The Parable of Boy Jones

(notes edited by John McGivering)


First published in The Rifleman of 15 July 1910, collected in Land and Sea Tales (1923) where it is accompanied by the verse “A Departure”. Also collected in the Sussex Edition, Volume 16, page 129, Burwash Edition, Volume 14 and Scribners Edition, Volume 35.

The story

It is a few years before the Great War, and the Village Rifle Club is practising. All are keen, and some are very good. The best shot that windy day is Milligan, a cripple. ‘Boy’ Jones, aged 22 and a good athlete in hard condition, has come with a friend to see the riflemen and boys at work. He knows nothing of shooting, and when he tries a shot makes a fool of himself. But he realises the value of learning, and a week later he is to be found in the miniature-rifle shed, taking tips from Milligan.


A parable is a work of fiction arranged to make a point or express an opinion, which here expresses Kipling’s fear of a sudden attack by an enemy whom he does not specify – he talks of ‘the continent being worried’ at the amphibious exercises in “The Army of a Dream (Traffics and Discoveries, 1904) see also Page 187, line 28 below.

See Charles Carrington, pp. 313-315 for Kipling’s drill-hall and 1,000 yard rifle-range at Rottingdean; also Andrew Lycett, pp. 310 and 327, and Harold Orel Kipling, Interviews and Recollections (Macmillan, 1983) Volume 1, page 163, Lucy Hilton on ‘Mr Kipling’. (Reprinted from KJ 69/14)

See also Angus Wilson, p. 262; also Meryl Macdonald, The Long Trail, Kipling Around the World (Tideway House, 1999) p. 120.

Some further reading

  • Michael Smith, The Rottingdean Years (Brownleaf, 1989) with illustrations of the village, a plan, and a chronology.
  • KJ 267/13 and 268/28 for “The Kiplings in Rottingdean.”
  • S. M. Moens, Rottingdean, The Story of a Village (Beal, Brighton, 1953)
  • P. Bourjaily, “Champions of Civilian Marksmanship”, in The American Rifleman for June 1989. (There is a copy in the Kipling Library, by courtesy of the author – see KJ 253/48.)

[J H McG]

©John McGivering 2007 All rights reserved