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Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The Jungle Book: A Thought

I finished reading Rudyard Kipling's, "The Jungle Book", a while back. Before this I'd only read the illustrated versions of the book, specifically the first one with Mowgli, as a child so stumbling upon those extra stories came as a pleasant surprise.

Two stories really put me ill at ease though, "The White Seal" and "Toomai of the Elephants". The former primarily because of the premise set by Kipling where a first of its kind White seal named "Kotick" leads all the other Black ones to everlasting peace, and showing them a better way to live without constant infighting which is prevalent among its species. Kotick doesn't achieve this through peaceful means though; the Black seals acquiesce under duress after being put in their place by the White one.

I don't think I would've realized the inherent grimness of what I'd read at the time save for last night when I happened upon a reference to Kipling in the most unlikely of literature. This in the following words: 

"With that change began the period the world would most often associate with the British Indian experience, the Victorian-era. Its predominant philosophy was a concept frequently enunciated by the man who was its self-appointed poet laureate - Rudyard Kipling - that white Englishman were uniquely fitted to rule 'lesser breeds without the law'. The responsibility for governing India, Kipling proclaimed, had been 'placed by the inscrutable decree of providence upon the shoulders of the British race'."
Freedom at Midnight - Larry Collins, Dominique Lapierre 

No matter what the avenue or how subtle might it be, I deplore the White supremacist agenda and find this theme so prevalent in history disgusting. All the more reason for me to revisit these childhood stories before my son is old enough to read them; maybe I'll be able to guide him a bit more knowingly reserving insurmountable praise or otherwise.