Kipling is a curious figure, English as afternoon tea but also deeply Indian, unsurprising given that he spent half of his first 24 years there and wrote of Mumbai:
Mother of Cities to me,
For I was born in her gate
Between the palms and the sea
Where the world-end steamers wait.
He had a deep attachment to India, more for the country than for the colonised or ‘new-caught sullen peoples, half devil and half child.’ Kipling wrote of his ayah and other servants telling him stories and the influence of animal tales from ancient India (the Jataka Tales and the Panchatantra) is clearly seen in the style of the collection of children’s fables known as the Just-So stories.
Not So Stories retell and interprets the original premise in a number of inventive ways.
Few remember now that Kipling was awarded a Nobel, in the presentation speech it was said of him that ‘He has undoubtedly done more than any other writer of pure literature to draw tighter the bonds of union between England and her colonies.’
The time seems right for a reworking of Kipling and this collection, though not for children, would be great for adolescents beginning to reevaluate the English history they’ve been taught, particularly with regard to the relationship with ‘her colonies’
There is a South-east and East Asian emphasis with marvellous tales like The Tree of Wishes, The Man Who Played With the Crab and the astonishing Serpent, Crocodile, Tiger. My favourite tale, The Cat Who Walked By Himself is exquisitely and devastatingly retold here as The Cat Who Walked By Herself.
A fabulous and thought-provoking collection. Jeanette Ng discusses other reclaimed classics here