Rudyard Kipling - The Elephant's Child

If your childhood did not include the tale of The Elephant’s Child on the banks of the great, grey-green, greasy Limpopo river, all set about with fever trees, then it was a deprived one. Kipling’s short story, told to his beloved daughter who always insisted he tell it ‘just so!’ is one of the greatest pieces of short fiction I know.

Come with me on a fabulous reading journey through 2020. Together we will explore a thought-provoking selection of 19th and 20th Century classics. For each novel you will receive an illustrated monograph packed full of intriguing stories about the author behind the book, explaining its themes, tempting you with film versions to watch, and challenging you with discussion questions.

I love to share my passion for great literature. Please consider joining me in this literary exploration.

An utterly magical short story

It is rare to find perfection anywhere in this world. But you do find it in this utterly magical short story, The Elephant’s Child, by Rudyard Kipling. Pitch-perfect, full of evocative and memorable phrases, moving and exciting, and written in language that is ‘just-so’ in every sense, this tale is one of the marvels of literature.

To my regret, I never encountered it as a child – only as an adult. Since then, I have lectured on it many times. It thrills me that whenever I quote from the story during lectures, I see the lips of my audience saying with me that magical phrase about “the great grey-green, greasy Limpopo River, all set about with fever trees”. And there are smiles of sheer pleasure at the wondrousness of Kipling’s words!

“It strikes a child as the kind of yarn his father or uncle might have spun if he had just happened to think of it; and it has, like all good fairy-business, a sound core of philosophy.”
― H. W. Boynton, The Atlantic 1903

I am a huge Kipling fan. Today he’s not the most fashionable of authors and, I think, is unfairly blamed for not being PC enough for the modern world. But he was a master of words and skilled in so many areas of literature – a superb poet, a novelist, a literary critic (he had the good taste to love the writings of Jane Austen) and of course a storyteller. This story is rich with wisdom about humanity – curiosity, facing danger, asking questions, growing up, taking an arduous journey, and more. This is far more than simply a story for children – it is in fact a story for those of any age who love literature at its absolute best.

Don’t wait to find a child or grandchild to read it to – give yourself a treat and read The Elephant’s Child for yourself. I hope this Guide will help you to appreciate its many perfections. I don’t believe in Heaven, but one of the things I would expect to experience there would be sitting at Kipling’s feet while he recited this story to me just so!

My grown-up daughter, now a mother herself, still occasionally asks me to read her The Elephant’s Child and I hope before long I will be reading it to my granddaughters Arabella and Josephine (how Kipling would have approved of little Josephine’s name!). This is a story made for reading aloud – so many varied voices, such rich and hilarious language (I dare you NOT to smile when you read the phrase “promiscuous parts”), such evocative repetition.

But why does it have such magic, and where lies the skill in its construction and characterisation? Let’s journey together to “the great grey-green, greasy Limpopo River, all set about with fever trees” and find out …

Purchase the complete Literary Readers Guide (just $4)

At just $4 this Literary Readers’ Guide is a real treat! In it I reveal intriguing stories about the author to help you understand what prompted this book to be written. I identify the main characters and their roles, analyse the themes behind the story, and describe the influence that the era, lifestyle and circumstances have on the book’s setting. Included are 8 thought-provoking discussion points, perfect for books clubs or just to get you thinking a bit harder yourself.

Buy it now and receive your guide by immediate download.

100% guaranteed. If you don’t feel my guides are great value for money, please let me know why and I will refund your purchase price.

Maximum quantity exceeded
Minimum purchase amount of 0 is required
Maximum purchase amount of 0 is allowed
4.000

Discuss it with me

Did you read this story when young, or have you just read it for the first time now? Have you ever been to the Limpopo River? Does this story make you want to see it for yourself? I’m interested to hear what you think, so please tell me in a comment.

Leave a comment.

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until approved.
I only recommend books I have read or know. Some of these links are my affiliate links. If you buy a book by clicking on one of these links I receive a small commission. It doesn’t cost you anything extra, but does help cover the cost of producing my free newsletter.
Featured image credit- Rudyard Kipling, The Elephant’s Child, from https://pixabay.com/photos/elephant-africa-2923916/
Body image credit- Front cover of Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories, 1st edition, 1902, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Just_So_Stories
Body image credit- The Elephant’s Child by Joseph M. Gleeson, from Just So Stories, 1912
Body image credit- Rudyard Kipling by John Collier, 1891, https://www.wikiart.org/en/john-collier/rudyard-kipling-1891

Comments (2)

  1. Fiona Morgan

    Hi Susannah, I have just finished “‘The Elephant’s Child’ audiobook narrated by Jack Nicholson with music by Bobby McFerrin and
    found it utterly gorgeous. Had never read or had read to me such a delightful tale!
    Regards,
    Fiona M
    Sydney

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Isn’t it a truly marvellous story. So glad you enjoyed it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Enjoy this blog? Please spread the word :)