Quotes Beginnings

February 25th to March 2nd


“They have changed the face of the land—which is my land. They have killed and made new towns on my banks,” said the Mugger.

“It is but the shifting of a little dirt. Let the dirt dig in the dirt if it pleases the dirt,” answered the Elephant.


This is from “The Bridge Builders” (1893) collected in The Days Work.

British engineers are building a great new bridge over the Ganges. It is nearly complete when  the river rises in flood and threatens to sweep it away.

In the midst of the flood. the gods of India are speaking of this incursion, which cribs and confines  Mother Gunga, the sacred river. Among the great ones there is fear and unease, since the bridge still stands  over the river.

But in the broad sweep of human history, perhaps this is not such a deep loss to the old gods. They will always be there to claim the allegiance of men and women,, whatever material changes there may be. While the people dream, the gods will still be there

he found All–the–Elephant–there–was digging with his tusks and stamping with his feet in the nice new clean earth that had been made ready for him.

Kun?‘ said All–the–Elephant–there–was, meaning, ‘Is this right?’

Payah kun,’ said the Eldest Magician, meaning, ‘That is quite right’ and he breathed upon the great rocks and lumps of earth that All–the–Elephant–there–was had thrown up, and they became the great Himalayan Mountains, and you can look them out on the map.


This is from “The Crab that played with the Sea”” in the Just So Stories.

The storyteller is recounting how the Earth was made in the very beginning, and how all the creatures had played their parts.

Only the Crab had escaped the commands of the Eldest Magician. He had played with the sea, making great tides  that rushed up and down the Perak River  to the great confusion of the Man. Later in the story the magician puts that right and makes the Crab small and harmless.  But thanks to the Man’s little daughter he is left with sharp claws, like her scissors, to dig holes and protect himself.

‘Thy kill was from choice?’ he asked; and when Hathi asks a question it is best to answer. ‘Even so. It was my right and my Night. Thou knowest, O Hathi.’   Shere Khan spoke almost courteously.

‘Yes, I know,’ Hathi answered; and, after a little silence, ‘Hast thou drunk thy fill?’ ‘For to-night, yes.’ ‘Go, then. The river is to drink, and not to defile. None but the Lame Tiger would so have boasted of his right at this season when—when we suffer together—Man and Jungle People alike. Clean or unclean, get to thy lair, Shere Khan!’


This is from “How Fear Came” (1895)  in The Second Jungle Book.

In the earliest times all the animals lived together in peace. But through the First of the Tigers came killing and fear, and through the Grey Ape came shame.

The First of the Tigers sought to kill man but was afraid and ran away. But then it was decreed that for one night in the year the Tiger would be unafraid and could kill.

Shere Khan. the lame tiger,  had insisted on that ancient right at a time of drought and fear, to the contempt of the other Jungle people.