The Undertakers

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. In the first editions there are small illustrations by John Lockwood Kipling at the beginning and end of the story, and at ecorated capital letters at the start of the text and of the poem at the end.

[Page 109] Verse heading a couplet, beginning ‘When ye say to Tabaqui…’, with ‘Jungle Law’ printed below. It is included in Songs from Books as a Chapter Heading.
Philp Holberton notes: These lines have the subscript Jungle Law. They are written in the style and metre of “The Law of the Jungle” but are not part of it.

[Page 109, line 1] Tabaqui the jackal – ‘Tabaqui, the Dish–Licker’ (Canis aureus), is a small wolf-like member of the dog family inhabiting South Asia and East Europe, with greyish-yellow fur, darker on the back and lighter beneath, about two feet long, excluding its bushy tail. In default of living prey it will eat carrion, and is therefore a useful scavenger.

As for the name ‘Tabaqui’, Kipling wrote: “I think I made up this name myself”. However J Lockwood Kipling (p. 264) discussing the low opinion of dogs held by both Muslims and Hindus, states that: a human ‘sponger or parasite is a ‘tabáqi kutta’, a dish (licking) dog’. See
Kipling’s list of names

[Page 109, line 3] Jacala The crocodile, mentioned in “Red Dog”, page 222 line 5.

[Page 109, line 20] railway-bridge this would be fictional, but no doubt Kipling remembered covering bridge-opening ceremonies in his days as a reporter, e.g. “The Sutlej Bridge” and “The Chak-Nizam Bridge”, articles dated March 2 and May 18 1887 [see Thomas Pinney (Ed.), Kipling’s India pp. 206 and 215]. The Sutlej Brudge, known as the Kaiserin-i-Hind (“Empress of India”) was probably the prototype of the one in this story, and of the “Kashi Bridge” in “The Bridge-builders” (The Day’s Work). Such a bridge would carry not only a railway-line, but a cart-road flanked with footpaths, hence there was longer any need for the villagers to cross by the ford and risk the jaws of the Mugger.

[Page 110, line 3] scour wash away, the action of a current, carrying away mud or sand.

[Page 110, line 5] Brahmins of the River Gross flattery, since the Brahmin is the highest of all castes.

[Page 110, line 23] Ghaut a passage or steps leading down to a river, hence a landing-place, ford, or ferry. ‘Mugger-Ghaut, pronounced ‘Gort’, means “The Crocodile Ferry” or bank-side’ [Kipling’s List of Names].
The ‘Burning Ghats’ at the holy city of Varanasi are steps down by the Ganges where bodies of the dead are burned.

[Page 110, line 24] lentils Plants of the pea family (‘pulses’) whose grain is a staple food in India, the basis of dal.

[Page 111, line 3] flying-foxes fruit-eating bats.

[Page 111, line 8] Adjutant-crane Inspired by the publication of a modern illustration (KJ 281 pp. 64-5), two bird experts pointed out in 1997 that Kipling had got some of this wrong. The bird described was not a crane but a species of stork (Leptoptilos dublus}, and the pouch under the chin is not: ‘a holdall for all things his pick-axe bill might steal’. It communicates with the nasal passges and is probably used in courtship displays. (KJ 282 pp. 42-3, June 1997). But the bird is undoubtedly a scavenger, and is now rare and endangered.

[Page 111, line 20] Ally Sloper A grotesque cartoon character, down-at-heel, with a large bulbous nose and a bald head, who was extraordinaily popular in books and periodicals, including Ally Sloper’s Half-holiday, for some fifty years from the 1870s. The last generation of Victorians would liken disreputable men to him. See KJ 282 p. 8 and pp. 46-9, June 1997.

[Page 114, line 4] Mugger The Marsh Crocodile (Crocodylus Palustris) In time of drought it would undertake long migrations inland, and has been known to invade towns when driven from waterholes.

[Page 116, line 14] Protector of the Poor a conventionel form of address to anyone in authority, e.g. Little Toomai to Peterseb Sahib in “Toomai of the Elephants”, The Jungle Book p. 217, l. 26.

[Page 114, line 17] tailless presumption The jackal actually had a tail, but wished to sound even more humble than he was.

[Page 115, line 2] shoved his bloated barrel body In fact crocodiles can move quite fast when their bodies are raised off the ground.

[Page 117, line 20] Gavial Gavial gavialis of northern India is a highly specialised type of fish eater with a large snout and interlocking teeth. Kipling mistakenly calls him ‘a sharp-nosed alligator who does not eat men. The Mugger’s nose is as blunt as a boot.’ [Kipling’s List of Names].

[Page 117, line 20] at Kasi today and Prayag tomorrow, as the saying is We have not traced this saying, but the meaning is clear, ‘constantly on the move’.

[Page 118, lines 1-4] In August … Four lines of verse, possibly an Indian proverb, more likely invented.

[Page 119, line 9] Gunga The Ganges, one of the great rivers of India, now called ‘Ganga’.

[Page 121, lines 21-5] Rewa…Mohoo…little Chapta…Batchua…Chilwa Fresh water fish.

[Page 123, line 13] Lathis Stout bamboo staves, bound with iron at each end.

[Page 119, line 9] upland Jats, Malwais of the Bêt The Jats are the largest cultivating class in north-western India, and are especially strong in the Punjab (see the Jat with a sick son in Kim Ch. XI).
Malwais are natives of Malwa, a large tract of land in the Punjab, south of the River Sutlej, and referred to as the Bêt between the Sutlej and the Jumna. ‘The Bet (‘Bate’) is a rcih farming district between two rivers, in Northern India’ [Kipling’s List of Names].

[Page 126, line 27] Wenham Lake Ice There was an extraordinary trade which took clear pure ice from Wenham Lake in Massachusetts in New England, to Britain and as far as India, where it must have been very welcome, before the invention of refrigeration. In those days of harder winters, large country houses in Britain had their own ice-houses for storing ice cut from their own lakes, but ice from the Wenham Lake seems to have been particularly pure:

…from its seemingly limitless surface came
ton upon ton of crystalline ice blocks, as clear and pure as spring water.
By 1845, no dinner party in London, England, of social consequence,
was considered complete without ice shipped 3,000 miles from Wenham
Lake. Although American ice had been sent to remote corners of the
globe since Frederick Tudor of Boston had originated the trade in 1806,
it was the ice from Wenham Lake which stamped an indelible impres-
sion on the minds of men from England to far away India.

[KJ 154 p. 6, June 1965):

The Wenham Ice Company, at 40 The Strand, in London, pioneered refrigeration, and the need for imports ceased early in the twentieth century.

[Page 128, line 6] aloe hedges The aloe is a species of plant with erect spikes of flowers and bitter juice.

[Page 129, line 25] I remember a little of that Hunting… From here on the Mugger and the Adjutant are remembering the “Indian Mutiny” of 1857, when whole regiments of Indian troops turned on the British, and British refugees were hunted down.

[Page 130, line 9] take to my feet ORG suggestsed that the Mugger’s remarkable journey described in pp. 130-133 started at the Kaiserin-i-Hind Bridge over the Sutlej near Ferozepore, now called Firozpur. The exact location is not important, but see the note on p. 109, l. 20. From there, south and east to cross the River Jumna at or above Agra, then by Etawak to the River Ganges at Cawnpore (Kanpur) or below, where there would have been plenty of corpses. Next down the Ganges to Allahabad, Benares (Varanasi), Patna, and Monghyr (Munger). If this was his journey, the total distance would have been some 800 miles (1100 km); and then the Mugger would have had to return.

[Page 131, line 23] thirty seasons making the date of tghe story around 1887.

[Page 134, line 15] boatful of white faces Said to be a real incident at the time of the “Mutiny”.

[Page 136, line 11] Arrah Now Ara, 40 milesest of Patna, not actually on the Rivef Ganges, but on a tributary. scene of a dramatic siege, the “Little House at Arrah”, in 1857.

[Page 135, line 15] Purbeeahs or Purbigs: native infantry. [One of JLK’s illustraions in Soldiers Three and Military Tales , in the Outward Bound Edition, shows a Purbeeah together with a Sikh and a Gurkha.]

[Page 141, line 22] Martini The Martini-Henry rifle superseded the Snider and was issued tp the British Army and later to the Indian Army, in the 1879s.

[Page 141, line 24] double four-bore A formidable weapon, sometimes called an ‘elephant gun’. ‘Four-bore’ means that the barrel will just accept a sphere of lead which with three others will weigh a pound, in ofher words a four ounce (110 gm) shot. The diameter of the shot would be nearly one inch (2.5 cm), so it was a very large projectile, much more damaging than the revolver bullet which had lodged under the Mugger’s backplates for thirty years.

[Page 143, line 14] very same remark They wre feeding on the remains of the Mugger.

[Page 144] > “Verse “A Ripple Song”. Six four-line stanzas. Collected in Songs from Books.

[Page 144, line 6] ‘Here across’ reads ‘Once across’ in the Pall Mall Gazett, ‘Safe across’ in the First English Edition’, and ‘Here, across@ in the First American Edition.

[F. A. U.]

©F A Underwood 2007 All rights reserved