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Just So Stories
by
Rudyard Kipling

Rudyard Kipling

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Just So Stories

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There is a language warning on one of these stories.

Just So Stories

For Little Children

Coyright © 1912 by Rudyard Kipling
Individual story copyrights are noted if different.

How the Whale got his Throat

Copyright © 1897 by the Century Company

In the sea, once upon a time, O my Best Beloved, there was a Whale, and he ate fishes. He ate the starfish and the garfish, and the crab and the dab, and the plaice and the dace, and the skate and his mate, and the mackereel and the pickereel, and the really truly twirly-whirly eel.

But as soon as the Mariner, who was a man of infinite-resource-and-sagacity, found himself truly inside the Whale’s warm, dark, inside cupboards, he stumped and he jumped and he thumped and he bumped, and he pranced and he danced, and he banged and he clanged, and he hit and he bit, and he leaped and he creeped, and he prowled and he howled, and he hopped and he dropped, and he cried and he sighed, and he crawled and he bawled, and he stepped and he lepped, and he danced hornpipes where he shouldn’t, and the Whale felt most unhappy indeed.

How the Rhinoceros got his Skin

Copyright © 1898 by the Century Company

And the Rhinoceros upset the oil-stove with his nose, and the cake rolled on the sand, and he spiked that cake on the horn of his nose, and he ate it, and he went away, waving his tail, to the desolate and Exclusively Uninhabited Interior which abuts on the islands of Mazanderan, Socotra, and the Promontories of the Larger Equinox. Then the Parsee came down from his palm-tree and put the stove on its legs and recited the following Sloka, which, as you have not heard, I will now proceed to relate:—

Them that takes cakes
Which the Parsee-man bakes
Makes dreadful mistakes.

And there was a great deal more in that than you would think.

How the Leopard got his Spots

Copyright © 1901 by Rudyard Kipling

Note (Hal’s):
I do like this story, and it was plain that it was meant to undercut, not promote, racial insensitivity. However, it does contain an incidental use of a word which has since become unacceptable, and since these are meant to be read to children, I offer some advice:

Do not begin reading this story aloud, to a child or anyone else, without first knowing the word is there, and deciding what to do when you reach it.

— end note

Said Leopard to Baviaan (and it was a very hot day), ‘Where has all the game gone?’

And Baviaan winked. He knew.

Said the Ethiopian to Baviaan, ‘Can you tell me the present habitat of the aboriginal Fauna?’ (That meant just the same thing, but the Ethiopian always used long words. He was a grown-up.)

And Baviaan winked. He knew.

Topic:

Sesquipedality

‘One—two—three! And where’s your breakfast?’

So they went away and lived happily ever afterward, Best Beloved. That is all.

Oh, now and then you will hear grown-ups say, ‘Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the Leopard his spots?’ I don’t think even grown-ups would keep on saying such a silly thing if the Leopard and the Ethiopian hadn’t done it once—do you?

Topic:

The Leopard

The Elephant’s Child

Copyright © 1900 by Rudyard Kipling
Copyright © 1900 by the Curtis Publishing Company

But there was one Elephant—a new Elephant—an Elephant’s Child—who was full of ’satiable curtiosity, and that means he asked ever so many questions. And he lived in Africa, and he filled all Africa with his ’satiable curtiosities.

That very next morning, when there was nothing left of the Equinoxes, because the Precession had preceded according to precedent, this ’satiable Elephant’s Child took a hundred pounds of bananas (the little short red kind), and a hundred pounds of sugar-cane (the long purple kind), and seventeen melons (the greeny-crackly kind), and said to all his dear families, ‘Good-bye. I am going to the great grey-green, greasy Limpopo River, all set about with fever-trees, to find out what the Crocodile has for dinner.’ And they all spanked him once more for luck, though he asked them most politely to stop.

Topics:

The Limpopo River

the Equinoxes

Then the Bi-Coloured-Python-Rock-Snake came down from the bank, and knotted himself in a double-clove-hitch round the Elephant’s Child’s hind-legs, and said, ‘Rash and inexperienced traveller, we will now seriously devote ourselves to a little high tension, because if we do not, it is my impression that yonder self-propelling man-of-war with the armour-plated upper deck’ (and by this, O Best Beloved, he meant the Crocodile) ‘will permanently vitiate your future career.’

That is the way all Bi-Coloured-Python-Rock-Snakes always talk.

The Sing-Song of Old Man Kangaroo

Copyright © 1900 by Rudyard Kipling

He was grey and he was woolly, and his pride was inordinate: he danced on an outcrop in the middle of Australia, and he went to the Little God Nqa.

The Beginning of the Armadillos

Copyright © 1900 by Rudyard Kipling

‘Well, suppose you say that I said that she said something quite different, I don’t see that it makes any difference; because if she said what you said I said she said, it’s just the same as if I said what she said she said.’

Topic:

Doubletalk

‘Son, son!’ said his mother ever so many times, graciously waving her tail, ‘what have you been doing that you shouldn’t have done?’

‘I tried to scoop something that said it wanted to be scooped out of its shell with my paw, and my paw is full of per-ickles,’ said Painted Jaguar.

‘Son, son!’ said his mother ever so many times, graciously waving her tail, ‘by the prickles in your paddy-paw I see that that must have been a Hedgehog. You should have dropped him into the water.’

‘I did that to the other thing; and he said he was a Tortoise, and I didn’t believe him, and it was quite true, and he has dived under the turbid Amazon, and he won’t come up again, and I haven’t anything at all to eat, and I think we had better find lodgings somewhere else. They are too clever on the turbid Amazon for poor me!’

How the First Letter was Written

Copyright © 1901 by Rudyard Kipling

Behind them came the Head Chief, the Vice-Chief, the Deputy and Assistant Chiefs (all armed to the upper teeth), the Hetmans and Heads of Hundreds, Platoffs with their Platoons, and Dolmans with their Detachments; Woons, Neguses and Akhoonds ranking in the rear (still armed to the teeth). Behind them was the Tribe in hierarchical order, from owners of four caves (one for each season), a private reindeer-run, and two salmon-leaps, to feudal and prognathous Villeins, semi-entitled to half a bearskin of winter nights, seven yards from the fire, and adscript serfs, holding the reversion of a scraped marrow-bone under heriot (Aren’t those beautiful words, Best Beloved?).

How the Alphabet was Made

And after thousands and thousands and thousands of years, and after Hieroglyphics, and Demotics, and Nilotics, and Cryptics, and Cufics, and Runics, and Dorics, and Ionics, and all sorts of other ricks and tricks (because the Woons, and the Neguses, and the Akhoonds, and the Repositories of Tradition would never leave a good thing alone when they saw it), the fine old easy, understandable Alphabet—A, B, C, D, E, and the rest of ’em—got back into its proper shape again for all Best Beloveds to learn when they are old enough.

Topic:

Tradition

The Butterfly that Stamped

He didn’t really want nine hundred and ninety-nine wives, but in those days everybody married ever so many wives, and of course the King had to marry ever so many more just to show that he was the King.

Topic:

Marriage

‘What made you tell that awful fib to your wife?—for doubtless she is your wife.’

The Butterfly looked at Suleiman-bin-Daoud and saw the most wise King’s eyes twinkle like stars on a frosty night, and he picked up his courage with both wings, and he put his head on one side and said, ‘O King, live for ever. She is my wife; and you know what wives are like.’

Suleiman-bin-Daoud smiled in his beard and said, ‘Yes, I know, little brother.’

Balkis bent her beautiful head down and whispered, ‘Little woman, do you believe what your husband has just said?’

The Butterfly’s Wife looked at Balkis, and saw the Most Beautiful Queen’s eyes shining like deep pools with starlight on them, and she picked up her courage with both wings and said, ‘O Queen, be lovely for ever. You know what men-folk are like.’

And the Queen Balkis, the Wise Balkis of Sheba, put her hand to her lips to hide a smile and said, ‘Little sister, I know.’

‘O my Lady and Sweetener of my Days, know that if I had made a Magic against my Queens for the sake of pride or anger, as I made that feast for all the animals, I should certainly have been put to shame. But by means of your wisdom I made the Magic for the sake of a jest and for the sake of a little Butterfly, and—behold—it has also delivered me from the vexations of my vexatious wives! Tell me, therefore, O my Lady and Heart of my Heart, how did you come to be so wise?’

And Balkis the Queen, beautiful and tall, looked up into Suleiman-bin-Daoud’s eyes and put her head a little on one side, just like the Butterfly, and said, ‘First, O my Lord, because I loved you; and secondly, O my Lord, because I know what women-folk are.’

Topic:

Butterflies

text checked (see note) Feb 2005

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Graphics copyright © 2003 by Hal Keen