Her Majesty’s Servants

Notes on the text

These notes, by Alan Underwood, are mainly based on the ORG, with various additions. The page and line numbers below refer to the Macmillan (London) Standard Edition of The Jungle Book, as published in 1899 and frequently reprinted thereafter.


[Page 249, line 1] Verse heading of four lines, not otherwise collected, beginning: ‘You can work it out by fractions…’ The moral is that there is no middle road, you can either do things one way … or another. Everyone is different, as the story shows by the discussion among the various animals. (P.H.)

[line 1] Rule of Three An arithmetical exercise for finding a fourth, unknown number, from three given numbers, of which the first is in the same proportion to the second as the third is to the fourth.

[line 2] Tweedle-dum…Tweedle-dee Names invented by John Byron (1692-1763), to satirise two quarreling schools of music, between whom the difference was negligible. More familiar (unhyphenated) was the use of the names for two quarrelling characters by Lewis Carroll (Charles Dodgson) in Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There, 1871, Ch. IV.

[line 4] Polly Winkie … Winkie Pop See the first chorus of “The Song of the Banjo” (The Seven Seas p. 78) not published until June 1895, but dated 1894 in the Sussex Edition.

[Page 249, line 9] Rawal Pindi now usually written as Rawalpindi, then a military station in Northern India, now the seat of goverment of Pakistan.

[Page 249, line 9] Viceroy Ruled India in the name of the Crown from 1857 until Indian Independence in 1947. A senior figure, of similar status to the holder of one of the great offices of state in London, appointed formally by the Crown, but in practice by the Prime Minister of the day.

[Page 249, line 10] Vixen Kipling had a fox-terrier of this name, mentioned in his corresp-ondence as the narrator’s dog in other stories, e.g. “Garm, a Hostage” in Actions and Reactions.

[Page 250, line 12] bubbling A noise peculiar to camels. In “How the Camel got his Hump” the camel is addressed by the djinn as: ‘My long and bubbling friend…’.

[Page 250, line 20] tail end of a gun Should strictly be ‘trail end’ – the end from which the gun is towed – but ‘tail’ is more understandable to a child or a non-military reader.

[Page 250, line 22] stacked Should strictly be ‘parked’, a term used by the Royal Artillery for the temporary accommodation of guns, adopted later by motorists.

[Page 250, line 23] plowter Not in the Oxford English Dictionary and may have been coined by Kipling, W W Robson (in the Oxford World Classics Edition of 1987, suggests that this may be a Scotticism, meaning ‘splash messily’. There are a number of Scottish words in Kipling’s works which may have come down from his Macdonald ancestors.

[Page 250, line 26] rammers are rods with a kind of mop-heaed at the end, for ramming home charges in muzzle-loading guns.

[Page 251, line 3] screw-gun battery of the Mountain Artlllery. At that time the gun in service was the 2.5″ breech-loader, carried in two parts which screwed together. This enabled the guns to be transported up into precipitous places, where it would have been impossible to tow a gun, on the back of mules. [See “Screw-guns” in Barrack Room Ballads]

[Page 253, line 3] why the pickets A curious exclamation, not in the First English Edition, but – like many exclamations or imprecations – without particular rhyme or reason. (‘Why on Earth ?’ ‘What the Dickens ?’, ‘Why the Devil’ etc.) Pickets were pegs or stakes to which an animal could be tied. Any of the animals would be familiar with its picket.

[Page 254, line 4] number one kicking, Slang of the time, meaning ‘first class’, in this case ‘exceptionally severe’.

[Page 255, line 7] seventh yoke gun-bullocks were yoked together in pairs, and to haul these big ‘forty-pounder’ guns, weighing about four and a half tons, twenty pairs were needed.

[Page 256, line 11] bridle-wise The horse’s sensitivity, through the reins, of what his rider wants: this is a term understood by riders of any experience. It was borrowed as the title for a book by Lt-Col I G Goldschmidt in 1927, who quoted the paragraph from p. 256 line 14 with Kipling’s permission. Kipling himself was an experienced rider, though not, by all accounts, a particularly skilled one. He did, though, know a good many cavalry officers.

[Page 256, line 14] Blue Gums of the back blocks A phrase used to emphasise the Australian origin of the troop-horse. Blue Gums are characteristically Australian trees, and ‘the back blocks’ is – or was – Australian slang for the interior of that country.

[Page 257, line 1] hocks The hock is the prominent joint half way doen a horse’s hind leg. From the side it has a triangular shape, leading back to the point of the hock.

[Page 257, line 6] worse than the farrier’s knives A farrier is a blacksmith trained to shoe horses (as opposed to one who makes farm machinery or other ironwork). He uses a knife to to cut back the growth of the foot since the previous shoeing, and to probe the foot if trouble is suspected. The ‘Farrier Sergeant’ was an important figure in a cavalry regiment. (See “The Rout of the White Hussars” in Plain Tales from the Hills.) At that time the term was used mostly by the army, but is now in more general use.

[Page 257, line 6] split a hen’s ear Hen’s have no external ears, so there is nothing to split. Billy is saying that a screw-gun mule never trips.

[Page 259, line 11] oh my crupper and breast-plate Another exclamation without particular rhyme or reason (see the note above on page 253, line 3). A crupper is a loop of leather fitted round the root of a horse’s tail, and attached to a strap which buckles at the back of the saddle to prevent it from slipping forward.

There are variations in the breastplates made to prevent a saddle slipping backwards, but all have a strap across the breast, and are attached to the girth or saddle. Both devices are useful with horses of poor conformation.

‘Crupper’ was changed to ‘Cropper’ in the Sussex and Burwash editions, a surprising alteration, since ‘cropper’ is usually taken to mean a heavy fall.

[Page 259, line 12] our packs and saddles In the First English Edition and early reprints, this reads ‘our kajawaks, packs and saddles’; kajawaks (from the Urdu) were large camel panniers, or litters for carrying disabled men.

[Page 260, line 15] oh all twenty yoke Thus the gun was hauled by forty bullocks when the elephant team would not advance further. (see the note above on p. 255, line 7).

See the note by Lt-Col Roger Ayers, RA. on Heavy Batteries in India.

[Page 261, line 11] Kapur A district and town some forty miles west of Delhi.

[Page 261, line 11] Shiva Or Shiv, ‘the Preserver’ (and sometimes ‘the Destroyer’), one of the three great gods of Hinduism, the others being Brahma and Vishnu.

[Page 262, line 4] Southern gentleman A mule has a donkey for a father, and a horse for a mother. Billy’s father was a donkey from the Southern States of America, where there is a strong tradition that a man must be a true gentleman, of fine manners and good breeding. The troop-horse had questioned the capacity of a donkey to fully understand what is proper behaviour, leading Billy to call him a “Brumby” and triggering off the explosive argument that followed.

[Page 262, line 9] imagine the feelings of Sunol if a car-horse called her a “skate” This expression, transferred from the First American Edition, would have helped American readers understand just how insulting Billy was being, but may well have baffled the British. Sunol was a notable American mare bred for harness-racing (a trotter pulling a driver in a light ‘sulky’); a car-horse was a poor sort of horse used for towing tramcars; and a skate was a derisive term of abuse (hence cheapskate).

The First English Edition and its early reprints had: ‘imagine the feelings of Ormonde if a ‘bus horse called him a cocktail..’ This would have been more comprehansible in Britain, since Ormonde was a famous thoroughbred race-horse, a ‘bus horse towed an omnibus on the streets, and cocktail implied a mongrel mixture.

[Page 262, line 13] Malaga jackass Malaga is a province, city, and port, in Southern Spain. The implication is that donkeys were exported from there to India for breeding mules.

[Page 262, line 16] Carbine A very successful Australian race-horse, who won 33 races, including the famous Melbourne Cup in record time, carrying 10 stone 5 pounds (60 kg) and was unplaced only once in 43 races. He was bought by the Duke of Portland in 1895 for £13,000, and imported to England for stud porposes. His name would have been familiar in England at that time, to racing men at least.

[Page 263, line 22] a little boy saying poetry ‘saying a piece’ in the First American Edition, in the First English Edition and some Standard editions. In any event a wonderful simile.

[Page 263, line 29] Pachydermatous Anachronism Pachydermatous means ‘thick skinned’, and an anachronism is something that is out of its time. The teasing remark by the officer implies that the elephant is out of harmony with the present time. But his practical value to the battery was impressive; until they got near the front line three elephants could do the work of forty bullocks. Kipling himself was fascinated by elephants, as in “How Fear Came”, “Letting in the Jungle”. “Toomai of the Elephants”, “My Lord the Elephant£, and a number of other tales.

See the note by Lt-Col Roger Ayers, RA. on Heavy Batteries in India.

[Page 266, line 15] a little barking dog It is widely believed that elephants fear little dogs, though there is no scientific explanation for this. Perhaps they justr get on their nerves. John Lockwood Kipling (Beast and Man in India) quotes a saying: ‘The dog may bark, but the elephant moves on’, to indicate the superiority of the great to popular clamour.

[Page 267, line 30] Orders The need for orders to be obeyed is a constant theme throughout Kipling’s writings. See p. 273, l.7.

[Page 269, line 4] He must be white ! The bullocks know that white people, unlike the Hindus who look after them, eat beef.

[Page 269, line 6] black bullock driver Vixen is being both snobbish and racist.

[Page 269, line 17] slued An unusual spelling of ‘slewed’.

[Page 269, line 29] pad-chains The pad was part of the harness for the mule, protecting him against being injured by the heavy parts of the gun,

[Page 270, line 24] my dog cart More evidence of Vixen’s conceit. ‘Dog carts’ were carriages or ‘traps’, with compartments underneath to carry dogs, especially the breeds used for shooting, like retrievers.

[Page 271, line 10] Bonnie Dundee Should stricly be ‘Bonny Dundee’ . The words of the song were written by Sir Walter Scott, but the author of the celebrated tune is not known. (The subject was a Viscount Dundee, not the city in north-eastern Scotland.) The ‘canter’ is a pace of 3-time, with the near-foreleg leading the sequence, i.e. (1) off-hind, (2) right-diagonal (off-fore and near-hind) and (3) near-fore.

[Page 271, line 19] big siege-guns The 40-pounder was a rifled muzzle loader introduced in 1874. See the note on p. 260, line 15.

[Page 272, lines 25-30] ‘The animals went in two by two…’ Adapted by Kipling to suit the event from an old anonymous song, itself a parody of an earlier black gospel song. Not otherwise collected. A daring rhyme in the third amd fourth lines.

[Pages 274-276] “The Parade Song of the Camp Animals” Five songs and a chorus. Collected in Songs from Books.

ELEPHANTS OF THE GUN TEAMS This goes to the tune of “The British Grenadiers”. See also the ‘Chapter Heading’ to “My Lord the Elephant” in Many Inventions, which runs: ‘Less you want your toes trod off you’d better get back at once …’

GUN BULLOCKS This also echoes “The British Grenadiers”. See the notes on p. 260, l. 15, and p.271, l.19.

This goes to the tune of “Bonny Dundee”.

[line 1] brand on my withers a broad arrow marked with a hot iron on the withers (which rise from the dip where the neck ends and rising slightly over the tops of the shoulder-blades, slope away into the back).

[line 2] Lancers, Hussars and Dragoons Three types of cavalry each with their own proud tradition. Lancers were originally armed only with lances: Hussars were fast lightly eqipped cavalry; Dragoons originally mounted infantrymen armed with carbines, were heavy cavalry.

[line 3] ‘Stables’ or ‘Water’ Trumpet calls to signal the time to muck out (clean) stables, or take the horses to drink.

[line 7] column of squadron A field formation.

SCREW-GUN MULES To the tune of “The Lincolshire Poacher”.

COMMISSARIAT CAMELS Camels were legendarily awkward to handle. See the poem “Oonts”, which is all about ‘Commissariat Camels’.

[line 3] hair-trombone The First American Edition, and early Standard editions, had ‘hairy’, but the First English edition and reprints of it had ‘hair’.

[F. A. U.]

©F A Underwood 2007 All rights reserved