by Lisa Lewis
| notes on
His knowledge of lettering of all ages and his skill in reproducing it was great, and he took infinite pleasure in the drawing of the delicate and fantastic letters for “How the Alphabet was made” in the Just So Stories.It is noticeable that, although Tegumai and Taffy speak English in the story, the words their pictograms stand for are in an invented “Tegumai language,” primitive enough to be conveyed in very few symbols, e.g. “shu-ya” for rainwater. According to ORG, Andrew Lang wrote in an essay “The Origins of the Alphabet” in the Fortnightly Review, October 1904, that the alphabet may have originated in Neolithic times, as is suggested in the story, but ORG added that this was not generally agreed. The essay postdates Just So Stories, but Kipling knew Andrew Lang and could possibly have got the suggestion from him.
[Memoir in Carrington, p. 516].
several of these stories – for instance those concerning the invention of letter-writing and of the alphabet by the daughter of a cave-dweller … - are perfect, told once for all so that other tellers need not hope to compete.For J M S Tompkins:
[Lancelyn Green, ed. The Critical Heritage, p. 272].
The great joy was the pictures, with their deeply satisfying detail. I used to work through Taffimai’s necklace, checking the beads off by the list helpfully supplied by the author, though the black snake-like background always puzzled me. [p.56].Rosemary Sutcliffe wrote:
My own early favourites … were the two tales of Taffy and her father Tegumai, … the second for the sake of that wonderful alphabet, chronicled bead by bead; but also because of the sense of safety and being beloved which enfolds the naughty small heroine, as though her father had spread a cloak over his Little-Girl-Daughter to keep out the cold.But to Angus Wilson:
[Three Bodley Head Monographs, London, The Bodley Head, 1968, p. 95].
We are in the land of Tegumai and Taffy, of Kipling and his own children, and sentimental whimsicality takes over. [p. 229].