Some great reads

Growing up

Baa Baa Black Sheep

Two little Anglo-Indian children, aged five and three, are left – without warning – with foster parents in England, for five years.

There is no love in the house hold, and the boy – Kipling himself – is bullied and ill treated.

When their mother finally comes to take them back, love is restored, but he will always bear the marks of the years of hatred and despair.


Captains Courageous 


The spoiled self-indulgent teenage son of a wealthy American railroad king falls overboard in the North Atlantic from a liner.

He is rescued by a dory from a fishing schooner on the Grand Banks. After three months working as a fisherman he is a changed man, ready for the real world.


An Unqualified Pilot


Jim Trevor’s father is a pilot, guiding ships up and down the dangerous waters of the Hugli, from Calcutta.

He is desperate to become a pilot too, but his father wants him to be a clerk in the office. He pilots a junk down the river, illegally, by following his father, piloting another vessel. His father beats him for it, but gives in.

Men and Women

The Story   Notes
On Greenhow Hill Jock Learoyd, a young Yorkshire miner falls in love with Liza Roantree. He thinks of murdering his educated rival, but learns that she is dying. He goes for a soldier, and never forgets her.
The Wish House A woman’s passion for a man dominates her completely to a point where she will sacrifice her life to bear the burden of his suffering.
The Phantom Rickshaw Jack Pansay has had an affair with Agnes, the golden-haired wife of an officer. He wearies of her and tells her so, but she refuses to accept his rejection and dies, broken-hearted. He finds another lady, but is haunted by the ghost of Agnes in her yellow-panelled rickshaw, which only he can see. He dies, a broken man.
A Wayside Comedy Kashima is a small remote station in the hills, fraught with passion, hatred, and infidelity. But there is no escape from Kashima.
False Dawn A tragi-comedy of mistaken identity. A man proposes to the wrong sister. Sisters are women first and sisters afterwards.
Lispeth A heartless Englishman, saved from fever by a young Hill woman at the Christian mission where she lives, flirts with her but leaves her without a thought. She leaves the Christians and goes back to her people.
Without Benefit of Clergy A secret and idyllic passion between an Englishman and a young Muslim woman, more vividly described by Kipling than any love affairs between Europeans. They have a child and their happiness is complete. But it is destroyed by the fever and cholera so common in India. Maybe it was doomed anyway ?

Animals as people

The Story   Notes
Rikk-Tikki-Tavi There is a pair of cobras in a garden, raising their young in the melon bed, planning to drive away the people of the house. Happily a small but valiant mongoose appears. He wages an epic war against the snakes, and destroys them.
The White Seal Kotick is that rare creature, a white seal, growing up on a beach in the Bering Sea. He sees regular drives of young seals being murdered by hunters for their skins. He vows to find a place where his people are free from men, and after epic journeys around the oceans finds a safe sanctuary.
The Cat that Walked by Himself In far off times all the animals were wild. One by one the dog and the horse and the cow agree to serve the Man, the dog to hunt, the horse to carry loads, the cow to give milk. But the cat refuses to be a servant. He strikes his own bargain with the Woman, entertaining the baby in exchange for sitting in the warm cave when he chooses, and drinking warm milk. But he is not a servant, he is still the Cat that Walks by Himself, walking in the Wet Wild Woods on his wild lone.
Moti Guj—Mutineer Moti Guj is a working elephant, with a dissolute mahout, Deesa. He is given leave for ten days, telling Moti Guj he must go on working while he is away getting drunk. The elephant does so loyally but when Deesa fails to return, refuses to work on the eleventh day. There is nothing the management can do until his master gets back. but when Deesa fails to return, refuses to work on the eleventh day. There is nothing the management can do until his master gets back.
Garm—a Hostage Stanley Ortheris gets into trouble when drunk, and—as a hostage for his good behaviour—insists on leaving his magnificent bull terrier with the story-teller. He calls him ‘Garm of the bloody breast’. Stanley falls ill and the vet thinks Garm is dying of a broken heart. Reunited, man and dog rejoice and swiftly recover.
My Lord the Elephant A working elephant becomes aggressive, and chases Mulvaney into a compound. He escapes upstairs, swigs a bottle of brandy, and slides down onto the elephant’s back. He hammers on its head with a rifle butt to calm it down, and it submits. He then makes friends with the elephant, because, like him, it has been put upon. Later, on campaign, that very elephant blocks a road through a narrow pass, asking to see his friend before he will budge. Mulvaney is brought from his sickbed, and the great beast greets him joyfully and moves on.

Stress and Healing

The Story   Notes
The Woman in his Life John Marden is haunted by the war-time terrors of mining under the Messines Ridge in constant danger. He turns to drink, and has frightening visions. He acquires Dinah a little dog. One night she is missing, caught down a fox’s hole. John crawls in down the tunnel, remembering all the old terrors, frees her, and finds himself cured.
The Miracle of Saint Jubanus Martin, a young French soldier comes back from the war traumatised and silent, the shadow of his former cheerful self. Then he witnesses a hilarious scene in church, in which two little boys ger tangled up in an enormous umbrella. Everyone bursts into hilarious laughter, as does Martin, he is cured.
In the Same Boat Two drug addicts are introduced to each other by their doctors. They share experiences and find that they are both trying to escape horrific visions from their early childhood. To be able to share their terrors sets them free. Healed, they go their ways.

India and Empire

The Story   Notes



This story is seen as Kipling’s finest work. The Great Game of spying and counter-intelligence set against the rich panorama of a great and wonderful land. The boy from the streets of Lahore who becomes the disciple of a holy man – and an intelligence agent. The choice between action and contemplation.
On the City Wall A parable of Empire, set in the chamber of a beautiful courtesan on the city wall of Lahore, as religious riots rage in the streets. The British have the illusion of mastery, while understanding little of the subtle undercurrents of Indian life.
Young Men at the Manor Richard Dalyngridge, a Norman soldier, had fought with Duke William’s invading army at Hastings. Inland he is given the Manor held by his Saxon friend Hugh, if he can hold it. They make common cause against marauders to defend the manor, Norman soldiers and Saxon peasants fighting side by side. It bodes well for the future of England.
The Winged Hats Parnesius and Pertinax, Roman soldiers on Hadrian’s Wall, are defending the northern border of the Empire. The Emperor Maximus, whom they served, and who had made them Captains of the Wall, had been supplanted and executed. Nevertheless they loyally serve the Empire and fight off the wild Saxons who are invading across the North Sea.
The Man who Would be King Another parable of empire. Two adventurers make their way to a mountainous region in Kafiristan. With modern rifles they create an army, and conquer a village and then more villages, and establish a little Kingdom, claiming to be gods. But their leader tries to take a wife, and terrified, she bites him and draws blood. ‘Not a god, but a man’, the people cry, and turn on them, killing one and crucifying the other.
The Strange ride of Morrowbie Jukes Morrowbie Jukes, out on a moonlight ride, falls with his horse down a steep slope of sand, into a crater. He finds himself in a village of the living dead, trapped, powerless and living on crows. A living nightmare
Judson and the Empire Judson commands an elderly gunboat in South Africa. He resolves a crisis with a neighbouring colonial power by craft and cunning wityh a dash of humour, which leaves the British with the upper hand while saving the face of the other side.
The Bridge-builders A great new bridge over the Ganges is threatened by a major flood. It survives, a monument to change and modernity. But perhaps this is not such a deep loss to the old gods of India, who will always be there while men and women dream.
The Miracle of Purun Bhagat Purun Dass. Prime Minister of a Native State, takes a staff and begging bowl, as a wandering holy man. He settles in a shrine high above a village, pondering long on the meaning of life. When a landslip threatens, he turns to action and saves the village with the last of his strength.
Slaves of the Lamp Part II ‘Stalky’, as a young officer, is involved in a little frontier war against two wild Pathan tribes. With a platoon of ferocious and devoted Sikh soldiers, he is heavily out-numbered, but in his element, setting the enemy tribes against each other, just as he’d done at school.
The Church that was at Antioch Valens, a young Roman officer in Jerusalem, keeps the peace in religious riots by taking a tolerant line. In the street a fanatic suddenly stabs him mortally. The Prefect threatens serious reprisals, but the dying Valens insists: “Don’t be hard on them … they don’t know what they are doing”—the very words of Jesus.
The Vortex Mr Lingnam is a theorist of Empire, endlessly discussing complicated schemes for imperial collaboration. He continues to theorise during an otherwise joyful car journey through the English countryside. By a dreadful piece of driving he knocks a boy off a bike, and releases a swarm of bees into a village on a busy summer’s day, with hilarious results. He is stung into the conclusion that in a crisis it is a mistake to take too much notice of other people’s opinions. One must act.