The King’s Ankus

Notes on the text

These notes, by Alan Underwood, are partly new, and partly based on the ORG. The page and line numbers below refer to the Macmillan (London) Standard Edition of The Second Jungle Book, as published and frequently reprinted between 1899 and 1950.


page 1

[Page 147, Verse heading] Jungle Saying two rhymed lines, collected in Songs from Books, in the style and metre of “The Law of the Jungle”, with the subscript Jungle Saying. They have an echo of Proverbs 30,15-16:

‘There are three things that are never satisfied, Yea, four things say not, ‘it is enough’:

the grave; and the barren womb; the earth that is not filled with water; and the fire that saith not, ‘It is enough’.

[Page 147, line 3] Jacala’s mouth Jacala is the crocodile. See “The Undertakers” and its heading, page 109, and page 222 line 5.

[Page 147, line 6] Kaa, the big Rock Python see the note on “Kaa’s Hunting” (page 59, line 14).

[Page 147, line 7] changed his skin The frequency with which a snake sloughs, or casts, its skin varies with age, activity and consequent wear of the skin. A young python might slough two or three times a year, an old one perhaps only once, according to experts at the Natural History Museum in London. The lifetime of a python being about 50 years, Kaa may be considered as a patriarch (ORG).

[Page 147, line 13] Cold Lairs see the note on “Kaa’s Hunting” .

[Page 149, line 20] crushed a dozen Mowglis The python kills by constriction. Coil after coil is thrown round the victim and slowly tightened. All snakes are extraordinarily muscular, so that the pressure exerted by a large python must be extremely large. Usually all the bones are broken and the whole animal crushed into the shape of a sausage, which is swallowed head first. (ORG)

[Page 152, line 19] asking no help of buffaloes See “Tiger! Tiger! (The Jungle Book pages 105-110)

[Page 152, line 25] nilghai see the note on “Letting in the Jungle”, page 73 line 16.

page 2

[Page 152, line 29] a white cobra albino snakes have not been recorded and neither have snakes bleached by being kept in the dark. It is said that the cobra’s eyes were red (page 155 line 7) which would perhaps suggest albinism.

[Page 155, line 29] Salomdhi, son of Chandrabija, son of Viyeja, son of Yegasuri, made it in the days of Bappa Rawal. These are the names of kings from over a thousand years before. Kim Bastin has noted that ihe names in question appear in slightly different forms at the foot of page 100 of Prinsep: Useful Tables, forming an appendix to The Journal of the Asiatic Society (Calcutta 1834)

The first four names belong to the last kings of a the Satavahana dynasty of Andhra. The most widely used modern spelling is:

  • Pulomavi for Salomdhi (alias Chandrabija)
  • Vijaya for Viyeja
  • Yajna Sri Satakarni for Yegasuri

The last name, ‘Bappa Rawal’ (c. 713-753), or Rawul, is to be found in Tod’s Annals and Antiquities of Rajasthan from which Kipling took the historical and legendary stories of the places he described in Letters of Marque: see From Sea to Sea vol. I page 83, and Tod’s Annals of Rajasthan (Mewar) Ed. C. H. Payne pp. 6-10. Bappa Rawal took Chitor from the previous ruling dynasty, snd the fact that Kipling mentions him here supports the view that Chitor is the origin of ‘Cold Lairs’; see the note on “Kaa’s Hunting” .

Bappa Rawal was a Rajput, eighth ruler of the Guhilot Rajput Dynasty and founder of the Mewar Dynasty, in what is now Rajasthan. The Satavahanas are associated with the eastern Deccan and Andhra, a different part of India, and the last Satavahanas actually lived well before the days of Bappa Rawal. As Yan Shapiro of the Kipling Society has pointed out, there seem to be some discrepancies in the genealogical tables, and this may have confused Kipling—or one can perhaps simply conclude that the White Cobra had misremembered.

[Page 156, line 18] Kurran Raja Probably ‘Kurran Rana’, King of Mewar 1621-28, who is mentioned in Tod’s Annals.

[Page 156, line 22] Brahmins priests in this context

[Page 157, line 26] can any jackal See the note on rabies in “Mowgli’s Brothers” (The Jungle Book page 4, line 9)

page 3

[Page 158, line 13] yellow and the other was brown Gold and copper-alloy coins respectively. Mowgli had seen the latter in the village he visited in “Mowgli’s Brothers”, and perhaps a little silver owned by Messua’s husband.

[Page 158, line 22] elephant-howdahs seats for two or more, usually with canopies, on the backs of elephants.

[Page 158, line 24] palanquins covered litters for one, carried by four or six men. See “The Incarnation of Krishna Mulvaney” (Life’s Handicap, page 9, line 27).

[Page 159, line 5] pigeon’s blood rubies the most valued tint in a range of red colours describing rubies.

[Page 159, line 14] henna a product of a small shrub, Lawsonia inermis, used in India for dying the hair and beards of men, and the hands of ladies.

[Page 159, line 14] eye-powder Kohl, usually consisting of finely powdered antimony, for darkening the eyelids.

[Page 160, line 13] three-foot ankus ‘two-foot’ in First English Edition and reprints. Ankus, the elephant goad, is explained in the text.

page 4

[Page 163, line 15] Thuu See Kipling’s list of names

[Page 163, line 27] It is Death The cobra predicts what will happen in the rest of the story, except that Mowgli himself is not killed.

[Page 165, line 16] purred approvingly Bagheera knows how humans behave from his experience in the King’s cages, and agrees that the ankus can bring death. From his past life he can also explain the use of the ankus (page 165, line 25).

page 5

[Page 168, line 19] Gond hunter see the note on “How Fear Came” page 25, line 23.

page 6

[Page 172, line 1] oriole’s nest not the golden oriole of Europe, but Oriolus kundoo, the ‘mango bird’. The nest is pocket-shaped, of bark, grass and fibres, and, being suspended at the end of a branch, is subject to much movement (ORG).

[Page 173, line 9] lay the ruby-and-turquoise ankus In the First English Edition the story ends here. The error was corrected in the first reprint when some 500 words were added.

[Page 173, line 19] Apple of Death The thorn-apple or the jimson-weed (Datura Stremoninra) an annual plant of the nightshade family, most of which are narcotic poisons. Datura matel is the variety native to India, (The word ‘Datura’ comes from the Hindi dhatura (thorn apple).

[Page 175, line 6] ‘Get thee a young and ripe oneof thine own people…’ In using the word ‘ripe’ Kipling is echoing the usage in Hindi of pakka meaning ripe, or fit for its purpose. (As the word pukka or pucka, meaning substantial or permanent, it has passed into the English language.)

[Page 176-7] The Song of the Little Hunter Three eight-line verses. Collected in Songs from Books.

[Page 176, line 1] Mor altered to ‘Mao’ the peacock in most places, as in “Mowgli’s Brothers” page 27 line 26, but left as ‘Mor’ in this poem until the Sussex Edition. See Kipling’s list of names.

[F. A. U.]

©F A Underwood 2007 All rights reserved