The Merry Thought: 'Why Snow Falls at Vernet'

By David Alan Richards



On several occasions from 1910 onward, the Kipling family spent part of the winter months at Vernet-les-Bains in the French Pyrenees, enjoying the food, the scenery, and the local sulphur baths to relieve Carrie Kipling's rheumatism and Rudyard's sciatica. The resort was so popular with English tourists that they created in the 1911 season (the Kipling family's second visit) a short-lived monthly magazine, The Merry Thought. As its "Sub-Editor", a Miss McClelland, was to write:

"The only excuse for its existence is that it was meant to stir up lazy visitors at Vernet, to write articles and to make other unfortunates read them, so that both might be plagued and bored equally....[T]his little journal is only meant to amuse..."

At the request of the Editor, a Mrs. Whidborne, Kipling contributed a story to the publication's April 1911 issue, entitled "Why Snow Falls at Vernet - A Legend of St. Saturnia". This fable about the English and their perverse joy in abominable weather was apparently inspired in part by an early March snowstorm that year in Vernet and featured a hero suffering, like the author, from sciatica.