of the Armadilloes"
by Lisa Lewis
| notes on
As for the Armadillo story, it is full of more obvious, but perhaps slightly more grown-up tongue-twisting fun [than the earlier stories in the collection], as the Tortoise and the Hedgehog evade the young Jaguar’s hunger by confusing him. [quoted, page 92 lines 26-31].For Rosalind Meyer:
It is again the style of speech which gives the clue in “The Beginning of the Armadilloes.” Stickly-Prickly and Slow-and-Solid [sic] speak rhythmically and even poetically at times; but for all that, on occasion their phraseology may be parallelled in Stalky & Co., published the previous year.Nora Crook [1989, captions to plates 7 and 8] compares the second illustration to Blake’s “Behemoth and Leviathan” in Gilchrist’s Life of Blake, I, p. 336, adding:
“I don’t like this old lady one little bit,” said Stickly-Prickly. “I wonder what else she knows?”And later he laments, in the manner of Beetle: “This is a mess!”
Their common warcry is “Won’t Painted Jaguar be surprised!” At one level of interpretation, and in their origins, they are Third Formers desperate for survival. If Stickly-Prickly is the quicker-witted, Slow-and-Solid is a competent partner, once given the lead, in the brilliant repartee with which they buy time from Painted Jaguar; while in their tormentor’s uneasy if beautiful adolescence may be descried the outlines of a maturing Sixth Former.
It seems far from unlikely that the exquisite Painted Jaguar shares the same original with the bully Sefton of “The Moral Reformers” (in Stalky & Co.) That silky-moustached young man already has his animal associations as a “crammer’s pup”, and is, as the Reverend John comments to the Head, “the only son of his mother, and she a widow.” This mother also receives her son’s confidences to the full, as her outraged letter to the School reveals.
Not impossibly, Kipling had in mind a private joke as he composed this tale. Third Formers who win through their early traumas by dint of exerting themselves will acquire some carapace of confidence by the time they reach the Middle or Upper Fourth – which still today, in some English schools, is known as “the Shell.” The term was common late last century. [Kipling Journal 232, Dec. 1984, pp. 16-7].
In The Elements of Drawing (owned by Kipling) Ruskin advised novices to study this plate.Brian Alderson deplored the tendency of publishers to substitute illustrations by other artists for Kipling’s drawings:
To tell the story of, say, “The Beginning of the Armadilloes” without the wonderful, absorbing “inciting map of the Turbid Amazon done in Red and Black,” or without the “whole story”design (and the attendant information that “the Jaguar’s pet name with his Mummy was Doffles”), is first to eliminate bits of the author from his own book, and second to deprive the reader of half the fun of the story. [“Just so Pictures: Illustrated Versions of Just So Stories for Little Children”, in Judith A. Plotz (ed.), vol.20 of Annual of the Modern Language Association Division on Children’s Literature and the Children’s Literature Association, (New Haven, Yale University Press, 1992) pp. 160-1].