So that’s all right, Best Beloved. Do you see?

Illustration drawn by Rudyard Kipling (1865-19...

Illustration for How the Camel Got His Hump drawn by Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936) for the first edition of his Just So Stories (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So, the other night, I finally got to read a couple of Kipling’s Just So Stories to fils aîné. I’d been suggesting it for a while without much success, but by dint of just getting the book down and starting reading, he came along to listen.

We read How the Whale Got His Throat and How the Camel Got His Hump. The boys had a point of reference for the stories in Tinga Tinga Tales, but these are so much more enjoyable to read. I discovered them when I was a little older than fils aîné, about 8 or 9, I think, so this was the first time I’d read them aloud. The words just roll off your tongue:

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 crawled and he bawled, and he stepped and he lepped, and he danced hornpipes where he shouldn’t and the Whales felt most unhappy indeed. (Have you forgotten the suspenders?)

How the Whale Got His Throat, Just So Stories, Macmillan 1964, p. 12

OK, so it has longer words than Tinga Tinga, but isn’t “a man of infinite-resource-and-sagacity” a lovely phrase? And it’s good to expand the boy’s vocabulary…

My copy is a 1964 Macmillan edition, which I got second-hand somewhere back in the dim and distant past. This means that some of the pictures are rather dark, but there is always a long explanation of them to discuss with plenty of detail to look out for. There is also the poem after each story. The one after the Whale, with its cabin portholes, stewards, soup-tureens and Nursey lying on the floor in a heap, dates the stories rather, and is a very different world from anything the boys have come across before, but to me that’s part of the appeal.


Just So Stories, Rudyard Kipling (Macmillan, 1964)

Even the fact that the book has a price of “3s 6d net” on the cover is educational. I hope he’ll let me read him the rest soon.

About forwardtranslations

I'm a freelance literary translator from German and French to English. The title of my blog comes from Mary Schmich's description of reading: it struck home with me, and seems especially apt for translated fiction. Here are some of my musings on what I'm reading, re-reading, reading to my children, and translating.
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2 Responses to So that’s all right, Best Beloved. Do you see?

  1. Judith Sawers says:

    I think we have that same edition. I’ve never got into them at all, but I think the kids liked reading them at one point… One can’t like everything!

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