If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue
Or walk with kings, nor lose the common touch
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you
If all men count with you, but none too much
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds worth of distance run
Yours is the Earth, and everything that's in it
And, which is more, you'll be a man, my son.
Joseph Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936) is an English writer and Nobel prize winner, born in India. These days Kipling is perhaps best known as the creator of Mowgli, star of The Jungle Book
, though he wrote many other stories.
Many of Kipling's works, including The Jungle Book
, are set in British India, and popularised most of the associated tropes. His other works include some early Science Fiction
, while his literary style, particularly indirect exposition, was a significant influence on Campbell, Bertolt Brecht
and Robert A. Heinlein
.Kipling's stories include:Poems include:
- "The White Man's Burden"
- "If—" ("If you can keep your head when all about you / Are losing theirs and blaming it on you" — one of his most famous poems, much quoted. A portion of the poem can be seen by players entering Centre Court at Wimbledon.)
- "My Boy Jack"
- "The Female Of The Species"
- "The Thousandth Man"
- "The Three-Decker"
- "Gunga Din" (from The Barrack-Room Ballads)
- "The Ballad of East and West" ("East is East and West is West, and never the twain shall meet...")
He lost a son in World War One
and was responsible for choosing two of the common phrases associated with Remembrance in the UK: "Their Name Liveth For Evermore" and "Known Unto God" (on the graves of Unknown Soldiers). And... referred to it in Double Entendre
of all ways:
If any question why we died,
Tell them, because our fathers lied.
— Epitaphs of the War, "Common Form"
Poems from Kipling, sometimes set to music, are popular references in any military fiction or Sci-Fi
; the fans of the latter have a tradition of using Kipling's poems as 'Found Filk
', especially Leslie Fish and Joe Bethancourt, who released an album (Our Fathers of Old
) of Kipling derived or influenced songs.
Kipling's works with their own trope pages include:
Other works by Kipling provide examples of:
- After-Action Healing Drama: "The Married Man" — is more conscientous about saving your life here than the bachelor would be.
- Alas, Poor Yorick
- The ending of The Man Who Would Be King.
- A rather... unconventional scene in The Ballad of Boh Da Thone.
- Alternate Character Interpretation: A common trick of Kipling's was to follow up a short story with a poem looking at it from the point of view of a secondary character or villain. The results can be startlingly different — compare 'The Knife and the Naked Chalk' to 'The Song of the Men's Side'.
- Author Tract. Be grateful for the common workers and soldiers that hold the empire together, not least the soldiers who, just before Kipling's time had been looked down upon by middle-class British.
For it's tommy this and tommy that and shuck him out the brute
But it's savior of his country when the guns begin to shoot
- Awful Truth: "The Prayer Of Miriam Cohen"
- Badass Creed: For Indian postmen in "The Overland Mail":
Is the torrent in spate? He must ford it or swim.
Has the rain wrecked the road? He must climb by the cliff.
Does the tempest cry halt? What are tempests to him?
The service admits not a "but" or and "if."
While the breath's in his mouth, he must bear without fail,
In the Name of the Empress, the Overland Mail.
- Bad Cop/Incompetent Cop: Not much, but... one meets Cool and Unusual Punishment in Steam Tactics.
- Bad Liar: The weather in "Danny Deever" is — odd.
- Ballad of X: Many, including "The Ballad of Boh Da Thone," "The Ballad of East and West," "The Ballad of Fisher's Boarding-House," "The Ballad of the King's Mercy," and "The Ballad of the King's Jest."
- Bandit Clan: “The Ballad of East and West” deals with the leader of such a clan who steals a British officer's horse. The officer's son rides after him to retrieve it, and after impressing the bandit with his courage and manliness does so.
- "Begone" Bribe: Warned against in "The Dane-Geld"
- Bold Explorer: His poem "The Explorer" is basically an analysis of this trope.
- Creator Breakdown: Kipling was an ardent imperialist. Then his only son died in World War One, after dad had pulled some strings to get him into the service when medical conditions might otherwise have kept him out. His "Epitaphs of War" afterwards were extremely bitter about the nature of the conflict, including the famous "our fathers lied" segment.
- Culture Clash: Several of his short stories are jokes about this.
- Defictionalization: Some of the dialect of the British Army was actually made up by Kipling. Originally it was a device to give the atmosphere of how soldiers talked without using the words soldiers actually used. In World War I a lot of boys entered the army brought up on Kipling and imported the dialect they thought was "soldierly".
- Discussed Tropes: Lots of. E.g.
- Don't You Dare Pity Me!: "The Comforters".
So, when thine own dark hour shall fall,
Unchallenged canst thou say:
"I never worried you at all,
For God's sake go away!"
- Framing Device: Kipling makes extensive and careful use of framing devices in his short stories and narrative verse, sometimes doubly framing stories (a story within a story within a story).
- Funny Foreigner: Played with in nearly every way possible.
- Gentlemen Rankers: The poem "Gentlemen-Rankers" (arguably the trope namer, almost certainly the source of the term's widespread recognition) is a lament written from the perspective of a gentleman-ranker in India, detailing his feelings of detachment and despair.
- God Guise: The Man Who Would Be King.
- Heterosexual Life-Partners: The gist of "The Thousandth Man".
- Knight in Sour Armor: The protagonist of Tommy. Also a Deadpan Snarker.
- Loose Lips / You Didn't See That: That's what The Ballad of the King's Jest plot is about, as applied to the Great Game.
- Mama Bear: "The Female of the Species"
- Merchant City: Peshawar in The Ballad of the King's Jest
- Mighty Whitey: Sometimes. Mostly they get to meet white guys who aren't.
- More Deadly Than The Male: Kipling's thesis was this stemmed from woman's role in preserving the species:
She who faces Death by torture for each life beneath her breast
May not deal in doubt or pity—must not swerve for fact or jest.
- Narrative Poem: Many, including "The Rhyme of the Three Sealers," "The Ballad of East and West," and "Tomlinson."
- Never Live It Down: In-Universe in A Code of Morals, a tongue-in-cheek cautionary tale about communications security. A moment of chatter on the heliograph line results in:
But the tale is on the Frontier, and from Michni to Mooltan
They know the worthy General as "that most immoral man."
- No Honor Among Thieves: "The Rhyme of the Three Sealers."
- Non-Nazi Swastika: Most editions of Kipling's books published before the 1930s often have left-hand swastikas on the title pages.
- Nostalgia Ain't Like It Used to Be: Discussed in The King.
- Not So Different: Zig-zagged. Sometimes he described Europeans as just another tribe, sometimes as superior. Perhaps the summation was that he in fact thought Europeans were another tribe (and thus shouldn't make too much heavy weather) but that, by chance they happened to be a tribe that had a lot to teach other tribes. Though better off not falling into narcissism out of this.
- Also Kipling was a good character writer and had a great fascination for how other people lived. His characters seem like real people that happen to be following the customs of their respective tribe/caste/whatever and not merely extensions of stereotypes.
- The Roman Centurion's Song is about a Roman Centurion pleading not to be sent home to Rome, as he has lived among the 'primitives' of Britain so long that he has gone native. Kipling was making the obvious comparison of how many British soldiers felt after living in India, and pointing out that once upon a time it was the Britons that were the subject of colonial ambitions by a 'more civilised' power and were viewed as savages by their colonial masters.
- Obstructive Bureaucrat: Kipling poured over these enough of acid to dissolve a battleship or two. From Pagett, M.P. to Mesopotamia and Stellenbosh to The Lesson:
And horses have four legs, and men have two legs, and two into four goes twice,
And nothing over except our lesson—and very cheap at the price.
- P.O.V. Sequel: Several, including The Pirates in England vs. A Pict Song.
- Pragmatic Hero / Pragmatic Villainy : Depending on how you look at it. His idea of Imperialism was not so much to change local culture but to competently do mundane chores like economic development, policing and so on. Chesterton in Heretics noted that the key to understanding him is to remember that he romanticized discipline and competence.
- The Raj: The setting for most of his works. Kipling is largely responsible for spreading awareness of The Raj as a literary setting outside the former British Empire, and popularising it within the Empire.
- Rape and Revenge: "Raped and Revenged" in "Epitaphs of the War."
- Rated M for Manly: His poem simply entitled "If—" is about as good a summary as you can get for what it takes to be a virtuous and well-adjusted manly man. Also a good account of what it takes to be a Knight In Shining Armour in the modern world.
- Reality Ensues: The Gods of the Copybook Headings.
- Reality Is Unrealistic: Invoked in Light That Failed. The Return .
- Recycled In Space: some sci fi is affected by Kipling.
- Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Invoked in Ballad of East and West when a British subaltern surrounded by Pathans warns the Pathan chieftain that his tribe will be ravaged by the British Army if he is killed.
- In "The Grave of the One Hundred Head", the men of the First Shikari build a tomb for their dead Lieutenant from the skulls of all the men in the village his killer came from.
- In "The Lament of the Border Cattle Thief," the thief is promising one of these.
- Romanticism Versus Enlightenment: Kipling represented both the good and bad parts of the Enlightenment side of the equation. He genuinely believed that Western imperialism was helping to improve the lives of non-Western "savages" by introducing things like modern science, democracy, and secularism. However, he presented this view in a way that today comes across as condescending at best, and downright racist at worst.
- Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Wilful-Missing
- Second Boer War
- Settings: Kipling is best at this. His characters are quite good, and his plots are serviceable. However it is his ability to describe settings that really made him.
- Silent Running Mode: They call it The Trade.
- Star-Crossed Lovers: In Flood Time
- Stiff Upper Lip: "If..." is one of the trope codifiers.
- Too Dumb to Live: A lot of characters, e.g. Pagett, M.P.:
He spoke of the heat of India as the "Asian Solar Myth";
Came on a four months' visit, to "study the East," in November,
- Troperiffic: "The Three-Decker" is a defense of the Troperific three-volume novel.
- True Art: ''In the Neolithic Age'' elaborately mocked flamewars over styles.
Nilghai: It’s a chromo,’ said he,—’a chromo-litholeo-margarine fake!
Dick: Then the art-manager of that abandoned paper said that his subscribers wouldn’t like it. It was brutal and coarse and violent,—man being naturally gentle when he’s fighting for his life. They wanted something more restful, with a little more colour. I could have said a good deal, but you might as well talk to a sheep as an art-manager.
- True Companions: The Galley-Slave is about the brotherhood between a crew of galley slaves.
To the bench that broke their manhood, they shall lash themselves and die.
- Unable To Support A Wife: "The Post That Fitted"
- Undignified Death: "The Ballad of the King's Mercy."
- Unreliable Narrator: "The Gardener" has an omniscient narrator, but when he starts talking about what "every one in the village knew", you have to pay close attention to what he's actually saying.
- Unusual Euphemism:
- Uriah Gambit: "The Story of Uriah", funnily enough.
- You Are a Credit to Your Race: Sort of. Kipling while regarding Europeans (or at least British) as made to rule, admired colonial soldiers, railray workers, mailmen and other such blue collar people. They were, like ordinary whites in similar jobs, the ones that he believed really kept The Empire together. And most important of all, they were colorful and romantic.
- Worthy Opponent: The Ballad of East and West