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Rudyard Kipling
The elephant’s child, illustration from ’Just So Stories’
1902
Ink on paper (Book)


The British Library, London

British Library, The

Excerpt from The British Library, London:

Rudyard Kipling told his children gloriously fanciful tales of how things in the world came to be as they are. He wrote them down for publication as the Just So Stories in 1902, just three years after the tragic death of the daughter for whom they had first been invented. During the 20th century, generations of children were tucked into bed with readings of highly imaginative and wildly improbably explanations such as how the elephant got his trunk.

What are the ‘Just So Stories’?

Kipling entertained his own children and those of his friends by inventing ingenious explanations of such questions as ‘How the Camel Got His Hump’ and ‘How the Leopard Got his Spots’. In 1902, he wrote them down for publication as the Just So Stories.

They are written in an amusing grand style, peppered with long, and delightfully unlikely, invented words - a comical exaggeration perhaps of the formal ways of speaking Kipling heard in India. Each story includes a short poem, and the first edition features Kipling’s own illustrations.

Throughout the book he addresses the reader as “Best Beloved”, reinforcing the intimacy of story-telling and recalling the first ‘best beloved: his lost daughter, Josephine. Though his writing for adults fell from favour, Kipling’s children’s book were popular for much of the 20th century and the Just So Stories became a favourite across the English-speaking world.


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Rudyard Kipling, British, (1865-1936)
b. December 30, 1865, Mumbai (Bombay), India
d. 1936

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