Shiv and the Grasshopper

(notes by John McGivering and Sharad Keskar)

Publication history

ORG (vol. 8 p. 5347) lists this poem as Verse No. 593, and records its first publication in St. Nicholas Magazine for December 1893, where the first eight-line verse is to be found within the story “Toomai of the Elephants”. In The Jungle Book (1894), the full poem, with two additional twelve-line verses, follows the story (p. 244), as well as the verse within the text (p. 224).

It is collected in:

  • later editions of The Jungle Book
  • Songs from Books 1913
  • Inclusive Verse 1919
  • Definitive Verse 1940
  • The Sussex Edition vol xii p. 428 and p. 441, and vol xxxiv p. 35
  • The Burwash Edition vols ii and xxvii
  • The Works of Rudyard Kipling, Wordsworth Poetry Library, 1994

See David Alan Richards p. 80, and Brian Mattinson’s table for a musical setting by Dora Bright in 1903 with the title “The Song Toomai’s Mother Sang”.


The great god Shiv gives all living creatures, kings, beggars, rich men, poor men, tigers, kites, wolves, their share of food and toil, and fate. His wife, Parbati , thinking to jest with him, hides a little grasshopper in her breast. But when she plucks it forth, it is eating a leaf. All-seeing, Shix has given it its portion.

Notes on the Text


Shiv: (The spelling varies) a Hindu deity appearing in many guises, here in his reproductive or renovating capacity; “The Benevolent” is one of his many names. See our notes to “The Bridge-Builders” (The Day’s Work). Also Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, under ‘Siva’, and Hinduism, by K. M. Sen, Pelican 1962.

Grasshopper: an insect of the Order Orthoptera, which includes locusts and crickets.

[Verse 1]

Guddee: throne. More correctly gaddi.

Mahadeo: Maha = ‘great’, deo = ‘god’. one of the many names of “Lord of the Dance”, Shiv, Shiva, or Siva.

Thorn: the Indian babul, also called kikar. The thorny mimosa of the Acacia group of shrubs and trees. It has both leaves and thorns. The thorns are large, ivory-white, sharp needle-like spikes.

fodder for the kine: hay and grass for the cattle

[Verse 2]

Wheat: grain of the genus Triticum which produces corn to be ground into flour for bread, cakes etc.

Millet: the general name for many cereal grasses including Panecum miliaceum, grown for food. In India and elsewhere.

carrion: the dead and putrid flesh of any animal, eaten with relish by many scavenging birds, like vultures, kites, and crows.

Kite: in this context one of several birds of prey, family Accipitridae. A kite called Chil appears in The Jungle Book – sometimes also known as Rann.

Parbati: the wife of Siva, more correctly Parvati.

The Preserver: Siva. an inaccuracy on Kipling’s part, though of little consequence as Hinduism is protean, taking many forms. Strictly speaking, the Hindu Trinity consists of Brahma (Creator), Vishnu (Preserver), and Siva (Destroyer, as well as Re-creator.)

[Verse 3]

dole: in this context a charitable allowance of money or food etc. Is this Kipling’s clever choice of word? Worship of Shiva is accompanied by bell-ringing and the beating of a drum, the Indian dhole.


[J McG./S.K.]

©John McGivering and Sharad Keskar 2011 All rights reserved