Rudyard Kipling

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Rudyard Kipling, portrait by John Collier , 1891
Rudyard Kipling signature.svg

Joseph Rudyard Kipling [ ˈdʒəʊzɪf ˈɹʌdjɑːd ˈkɪplɪŋ ] ( listening ? / I ) (born December 30, 1865 in Bombay , † January 18, 1936 in London ) was a British writer and poet . His best known works are The Jungle Book and the novel Kim . He also wrote poetry and a variety of short stories. Kipling is considered an essential representative of the short storyAudio file / audio sample and as an excellent narrator. His children's books are among the classics of the genre. In 1907, not yet 42 years old, he was the first English-speaking writer to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature ; He still holds the record as the youngest winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature. He declined various other honors, such as being promoted to poet laureate and nobility.


Childhood and youth

Rudyard Kipling was born in what was then Bombay ( India ). His parents were John Lockwood Kipling and his wife Alice, b. Macdonald. His father was a teacher at the local Jeejeebhoy Art School and later director of the Lahore Museum . One maternal uncle was the painter Edward Burne-Jones and another was the politician Stanley Baldwin . He owes his unusual first name Rudyard to Lake Rudyard in Staffordshire , where his parents got engaged. The never used first name Joseph was a family tradition; older sons were alternately named John or Joseph .

Alice Kipling was one of four notable sisters ( Georgiana Burne-Jones , Agnes Poynter, and Louisa Baldwin ) and an exceedingly lively woman.

According to Bernice M. Murphy, Kipling's parents classified themselves as Anglo-Indian , as did Kipling, even though he spent most of his life elsewhere. In Bombay, Kipling was raised by a Portuguese nanny and the Hindi Meeta, and he perceived English as a foreign language. When he was five years old, he was sent to the Holloways in England with his younger sister . Many Anglo-Indian children were raised by foster parents at the time . Even in his autobiography, Kipling remembered with horror their strict supervision. His sister Alice, called Trix , who was born in 1868, fared a little better because the Holloways, a family of captains in Lorne Lodge, probably hoped that their son could one day marry them. The children sometimes visited relatives over the Christmas holidays, such as their aunt Georgiana, who lived with Edward Burne-Jones in Fulham near London. That half reconciled Kipling with his fate. In 1877 Alice Kipling returned from India and the children were freed from Lorne Lodge. In 1878, Kipling was admitted to United Services College , a military school. Stalky & Co. (German Staaks and Comrades or Lange Latte and Comrades ) goes back to the experiences made there.

He was not awarded a scholarship for academic training. Lockwood Kipling, who worked in Lahore as the director of an art school and museum there, got him a job with the Civil & Military Gazette . In 1882, Kipling traveled to India and arrived on October 18, 1882. He described the impression as follows:

“So, at sixteen years and nine months, but looking four or five years older, and adorned with real whiskers which the scandalized Mother abolished within one hour of beholding, I found myself at Bombay where I was born, moving among sights and smells that made me deliver in the vernacular sentences whose meaning I knew not. "

"Well, at 16 years and nine months, but looking four or five years older and with a mustache that the terrified mother removed in an hour, I was in Bombay, where I was born, moving between sights and smells, which made me stammer sentences in the traditional language , the meaning of which I did not know. "

The arrival changed Kipling significantly, the years in England seemed to him a burden that was now beginning to fall away from him.

Literary career

Time in India

Soldiers Three , title of the original edition, 1888

In 1882 Kipling returned to Lahore (in what is now Pakistan ), where his parents now lived. He initially worked there as an editor for a local newspaper and began writing poetry and short stories.

From the mid-1880s he toured the Indian subcontinent as a correspondent for The Pioneer, which was published in Allahabad . At the same time his books became successful; by 1888 he had already published six volumes of short stories, including Soldiers Three (1888). A story this time was wanted to be The Man, the King ( The Man Who Would Be King ), which filmed in 1975 by John Huston was.

In his Plain Tales from the Hills ( Simple Stories from India , 1888) he handed down to posterity wonderful stories from the Anglo-Indian milieu and made a name for himself as a writer of adventure stories.

Time in England

The following year, 1889, Kipling returned to England and settled in London , where he was accepted into several prestigious clubs . Henry Rider Haggard and Henry James were among his literary friends and patrons . He quickly became famous for his realistic stories and poems, in which he masterfully integrated the rhythms of colloquial language and slang, for example of soldiers. His poetry had a great influence on Bertolt Brecht .

His first novel Das fahle Licht ( The Light that Failed ) was published in 1890. The action takes place in the present, mostly in London, but also partly in India and Sudan. It tells the sad story of the artist Dick Heldar, who returned to England in the 1890s after a war in Sudan that left him with an eye injury. Now he devotes himself to painting again. But he cannot earn enough with his realistic landscapes from Sudan. That is why he also paints romantic portraits that bring in more. As his eyesight is getting weaker and weaker, he decides to finish his masterpiece, the painting Melancholia , before complete blindness makes painting impossible. The prostitute Bessie serves as a model for the painting. When the painting is finished, Dick collapses, exhausted. Bessie destroys the painting. When Dick later invites his girlfriend Maisie to see the painting, which he can no longer see, she doesn't have the heart to tell him that it has been destroyed. But Bessie comes back and tells him what she did. Desperate, Dick rejoins his old troop in Sudan. When the troops go into battle, he persuades his friend Torpenhow to put him on a horse. He rides with the troops, is shot from his horse and dies.

One of Kipling's most famous ballads is The Ballad of East and West , which begins with “Oh, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet”. The ballad tells of the conflicts between the British and indigenous people in India. It is written in the style of a so-called border ballad.

Marriage / stay in USA

Kipling in London, 1895

In 1892 he married Caroline Balastier; her brother, an American author, was a friend of Kipling. The marriage had three children: Josephine (1892–1899), Elsie (1896–1976) and John (1897–1915). Kipling lived in the United States with his wife and children for the next four years.

The jungle Book

During this time he began to write, including his now best known in Germany (by the Disney animated film) Factory children's books The Jungle Book ( The Jungle Book ) and The second Jungle Book ( The Second Jungle Book ), which in the years Created in 1894 and 1895.

Back in England

After quarrels with relatives, the family returned to England. In 1897, Kipling published the novel Captains Courageous : A Story of the Grand Banks (published in German under the titles The courageous captains , Brave sailors , Über Bord , Junge Adventurer auf Meer und Fischerjungs ), in which he processed experiences and impressions from America. The powerful style is influenced by Robert Louis Stevenson , but surpasses this in terms of brevity and concentration on the essentials.

Rudyard Kipling portrayed by
William Strang in 1898

Also in 1897, on the occasion of the 60th jubilee of Queen Victoria, the poem Recessional was written - a pessimistic, warning look at the complacency and self-importance of the British Empire . The following year traveled Kipling to Africa , made friends with the British imperialists Cecil Rhodes and began again material for another children's book to gather, Just-so stories ( Just so Stories ), published 1902nd Kipling wrote this book for his daughter Josephine, who died of pneumonia in 1899. In these imaginative and humorous stories, he tried to cheerfully answer the constant why questions young children asked. These include, for example: How the baby elephant got its trunk , How the leopard got its spots and How the first letter was written . In 1899, Kipling was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences .

The title of his poem The White Man's Burden from 1899, with which he transfigured the civilization of the "savages" into an ethical burden imposed on the "white man", became a synonym for imperialism . Against the background of the Spanish-American War , in which the USA conquered Cuba and the Philippines , the poem is addressed to the US President Theodore Roosevelt , with whom Kipling was personally acquainted. Kipling's message is that modern, dynamic states like the USA must push back the stagnating European colonial powers like Spain and take the burden of the development of the people in the colonies on their shoulders. The poem is considered one of the essential testimonies of imperialism; his title became proverbial.


In 1901 the novel Kim appeared , which is still considered to be one of Kipling's most important works. Kim, the son of an Irish soldier, grew up as an orphan on the streets of Lahore , where, despite his British ancestry, he was considered a "native". The novel is pervaded by a crime and espionage story, which serves as an occasion to let Kim travel through large parts of India and experience the respective customs. The novel was Jawaharlal Nehru's favorite book . It is considered - also in India - as one of the best literary representations of India in the colonial era.

Nobel Prize for Literature

During the Boer War , Kipling stayed temporarily in South Africa. In 1907 he was the first English writer to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature . In these years, two poetry and short stories emerged: 1906 Puck of Pook Hill and 1910 Rewards and Fairies ( Rewards and Fairies ). This volume contains one of his most popular poems, If - which Khushwant Singh has called the best summary of the Bhagavad Gita .

First World War and later

Kipling was strongly anti-German and initially a staunch supporter of the war. But in 1915 his eldest son John died at the age of 18 in the Battle of Loos . In deep self-doubt and full of guilt, Kipling wrote the burial motto for his son: "If any question why we died, tell them, because our fathers lied" ("If someone asks why we died, tell them because our fathers lied") . Kipling had made it possible for his son to begin his military service with the Irish Guards with an earlier date of birth . Kipling addressed the death of his son in the poem My boy Jack , which the actor David Haig used as the basis for his play of the same name in 1997. This is the template for the 2007 film My boy Jack .

After the First World War , Kipling worked extensively with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission . The optimism of earlier years gave way to an increasingly gloomy attitude, which is reflected in many of his later narratives. Its literary popularity declined. Kipling wrote well into the early 1930s, even if it was not successful. In 1932 he wrote the text of the first royal Christmas address .

Out of conviction or solidarity, Kipling supported Reginald Dyer on his return to England, who served as a general in the British Army in India and as commander for the British massacre in Amritsar of unarmed demonstrators on April 13, 1919, which left 379 dead and 1,200 injured, many of them women and children who was responsible. Dyer was not prosecuted for the massacre. However, shortly afterwards he was replaced as brigade commander and lost his brevet rank without being used accordingly . While in Great Britain, among others, the Labor Party and Winston Churchill condemned Dyer's behavior at Amritsar, he found approval in some circles: On Kipling's initiative, London's better society in particular raised 26,000 pounds for Dyer on his return home. Other sources claim that the call for funds was initiated by The Morning Post newspaper and that Kipling should not have paid anything for it. His name is said not to have appeared on the list of donors published by the newspaper.

Rudyard Kipling died of a cerebral haemorrhage in 1936 at the age of 70 and was buried after cremation in the Golders Green Crematorium in Westminster Abbey . Following the death of his wife, Bateman’s East Sussex home was bequeathed to the National Trust in 1939 and converted into a public museum .


Rudyard Kipling 1912, photographed by EO Hoppé

At the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century, Kipling was one of the most popular English writers. James Joyce placed him in a row with Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy and Gabriele D'Annunzio as authors of their time with the most promising talent. After the First World War, Kipling's popularity and literary success fell sharply. After his death, his work - with the exception of individual poems and children's books - was forgotten for a few years. From the 1970s, however, the quality of his late narratives was increasingly stressed by critics.

Kipling was considered a critical bard or prophet of British colonialism and imperialism , among other things because of his poem The White Man's Burden, which was actually coined on the USA . For George Orwell , Kipling was a good bad poet. Jorge Luis Borges wrote: “Kipling has been cataloged as the critical bard of the British Empire. There is nothing dishonorable about that, but it was enough to belittle its name, especially in England. His compatriots have never quite forgiven him for his constant references to the empire. "

According to Douglas Kerr, Kipling is becoming interesting again precisely because of the decline in European colonialism , because he interprets time in his own way and makes it understandable with his great narrative talent. In the German-speaking area, Kipling, who was known here almost only as a children's book author, began to be reassessed with an edition of his works newly translated by Gisbert Haefs in Haffmans Verlag (from 1987).

Kipling's works have been filmed several times, such as The Man Who Wanted to Be King . They inspired a wide variety of imitators and parodies in various media and art forms. The film Uprising in Sidi Hakim (1939) was inspired by Kipling's poem Gunga Din . A cartoon from the Walt Disney Studios is likely to have achieved the greatest popularity : The Jungle Book from 1967.


In 1886 Kipling was initiated as a Freemason in the Hope and Perseverance Lodge in Lahore . Since he was not yet 21 years old at the time, the district grandmaster issued a special permit. About this event, Kipling wrote in The Freemason on March 28, 1925 that he was there for a few years secretary of the lodge, which consisted of brothers of at least four different faiths. Kipling had entered at a time when the Freemasons in India were already beginning to accept Indian members. In these, however, racist and religious reservations, from caste membership to dietary regulations, played such a large role that it was sometimes only possible to hold meetings by showing individual brothers empty plates. Kipling was amused by this several times; he assured himself of his Britishness through Freemasonry. Kipling's stay in India was the most active time with the federal government.

Kipling received his Mark Masters degree at the Mark Lodge Fidelity on April 12, 1887 and his Royal Ark Mariners degree on April 17, 1888 at the Mt. Ararat Lodge in Lahore. When he was transferred to Allahabad in 1888 , he was affiliated with the lodge Independence with Philanthropy located there . Returned to England in 1889, he co-founded Silent Cities Lodge No. 4848 and also the Author's Lodge No. 3456 . At the famous Canongate Kilwinning Lodge No. 2 in Edinburgh he was appointed Poet Laureate according to the old tradition , a position that Robert Burns previously held in a similar manner.

In Kipling's novella The Man Who Wanted to Be King symbols of Freemasonry play an important role. In his stories The Wrong Thing , The Winged Hats and Brother Square Toes , he deals with Masonic customs. In 1926 Kipling published a series of short stories entitled Debits and Credits , in which he processed Masonic customs, ritual words and idioms. These stories, which play in World War I are: In the Interests of the Brethren , The Janeits , A Madonna of the trenches ( A phenomenon in the trenches , 1924) and A Friend of the Family . He also dedicated several poems to Freemasonry, including The Mother Lodge , The Widow at Windsor , The Press , Banquet Night , Sons of Martha, and The Palace .


Earlier editions of his books have a Ganesha figure and a swastika on the cover. Kipling knew the symbol as a Hindu swastika . After the National Socialists had seized the symbol, Kipling refrained from using the symbol.

The spider, Bagheera kiplingi, was named after Kipling and the black panther in the jungle book. Its diet is mainly vegetarian. Kipling is also the namesake for the Kipling Mesa , a table mountain on James Ross Island in Antarctica.


Stories and novels

Rudyard Kiping Captains Courageous McClure's Magazine.jpeg
  • Plain Tales from the Hills. 1888
  • Soldiers Three, The Story of the Gadsbys, In Black and White. 1888
  • Under the Deodars, The Phantom Rickshaw, Wee Willie Winkie. 1888
  • Life's handicap. 1891
  • The light that failed. 1891
  • The Naulahka - A Story of West and East. 1892
  • Many inventions. 1893
  • The Jungle Book. 1894. First complete (!) Translation into German: Das Dschungelbuch . Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag, 1995. Dt. by Peter Torberg
  • The Second Jungle Book. 1895. First complete (!) Translation into German: The second jungle book. Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag, 1996. Dt. by Peter Torberg
  • Captains Courageous . 7 episodes in McClure's Magazine November 1896 to January 1897, 1897 as a book.
In German as fishermen's boys - a sea novel. Translate Norbert Jaques, P. List, Leipzig 1930.
New edition as overboard . Edited and translated by Gisbert Haefs , Mare, Hamburg 2007. ISBN 9783866480728 . Review in the FAZ . New edition of the work in the translation by Haefs also under the title Über Bord with illustrations by Christian Schneider at Edition Büchergilde , Frankfurt 2015, ISBN 978-3-86406-060-1 .
  • The Day's Work. 1898
  • A Fleet in Being. 1898
  • Stalky & Co. 1899
  • From Sea to Sea - Letters of Travel. 1899
  • Kim , 1901
  • Just So Stories for Little Children. 1902 (Stories for the very dearest darling, ISBN 3-938899-37-9 , or just-so-stories, ISBN 3-293-00437-7 )
  • Traffics and Discoveries. 1904
  • Puck of Pook's Hill. 1906
  • Actions and Reactions. 1909
  • Rewards and Fairies. 1910
  • Sea Warfare. 1916
  • A Diversity of Creatures. 1917
  • Land and Sea Tales for Scouts and Guides. 1923
  • The Irish Guards in the Great War. 1923
  • Debits and Credits. 1926
  • A Book of Words. 1928
  • Thy Servant a Dog. 1930
  • Limits and Renewals. 1932
  • Something of Myself. 1937
  • Indian stories. translated by Irma Wehrli, Manesse 2006, ISBN 3-7175-2100-4 .
  • Master tales. Translated by Sylvia Botheroyd , Monika Kind, Sabine Kipp, Ilse Leisi and Irma Wehrli, Manesse 1987, ISBN 3-7175-1734-1 .
  • The man who wanted to be king. Indian stories. Eleven stories translated by Gustav Meyrink , with an afterword by Volker Neuhaus . Ripperger & Kremers 2014, ISBN 978-3-943999-16-7

Audio books


  • Departmental ditties. 1886
  • Barrack Room Ballads. 1890 (German: The ballads from the bivouac / soldiers' songs), contains the poem On the Road to Mandalay, also popularized by Frank Sinatra and other songs
  • The Seven Seas. 1896
  • The White Man's Burden , 1899
  • The Five Nations. 1903
  • If— , 1910
  • The secret of the machines , 1911
  • Songs from Books. 1912
  • Gethsemane , 1914-1918
  • My boy jack. 1915
  • The Years Between. 1919
  • East of Suez. 1931

Autobiography and letters

  • Memories. Something from me, for my known and unknown friends . Scientia, Zurich 1938.
  • Something of myself and other autobiographical writings Ed. Thomas Pinney (1990)
  • The letters of Rudyard Kipling . 4 volumes. Ed. As above. Macmillan, London 1990-2004


  • Hannah Arendt : The Imperialist Character (On Kipling). In: Hannah Arendt: Reflections on Literature and Culture . Stanford University Press, Stanford CA 2007, ISBN 978-0-8047-4499-7 , § 22: p. 167ff. ( Meridian, crossing aesthetics ), (the text comes unchanged from HA: Origins of Totalitarism ).
  • Lord Birkenhead (ed.): Rudyard Kipling . Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London 1978, ISBN 0-297-77535-9 . The publication of this official biography was banned by Kipling's daughter Elsie Bambridge, who had the rights to it; it appeared after her death in 1976.
  • Charles Edmund Carrington: Rudyard Kipling. His life and work. Macmillan, London 1955 (Revised Edition: ibid. 1978, ISBN 0-333-25456-2 ).
  • David Gilmour: The Long Recessional. The Imperial Life of Rudyard Kipling. John Murray, London 2002, ISBN 0-7195-5539-6 .
  • Andrew Lycett: Rudyard Kipling. Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London 1999, ISBN 0-297-81907-0 .
  • Philip Mallett: Rudyard Kipling. A literary life. Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke et al. a. 2003, ISBN 0-333-55720-4 ( Literary lives ).
  • Jan Montefiore: Rudyard Kipling. Northcote House, Horndon 2007, ISBN 978-0-7463-0827-1 .
  • David Sergeant: Kipling's Art of Fiction, 1884-1901. Oxford University Press, Oxford 2013, ISBN 978-0-19-968458-8 .
  • Stefan Welz: Rudyard Kipling: in the jungle of life , Darmstadt: Lambert Schneider, 2015, ISBN 978-3-650-40030-7 . Reviews here.

Web links

Commons : Rudyard Kipling  - Collection of images, videos and audio files
Wikisource: Rudyard Kipling  - Sources and full texts (English)
Wikisource: Rudyard Kipling  - Sources and full texts

Individual evidence

  1. Andrew Rutherford: Foreword to the Complete Edition In: Rudyard Kipling: Puck of Pook's Hill and Rewards and Fairies. Oxford University Press, 1987, ISBN 0-19-282575-5 .
  2. Andrew Rutherford: Foreword to the edition of: Rudyard Kipling: Plain Tales from the Hills. Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-281652-7 .
  3. Birkenhead, Lord: Rudyard Kipling. Appendix B, “Honors and Awards”. Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London 1978; Random House Inc., New York 1978.
  4. ^ Judith Flanders: A Circle of Sisters: Alice Kipling, Georgiana Burne-Jones, Agnes Poynter, and Louisa Baldwin. WW Norton and Company, New York 2005, ISBN 0-393-05210-9 .
  5. ^ David Gilmour: The Long Recessional: The Imperial Life of Rudyard Kipling. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York 2002.
  6. a b c d e Rudyard Kipling: Something of myself and other autobiographical writings. Cambridge University Press, 1990, ISBN 0-521-40584-X . ( online )
  7. ^ Humphrey Carpenter, Mari Prichard: Oxford Companion to Children's Literature. Oxford University Press, 1984, pp. 296-297.
  8. Online in the Gutenberg project
  9. My boy Jack. Text of the poem.
  10. ^ History of government: The first Christmas speech, April 24, 2013
  11. Sankarshan Takur: History repeats itself in stopping short , in: The Telegraph India, February 21, 2013.
  12. ^ Subhash Chopra : Kipling Sahib - the Raj Patriot , New Millennium Publishing, 2006, 34 South Molton Street, WIK 5RG
  13. The grave of Rudyard Kipling
  14. ^ Diary entry quoted from Richard Ellmann : James Joyce. Oxford University Press, 1983, ISBN 0-19-281465-6 , p. 661.
  15. Lisa Lewis: Foreword to the edition of: Rudyard Kipling: Just So Stories. Oxford University Press, 1995, ISBN 0-19-282276-4 , pp. Xv-xlii.
  16. Isabel Quigley: Foreword to the edition of: Rudyard Kipling: The Complete Stalky & Co. Oxford University Press, 1987, ISBN 0-19-281660-8 , pp. Xiii-xxviii.
  17. ^ Edward Said: Culture and Imperialism. Chatto & Windus, London 1993, ISBN 0-679-75054-1 , p. 196.
  18. Alan Sandison: Foreword to Edition: Rudyard Kipling: Kim. Oxford University Press, 1987, ISBN 0-19-281674-8 , pp. Xiii-xxx.
  19. ^ A b George Orwell: Rudyard Kipling - Essay.
  20. Jorge Luis Borges, foreword in The House of Desires .
  21. Douglas Kerr: Rudyard Kipling. In: The Literary Encyclopedia.
  22. Jürgen Holtorf: Die Logen der Freemaurer, Nikol Verlags GmbH, Hamburg undated , ISBN 3-930656-58-2 , p. 146
  23. ^ Marie Mulvey Roberts: British poets and secret societies. Taylor & Francis, 1986.
  24. Eugen Lennhoff, Oskar Posner, Dieter A. Binder: Internationales Freemaurer Lexikon. 5th revised and updated edition. Herbig Verlag, ISBN 3-7766-2478-7 .
  25. ^ William R. Denslow, Harry S. Truman: 10,000 Famous Freemasons from K to Z - Part Two. Kessinger Publishing, ISBN 1-4179-7579-2 .
  26. Jürgen Kaube November 30, 2007: My son, he goes to sea. Rudyard Kipling shows what education is .
  28. Tobias Döring: This jungle is not a childhood dream. In: . December 31, 2015, accessed October 13, 2018 .