Rudyard Kipling told his children gloriously fanciful tales of how things in the world came to be as they are. He wrote them down for publication as theJust So Stories in 1902, just three years after the tragic death of the daughter for whom they had first been invented. During the 20th century, generations of children were tucked into bed with readings of highly imaginative and wildly improbably explanations such as how the elephant got his trunk.
Who was Rudyard Kipling?
Joseph Rudyard Kipling was born in 1865 in Bombay, during the ‘British Raj’, the era when the subcontinent of India was part of the British Empire. His father was an artist, who also taught at the city’s School of Art. When he was only five, Kipling and his sister, Alice, were taken back to England and left with foster parents in Southsea, where he attended a small private school. The colourful sights and sounds – and freedoms- of India were sorely missed. Kipling hated his foster home, which he later referred to as the “House of Desolation”.
At 12 he was sent to boarding school in Devon. The headmaster there was a friend of the family and encouraged Kipling’s interest in writing. Four years later he was back in India and working in Lahore as a journalist on two newspapers. In his spare time he penned poems and short stories. These were first printed in the newspapers, and then published as books. Through his travels all over in India, he absorbed knowledge of Hindu customs and ways of thinking, though his experience of British colonial life remained central to his disposition.
By the time Kipling returned to England in 1889, he was already a successful author, specialising in stories of heroism and masculine fellowship. Three years later he married the sister of an American friend and moved to Vermont, where his two daughters were born. There he wrote his first books for children: the two Jungle Books.After a few happy years in America, a legal dispute with his wife’s brother led Kipling to bring his family back to England. Tragedy struck early in 1899 when his beloved first daughter, Josephine died of fever. At the same time Kipling moved to a secluded 17th-century house called Batemans in the Sussex village of Burwash, where he lived until his death in 1936.