The Enemies to Each Other

(notes edited by Lisa Lewis)


The story was published in MacLean’s Magazine, 15 July 1924, and in Hearst’s International Magazine, August 1924, as “A new Version of what happened in the Garden of Eden”; in Good Housekeeping Magazine, July 1924, it was “Adam and Eve; the Enemies of each Other”. It was illustrated by Edmund Dulac. It was collected in Debits and Credits, 1926, as the first in that volume.

The story

The story starts by retelling the Eden myth, with some alterations and additions: Azrael, whose destiny as Angel of Death makes him weep over Adam’s new-made body, affecting its composition; the Peacock, who would not smuggle the devil into the garden but advised him to ask the Serpent, and who is punished for this with ugly legs and an ugly voice; and the Mole, who spies on Adam and Eve after the expulsion, hoping to cause trouble, and is punished by losing his sight. Adam and Eve are consoled by their children, but lose their sense of humour and begin to worship themselves as rulers of Earth. They quarrel and vie for dominance, but the Archangel Jibrail, helped by the repentant Peacock, persuades them to laugh at themselves and each other and they are reconciled. At the end, they kneel before an altar bearing the Decree of Expulsion: “Get ye down, the one of you an enemy unto the other.” God rules that this shall “stand in the place of both Our Curse and Our Blessing.”


Carrington’s notes from Mrs Kipling’s diaries give no date of composition, but list it among four stories that were ready to send to Kipling’s agent on 13 November 1923. The manuscript, which exists only as two fragments, is in the bound volume of Kipling’s manuscripts in Durham University Library. One fragment is a single sheet with the sub-plot about the Mole, (in what may be someone else’s hand) ‘Once called How the Peacock Kept his Tail’. This suggests that it may originally have been a discarded draft for Just So Stories. The second fragment, of two sheets, covers the first five paragraphs of the published story.

Some critical comments

The story has  been commented on little by the critics. Carrington thought it was ‘a kind of private joke’ [Charles Carrington, Rudyard Kipling: His Life and Work (London: Macmillan, 1955) 468]. J.M.S. Tompkins, on the other hand, listed it with a number of texts ‘making statements of importance to Kipling in an ingenious and depersonalized way.’ [J.M.S. Tompkins, The Art of Rudyard Kipling (London: Methuen, 1959) 59]. Elsewhere she connected it with other stories about the healing power of laughter (50), and read it as saying ‘that a fundamental hostility may co-exist between man and woman with a fundamental love and need’ (233). Harry Ricketts saw it as ‘a covert allusion to [his daughter] Elsie and her marriage.’ [Harry Ricketts, The Unforgiving Minute: a Life of Rudyard Kipling (London: Chatto & Windus, 1999) 365]. She would not tell her parents of the engagement for another six months, in May 1924 [Mrs Kipling’s diary], but the couple had known each other for five years and Kipling would claim to have ‘suspected’ something between them as early as 1922 [letter to Mary Blaikie, 8 July 1924]. Most critics do not even mention the story.

Background to the story

“The Enemies to Each Other” could be seen as illustrating Kipling’s belief in God and his distrust of religious orthodoxy. He combines elements from the book of Genesis, the Koran and traditional folk-tales (see notes to pages 1 and 3 below) with his own invention, the whole introduced by the comment: ‘and God knows best the true state of the case’.