Kipling gained renown
throughout the world as a poet and storyteller. He was also known as a
leading supporter of the British Empire. As apparent from his stories
and poems, Kipling interested himself in the romance and adventure which
he found in Great Britain's colonial expansion.
Kipling was born on Dec.30, 1865, in
Bombay, where his father directed an art school. He learned Hindi from
his nurse, and he also learned stories of jungle animals. At six, he was
sent to school in England, but until he was 12, poor health kept him
from attending. At 17, Kipling returned to India and soon became a
journalist. He wrote sketches and verses which at first were used as fillers
for unused editorial space. Many were later published in Departmental
Ditties (1886). At this time, he also created his soldiers three,
and Irishman, a Cockney, and a Yorkshireman, the bases for his 1888
humorous tale Soldiers Three.
In 1889, Kipling return to England. In the
1890s, he developed a great interest in folk legends and animal myths. The
Jungle Book (1894) and Just So Stories (1902) give the wit
and wisdom of the animals who can talk. The stories of Mowgli, a man-cub
who was the central character in The Jungle Book, brought Kipling
great popularity in England and the United States.
Kipling composed many of his poems while
living for several years in the United States in the mid-1890s. His
poems became famous for their lively, swinging rhythm. Typical are Gunga
Din and Mandalay.
The first tells of the courage of an Indian boy who is shot while
carrying water to British soldiers in the thick of battle. Mandalay
tries to capture the strange atmosphere of the east.
In 1896, Kipling returned to England from
the United States. By then, he was a controversial figure because of his
views toward empire, which many misunderstood. In many of his works,
Kipling seemed to imply that it was the duty of Great Britain to carry the
white man's burden by civilizing backward races. But he was not just
the shallow imperialist that his critics tried to make him appear. His
famous poem, Recessional, written in 1897 in honor of Queen
Victoria's Diamond Jubilee, contains a strong warning to the British not
to exploit other races.
In 1900, Kipling went to South Africa to
report the Boer War for an English newspaper. In 1905, Kipling completed
Kim, his first major novel. In it he gives a colorful and
dramatic picture of the complicated life of the Indian People, as seen
through the eyes of the poor orphan boy, Kim. Kipling received the 1907
Nobel prize for literature.
Before World War I, Kipling became active
in politics. he widely lectured and wrote for the British cause both
before and during the war. His only son was killed in World War I. After
the war, Kipling wrote Songs for Youth (1925), another of his
highly popular works.