more restful, with a little more colour. I could have said a good deal, but you might as well talk to a sheep as an art-manager.

  • True Companions: The Galley-Slave is about the brotherhood between a crew of galley slaves.

To the bench that broke their manhood, they shall lash themselves and die.