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Since Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment will be
released the Diamond Edition of "The Jungle Book
" next month (on
February 11th, to be exact), I thought it might be fun to talk about the
Rudyard Kipling book that this 1967 Walt Disney Production was based on.
Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved
Now given that Kipling was born in India
back in December of 1865 and then spent for the first six years of this life in
that country (Not to mention that -- even before he turned 17 -- Rudyard had returned
to India to
then become the assistant editor of the Civil & Military Gazette. Kipling
then stayed in-country for the next seven years, honing his craft as a writer
while working at this small local newspaper and its sister publication, The
Pioneer) ... Well, it's relatively safe to say that it was all of the time that
he spent in India -- soaking up everything that he could learn about the
country's history, folklore, flora & fauna -- which then gave Rudyard the
raw material that he needed for 1894's "The Jungle Book
" as well as its
follow-up, 1895' s "The Second Jungle Book
So okay. We now know where Kipling got his "Jungle Book" source
material. But would you care to guess where Rudyard actually wrote these two
collections of short stories? No, not India. And not in England
either. But -- rather -- right here in New
England. In Brattleboro, VT
to be exact. Which is just 60 miles away from where I'm typing up today's JHM
Through be told, Kipling fell in love with the United
States in 1889 while -- on assignment for The
Pioneer -- he traveled from San Francisco
to Boston and posted pieces from
all points in-between. Rudyard made a point of visiting some of America's
natural wonders (i.e., Yellowstone National Park, the Great Salt Lake and
Niagara Falls) as well as meeting some of our national treasures (i.e., Kipling
stopped off in Elmira, NY to visit with Mark Twain).
Some 18 years after Mark Twain & Rudyard Kipling first met, they wereboth honored with Doctorates of Literature by Oxford University
In fact, Rudyard was so impressed with the United States
that -- when the 'round-the-world honeymoon trip that Kipling had planned for
his new bride Carrie hit a snag in Yokohama, Japan in the Spring of 1892 (due
to some expected financial issues as well as the fact that Mrs. Kipling was
startled to discover that, just a few months into their marriage, she was now
pregnant with their first child) -- they made a bee-line for New England.
Where a family member then offered the happy couple the chance to rent a
farm-worker's house on her Brattleboro
estate for a mere $10 a month.
By August of 1892, Rudyard & Carrie had moved into Bliss
Cottage (That was what the Kiplings eventually came to call their first home in
Brattleboro. Or "The
Blizzard" when the weather got cold). And as Rudyard eventually revealed
to family friends in a letter, he & Carrie's first child, Josephine, was
" ... in three foot of snow on the night of 29 December 1892. Her Mother's
birthday being the 31st and mine the 30th of the same month, we congratulated
her on her sense of the fitness of thing."
Rudyard Kipling's daughter Josephine, who tragically died of pneumonia at age six in 1899
Now you saw that line about the three feet of snow, right? Well, Kipling was determined
to keep his family during their stay in Bliss Cottage. Which is why he
eventually went out and ...
... bought, second or third hand, a huge hot-air stove which
we installed in the cellar. We cut generous holes in our floor for its
eight-inch tin pipes (why we were not burned in our beds each week of the
winter I can never understand) and we were extraordinarily and self-centredly
Now some will tell you that -- in spite of keeping that
hot-air stove running in Bliss Cottage's basement 24/7 -- Rudyard never quite
got used to the brutal cold winters that we have here in New England.
And as the story goes, as Kipling sat in his seven-foot-by-eight writing room
in that old draft farm-worker's house during the Winter of 1892 where ...
Getting snow right up to your window sills is pretty typical this timeof year in Vermont
... from December to April the snow lay level with its window-sill.
... he then looked back with great fondness on his time in India.
Especially those brutally hot days that he once spent in Bombay.
And he dreamed of warmer times in far-away places, Rudyard then recalled
... that I had written a tale about Indian Forestry work which
included a boy who had been brought up by wolves. In the stillness, and
suspense, of the winter of '92 some memory of the Masonic Lions of my
childhood's magazine, and a phrase in Haggard's Nada the Lily, combined with
the echo of this tale. After blocking out the main idea in my head, the pen
took charge, and I watched it begin to write stories about Mowgli and animals,
which later grew into the two Jungle Books.
First editions of Rudyard Kipling's "The Jungle Book" (L) and "The Second Jungle Book" (R)
So for those of you out there suffering right now through
the sub-zero temperatures that seem to have most of the United
States in its grip right now, please keep in
mind that brutal cold can be good for something. By that I mean: If it hadn't
been for Rudyard Kipling shivering in Brattleboro,
VT back during the Winter of 1892 and then dreaming
of warmer days in Bombay ... Well,
it's quite likely that we wouldn't have the "Bare Necessities" today.
Or -- for that matter -- the Blu-ray & DVD which will be hitting store
shelves two weeks from tomorrow.
So never under-estimate how inspirational extremes of heat can be. Take -- for
example -- how the current wind chill (which is supposed to bring the local
temperature down to -15 later this evening) is inspiring me to throw another
log in our wood stove.
And of course Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote Tarzan in Oak Park, IL, a suburb of Chicago, where the winters are simlarly cold and snowy.