When ye say to Tabaqui, ‘My Brother’

(notes by Philip Holberton)


This couplet is a heading to “The Undertakers” in The Second Jungle Book (1895), with ‘Jungle Law’ printed below. It is included in Songs from Books (1912) as a Chapter Heading.

The poem

The lines are written in the style and metre of “The Law of the Jungle” but are not part of it.

Notes on the Text

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, his father Lockwood Kipling (in Beast and Man in India 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 own list of name.

Jacala The crocodile, mentioned in “Red Dog” in The Second Jungle Book , page 222 line 5.


©Philip Holberton 2020 All rights reserved