(Notes edited by
Alan Underwood and John Radcliffe)
|notes on the text|
'A story that takes one's breath away ... The narrative is so powerful and original in its manner that hardly a hint can be given of its strength and quality.'Cyril Falls sees this as the best of all the Mowgli stories:
There is something all Homeric in this description, with its sense of vague, stark fury and slaughter blended with precise incidents like that of the leader of the pack dragging forward a dhole for the yearlings, who would be outside the thickest of the fight, to despatch.Mark Paffard (p. 94) notes that:
'Red Dog' returns to the theme of the aristocratic few standing out against the mob. One cannot miss the resemblance between the battle of the wolves against the red dogs and Kipling's other great set-piece description of battle, the stand of the British square against the dervishes in The Light That Failed.J M S Tompkins points out that:
... the language of the battle is wolf-metaphor. `The bone is cracked', says Phaon, as the Dholes give back. There is no attempt to obscure the growling, biting, worrying pack, and the tale ends with the cold requiem of Chil the Kite as his hosts drop to their feast. But before that Won-Tolla has died on his slain enemy, and Mowgli has held up Akela to sing his death-song. It is carried through with astonishing conviction and intensity, and with an elevation that does not flag. The laws of life and death have their way with Mowgli's brethren, and the child learns all this from the shelter of a fairy-tale.And Philip Mason (p. 170) takes a similar view:
"Red Dog", indeed, is superb. It has everything - every situation that has stirred the blood of imaginative youth since tales were first told. There is the threat of invasion by barbarian hordes - far more numerous than the Free People, pitiless in courage and tenacity, but despised and hated because, among other things, they had hair between their toes ...There is the mustering of a whole people to fight in defence of homes and children; there is the wise old counsellor thinking back into the past; the brilliant exploit of one hero who `pulls the very whiskers of death' and leads the enemy into a trap; the defence of a narrow place - Thermopylae, Horatius and the bridge, Alan Breck in the round house; there is the vengeance of Won-Tolla whose family have been killed by the Red Dogs; there is the death of the glorious old leader and Mowgli the victor left mourning on the battlefield. This tale too I could never read aloud to my children without everyone weeping.