Garm – a Hostage

(notes edited by John McGivering)


First published in the Saturday Evening Post of 23 December 1899, then in Pearson’s Magazine of January 1900. It was collected in Actions and Reactions in 1909, where it was accompanied by the poem “The Power of the Dog” [ORG Verse number 931].

It is also to be found in Collected Dog Stories and anthologies of various dates.

Actions and Reactions is available in various paperback editions, and on Kindle, from Amazon.

The story

One night, the narrator encounters his friend Private Stanley Ortheris, very drunk and disorderly and in danger of imminent arrest. He takes him home, and sends him back in the morning, clean and tidy, with a disarming note to his officer which wards off punishment. Three days later Stanley comes to call, bringing his magnificent bull-terrier, whom he insists on leaving as a hostage for his good behaviour.

After the bull-terrier has rescued his own little dog, Vixen, from a pack of savage strays, the narrator christens him “Garm”, after the legendary Garm of the Bloody Breast. He takes Garm into his household, where he behaves in exemplary fashion, revealing himself to be an exceptionally intelligent dog, of fine character. But he pines for Stanley, who secretly comes to visit him rwo or three times a week. Then Stanley falls ill, and the longer dog and man are away from one another, the sadder and weaker they become.

When the hot weather comes, Stanley is sent off to the hills with a group of invalids. Garm falls into a decline, and seems likely to die of a broken heart. Fortunately the narrator is able to follow him some weeks later. This time, when they meet again, Stanley agrees to take Garm back, and they are happily reunited.


Charles Carrington (p. 476) examines Kipling’s love of dogs and his writings about them from different points of view in both stories and verses.

This is the last of the sixteen stories of the “Soldiers Three”: “The Three Musketeers”, “The Taking of Lungtungpen”, “The Daughter of the Regiment”. and “The Madness of Private Ortheris” in Plain Tales from the Hills; “Soldiers Three”, “The God from the Machine”, “Private Learoyd’s Story”, “The Big Drunk Draf’”, “The Solid Muldoon”, “With the Main Guard”, “In the Matter of a Private”, and “Black Jack” in Soldiers Three and Other Stories; and “My Lord the Elephant”, “His Private Honour”, and “Love o’Women” in Many Inventions. Six of these and “The Drums of the Fore and Aft” are also collected in Soldier Tales, the latter also in Wee Willie Winkie. See Chapter 11 of Beast and Man in India by Lockwood Kipling, for dogs in India, both native and belonging to Europeans.

Further reading

Kipling was a great dog-lover. See also his other dog stories.

[J H McG]

©John McGivering 2006 All rights reserved