Search This Blog

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Happy Birthday, Rudyard Kipling!

Portrait by John Collier, 1891. Public domain.

I was looking for some important things that happened on December 30, but most were horrible. And nothing writing themed. I did unearth a feast day of a saint called Abraham the Writer, but even Wikipedia only told us his name and the church that celebrated him On This Day. Sorry, Abraham the Writer!

So then I looked up the writers born On This Day. I'd never heard of most of them, though it was nice to know it was the birthday of Sol Saks, scriptwriter for the TV series Bewitched, which I enjoyed as a child, though I wanted to thump Darren most of the time. 

However, there was one major birthday - Rudyard Kipling! 

I confess I haven't read all his works, not even some of the famous ones, but then he was a pretty prolific writer and traveller, I just can't read it all - yet. There's a story that he simply turned up on Mark Twain's doorstep and knocked on the door, before wondering whether this was a polite thing to do. However, the wonderful American writer kindly invited him in and had a long chat. 

My American readers will be pleased to know that he lived in the U.S. for a while, with his wife and kids.

I have read Puck Of Pook's Hill and its sequel, Rewards And Fairies, which were utterly magical, linked stories about England's history and folklore. I've been making my way through Just So Stories - and I remember reading "The Elephant's Child" to my nephew Max when he was little(he's about to turn 19 now and start university!). They are wonderful stories to read to a child and put on the voices for them. I've read a fair few of his short stories, including his horror fiction. Bet you didn't know he wrote horror fiction - I didn't either, till I found a collection at my favourite bookshop. 

And the poems - oh, those poems! Beautiful stuff which refers to the sea as "the old grey widow maker" - "Harp song of the Dane Women" and "Song of the Men's Side" which made great filk songs by Leslie Fish and the wonderful late Linda Small. 

And there's "Tommy", a poem about the ordinary British soldier. "Oh it's Tommy this and Tommy that and Tommy go away, But it's thank you, Mr Atkins, when the band begins to play." A gorgeous poem, which has also had the filk song treatment, about how soldiers are treated well when they're needed to fight and like dirt when they're not. We had a student called Tommy Atkins at my first school and he must have wondered why I sang that line at him when he borrowed a book! He didn't ask, though. 

Apparently, Kipling had swastikas all over his book covers till the Nazis spoiled the old sun symbol for him and everyone else, when he stopped. He was no fan of the Nazis!  

I know he has been controversial both in India and elsewhere, but he did write some great stuff. 

Happy birthday, Rudyard! 

No comments: