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. He was a favourite of Henry James, T. S. Eliot, Jorge Luis Borges, Neil Gaiman and others. Even Salman Rushdie while disagreeing entirely with his politics, his viewpoints, and values, agrees that Kipling's work, biased as it is, does capture a sense of an authentic India, which despite his imperial viewpoint, he did get right to an extent.
And what is more, Kipling was an innovator in the short story form, a prolific author of many stories and tales, and avoiding Sturgeon's Law for a good number of them. In Pop-Cultural Osmosis, Kipling is best known as the creator of Mowgli, star of The Jungle Book, popularized and immortalized by its cartoon and live-action adaptations.
Kipling's stories include:
- The Man Who Would Be King
- The Jungle Book, introduced Mowgli (and Rikki Tikki Tavi)
- Captains Courageous
- Stalky & Co.
- Kim, novel capping Kipling's India stories.
- Puck of Pook's Hill and the sequel, Rewards and Fairies.
- "With the Night Mail" and "As Easy as ABC," SF involving Cool Airships run by the Aerial Board of Control.
- The Just So Stories, tales written for his children based on Eastern and African myths and folktales.
- "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 I 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"
Although this should not be taken, as it has in recent years that Kipling in any way opposed the war, or that he was anti-war. Kipling supported British entry into World War I, wrote propaganda on its behalf, and after the war fully supported the Treaty of Versailles, and vehemently criticizing the British Parliament for not supporting France's position in more strictly enforcing the conditions of the treaty. Kipling grieved like any father did, but he never regretted Britain's participation in the war, nor did he repudiate its role and function as The Empire. Indeed he felt that the British Empire, in alliance with France and America was more essential than ever with the rise of Bolshevism and Nazism. He believed in Conspiracy Theory false allegations that the Labour party was a Communist front (it wasn't) but he also opposed Oswald Moseley and Nazism.
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.
His relationship with his son Jack and his death during World War I was dramatized into a play and later a TV movie, appropriately titled My Boy Jack staring David Haig as Kipling, Daniel Radcliffe as Jack, Kim Cattrall as Kipling's wife Caroline, and a pre-fame Carey Mulligan as Kipling's daughter Elsie.
Kipling's works with their own trope pages include:
Other works by Kipling provide examples of:
- Adorably Precocious Child:
- 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.
- Alternative Character Interpretation: A common trick In-Universe, 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'.
- Appeal to Tradition: The basic message of "The Gods of the Copybook Headings"
- Armies Are Evil: "Tommy" is an Author Tract written to defy this trope, and especially the hypocrisy inherent in how soldiers were treated in peacetime and in wartime.
- Author Tract: "Tommy." 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 bruteBut 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.
- Bury Me Not on the Lone Prairie: In "The Mary Gloster", a dying Merchant Prince instructs his son that he wants a Burial at Sea in the Macassar Strait, where his wife died and was committed to the waves years earlier, and warns him that it will have to be done without the support or knowledge of his colleagues, who want to give him a more conventional funeral on dry land.
- Call-Back: In "The Mary Gloster", the dying shipping magnate mentions that his oldest friend is a Scottish engineer named McAndrew who he worked with in the days when he was making his name on the eponymous cargo ship. McAndrew is the protagonist of "McAndrew's Hymn", written and published a few years earlier, which also mentions him having been third engineer on the Mary Gloster.
- Cold Iron: The title of a poem. Note that in the text it is clear that "cold" is a conventional term for "iron."
- 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.
- DemonizationWhat is the sense of 'ating those'Oom you are paid to kill?
- 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!"
- The Everyman: "Tommy" describes soldiers as just ordinary "single men in barricks."
- Forgiveness: Central to the poem "Cold Iron".
- 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" (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".
- Inadequate Inheritor: In "The Mary Gloster", Sir Anthony Gloster, self-made man, has this opinion of his son.Harrer an' Trinity College! I ought to ha' sent you to sea—
But I stood you an education, an' what have you done for me?
The things I knew was proper you wouldn't thank me to give,
And the things I knew was rotten you said was the way to live.
- Knight in Sour Armor: The protagonist of Tommy. Also a Deadpan Snarker.
- Loud of War: In "As Easy as ABC" the airships of the Aerial Board of Control use an industrial-strength sound and light show to pacify a Powder Keg Crowd."I hate to interrupt a specialist when he's enjoying himself," said De Forest. "But, as a matter of fact, all Illinois has been asking us to stop for these last fifteen seconds."
"What a pity." Arnott slipped off his mask. "I wanted you to hear us really hum. Our lower C can lift street-paving."
- Mama Bear: "The Female of the Species"
- Merchant City: Peshawar in The Ballad of the King's Jest
- Merchant Prince: Anthony Gloster in "The Mary Gloster", who worked his way up from humble origins to become a wealthy businessman and a baronet who has "lunched with his Royal 'Ighness".
- Mighty Whitey: Sometimes. Mostly they get to meet white guys who aren't.
- More Deadly Than the Male:
- In "The Female of the Species", Kipling's thesis was that 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 pitymust not swerve for fact or jest.
- In "The Young British Soldier", he had this to say about Afghan women:When you're wounded and left on Afghanistan's plains,
And the women come out to cut up what remains,
Jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains
An' go to your Gawd like a soldier.
- In "The Female of the Species", Kipling's thesis was that this stemmed from woman's role in preserving the species:
- 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:
- 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:We have spent two hundred million pounds to prove the fact once more,That horses are quicker than men afoot, since two and two make four;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.
- 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.
- The Real Heroes: Frequently depicts enlisted men, ground-level bureaucrats, and their native counterparts in this light.
- Reality Ensues: The Gods of the Copybook Headings.
- Reality Is Unrealistic: Invoked in Light That Failed. The Return .
- 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
- Silent Running Mode: They call it The Trade.
- Star-Crossed Lovers:
- In Flood Time.
- Beyond The Pale.
- Stiff Upper Lip: "If..." is one of the trope codifiers.
- Stigmatic Pregnancy Euphemism: "The Gardener" begins with the protagonist going to spend a few months in the South of France to recuperate from lung trouble, and coming back with a baby boy who is introduced to the neighbors as the orphan son of her Black Sheep brother, who went abroad years earlier and was never heard from again.
- 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 Is Angsty: In-Universe. In the Neolithic Age elaborately mocked flamewars over styles.
- Lighter and Softer: The Light that Failed:Nilghai: Its a chromo, said he,—a chromo-litholeo-margarine fake!
- Executive Meddling: The Light that Failed, the same incident.Dick: Then the art-manager of that abandoned paper said that his subscribers wouldnt like it. It was brutal and coarse and violent,—man being naturally gentle when hes 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.
- Lighter and Softer: The Light that Failed:
- 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".
- "In the Pride of His Youth".
- 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" is about trick being pulled on someone in colonial India.Jack Barrett went to Quetta.
He didn't understand
The reason of his transfer
From the pleasant mountain-land.
The season was September,
And it killed him out of hand.
Jack Barrett went to Quetta
And there gave up the ghost,
Attempting two men's duty
In that very healthy post;
And Mrs. Barrett mourned for him
Five lively months at most.
- The Vamp: named by "The Vampire" and popularized by the 1915 silent film A Fool There Was, which quoted liberally from the Kipling poem.
- Woman Scorned: "The Phantom Rickshaw." The protagonist has an affair with a married woman, then loses interest and dumps her. Then she dies. And then she comes back for him...
- Worthy Opponent: The Ballad of East and West
- You Are a Credit to Your Race: Sort of. Kipling while regarding Europeans (or at least British) as made to rule, admired colonial soldiers, railway 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.