3 | 2017
Indian Birth and Western Rebirths of the Jātaka Tales

The editors would like to thank the following institutions:

  • The Regional Council of Île de France.
  • The Embassy of India.
  • The Research Commission of the University of Paris 13, Sorbonne Paris Cité.
  • The Faculty of Law, Social and Political Sciences and the Centre forStudies and Research in Administrative and Political Sciences (CERAP), University of Paris 13, Sorbonne Paris Cité.
  • The Centre for Research on English Studies (CREA) of the University of Paris West Nanterre and the Centre for Research on Space/Writing (CREE) of the University of Paris West Nanterre.
  • The Team of Interdisciplinary Research on Cultural Areas (ERIAC) of the University of Rouen Normandy.
  • and the Society for Activities and Research on the Indian world (SARI).

for their generous support for this project.

Couverture de
  • Michel Naumann, Ludmila Volná et Geetha Ganapathy-Doré  Introduction

Rewritings of the Jātaka Tales in Colonial and Postcolonial Texts

Jātaka Tales and Kipling’s Commitment to India

Maria-Sabina Draga Alexandru


According to Peter Morey (in Fictions of India: Narrative and Power, 2000), narrative is an important political space and « the story of English language fiction on India is also the story of a struggle around representational politics ». In colonial India, fiction undertook the task of history rewriting, but was also a space of encounter – whether complementary or oppositional – between Indo-Anglian and Anglo-Indian writers, who coexisted within the same space of writing in English and proposed different alternatives to official history. One of the most visible British authors of the Raj, Rudyard Kipling, was often accused of upholding imperialist political views, yet his deep emotional attachment to the country of his upbringing is manifest in much of his writing.
This article analyzes the impact of the Jātaka tales and of the Buddhist background associated with them on Kipling’s work, with a particular focus on
Just-So Stories, which are most directly informed by them. The article sustains that the Jātakas underlie Kipling’s understanding of the cultural traditions of India, as well as the dynamic relationship between the empire and its colony, and that they play a crucial role in the world image reflected in his fiction.

Texte intégral

1At the beginning of his book Fictions of India: Narrative and Power (2000), Peter Morey states that « Having space to narrate means having power. The story of English language fiction on India is also the story of a struggle around representational politics1. Morey’s observation places the narrative act at a vantage point, highlighting the fact that the one who tells the story is not only the one who has access to power, but also, very often, the one who exerts it. What happens when an author who comes to be identified as one of the major voices of the British Empire, as Rudyard Kipling famously was, is emotionally committed to the colonized country, which, in Kipling’s case, is also his native country? To what extent is the objectivity of representation affected by the author’s personal attachment?

2Concerning Kipling, Morey remarks that his presence on the Anglo-Indian literary scene coincides with a time when « the arteries of imperial governance are beginning to harden » when the former relationship between empire and colony had started to change and independence is clearly on the horizon. Kipling’s ambivalent positioning is, in Morey’s view, a function of political allegory, a trope he resorts to in « those tales where the outlandish events narrated refuse to yield to the consoling schemes of teleological certainty »2. Such a position lends a particular complexity to Kipling’s writing, which allows him to question the irreproachable logic of empire by contrasting it with a different wisdom, that of India.

3The practice of writing in English in India, to which Kipling’s name is tightly connected, is characterized by an enormous diversity. Sara Suleri in The Rhetoric of English India (1992) points out that English India is an ambiguous discursive field, which « seeks to represent domination and subordination as though the two were mutually exclusive terms ». This observation pushes the debate beyond a reductive centre/margin approach to life in the Raj, emphasizing the ambivalence of most texts that form part of this discourse and the effort to « break down the fixity of the dividing lines between domination and subordination »3. Divisions like this one go back a long way. An important distinction is the 19th century one between the Anglicists, who upheld the British « civilizing » mission in India), and the Orientalists, who thought local cultural specificities should be respected and therefore supported a general policy of noninterference. In his book The Lotus and the Lion (2008), an analysis of the scope and influence of Buddhism in Victorian society with a main focus on Rudyard Kipling and his novel Kim (1901), J. Jeffrey Franklin sustains that « While Kipling’s Orientalism unavoidably was an appropriation of Indian culture and religion for colonialist purposes, it also was a genuine expression of respect for and celebration of that culture and those religions »4.

4It is on this ambivalent position in the history of Indian letters in English occupied by Rudyard Kipling that this article will focus. Kipling was accused by some critics of being a faithful upholder of imperialist beliefs, praised by others as a keen lover of India and its traditions. One rather controversial aspect of his work is related to his references to Buddhism rather than Hinduism and Islam, religions far more widely spread in India. This is sometimes interpreted as one aspect where he was deeply influenced by his father (art teacher and curator John Lockwood Kipling, who had a thorough knowledge of Buddhism and appreciated its subtlety and sobriety over all the other religions of India). At other times it is interpreted as imperialist Kipling’s refusal to go « too native »5.

5A certain admiration for Buddhism in Victorian England is also related to the connections that can be drawn between Romantic organicism and Buddhist universal interconnectedness. Whatever his reason may have been, Kipling’s interest in Buddhism does not limit itself to characters of fundamental importance such as Kim’s mentor, Tibetan Buddhist Teshoo Lama, but goes deeper into it, by experimenting with patterns of thinking and spirituality, as well as narrative structures coming from Buddhism and its literary manifestations, the Jātaka tales. This article intends to analyze the impact of the Jātakas and of the Buddhist background associated with them in Kipling’s work, with a particular focus on Just So Stories, his collection for children, which is most directly informed by them. I will argue that underlying Kipling’s understanding of the cultural traditions of India and the relationship between the empire and its colony are the Jātakas and that they play a crucial part in the world image reflected in his fiction.

6Critical opinions as to whether Kipling reflected a typically imperialist world view or was a true admirer of India and its civilization and culture are widely divided. Edward Said’s Culture and Imperialism famously takes Kipling’s Kim as a typical Orientalist product, saved only by its literary value. Taking issue with Said, David Scott discovers « countercurrents » in Kipling’s work that signal dissenting opinions within the mechanisms of the empire and a « need to adjust Said’s Orientalism paradigm », thus giving Kipling more credit than Said did6. Scott is by no means the first to defend Kipling. Some twenty years earlier, William Walsh had argued that Kipling had some firm convictions that replicated his age but « he was not simply the repository of contemporary British beliefs and prejudices. For one thing, he knew and loved India in a way no other British writer could »7 and « carried so much of India into so much of his work »8.

7That Kipling was particularly fond of India, where he was born and brought up until school age, is no issue for debate. He considered it his home, which he missed dearly during the bleak years of his schooling in England, customary for children of British colonials in the Victorian age. He returned to India as a journalist for The Civil and Military Gazette, Lahore, from 1882 to 1887, and then The Pioneer, Allahabad (« the leading paper in India », as Kipling described it) from 1887 to 1889. He left again in March 1889 to return just once briefly in 1891. He may have been part of Bombay’s British colonial elite, and of a kind of « Britain abroad » society that had little to do with real India. This is understandable, given that his father John Lockwood Kipling, an architectural sculptor and curator, held a prominent position in British India’s education system, as Principal and Professor of Architectural Sculpture at the Jamsetjee Jeejebhoy School of Arts in Bombay, then taught at the Mayo School of Industrial Arts in Lahore. However partly idealized, partly simplified as his version of India may have been, the subcontinent at the time of the Raj provided Kipling with a vast amount of material and an equally vast amount of love that inspired his stories and novels. It can be argued that even his gift for storytelling (rather than novel-writing), which singles him out among Victorian writers, is the outcome of his having been particularly receptive to rich Indian storytelling traditions, which he kept drawing inspiration from even after he had left the country for good.

8As David Scott argues that Kipling’s desire to delve into and borrow from Indian spiritual traditions favours not so much Buddhism, but rather « the equally Oriental allure of Buddhism », which he encountered in a slightly different form in other Eastern countries such as Burma, Tibet, and Japan, he suggests that Kipling’s preference is in tune with a more general Western, especially late-Victorian British attraction for Buddhism’s discreet simplicity and detachment9. While pondering on the ways in which this interest in Buddhism reflects in his literature, I would like, in what follows, to focus not so much on its importance in Kim, about which much has been written, but rather on Just So Stories, which have been rather understudied and which, I believe, are as close as one can get to Kipling’s version of the Buddhist teaching fables, the Jātakas.

9The important educational function of the collection was noticed by critics as soon as they were first published, as signalled recently by the Times Literary Supplement in a re-printing/posting of a review of Kipling’s Just So Stories for Little Children by Harold Hannyngton Child, published in the TLS of October 3, 1902. While pointing out the unjust lack of attention given to these stories, Child notices the performativity of Kiplings language, as his original narrative act was intended to take place mainly in praesentia: « Numerous little touches, personal references, and echoes of family jokes declare them to have been originally told viva voce », making use of « an amazingly full and picturesque onomatopoeic vocabulary ». Child shows that, while the stories have an important conversational and entertaining function meant to captivate their audience of children, they are also inherently didactic:

No writer of a book for children but lets slip something of his views on education; and Mr. Kipling might reply to the genteel objectors that these healthy, humorous, quite unmawkish - stories of his will at least never foster prigs, and that their influence will be all in the direction - of things more valuable than correct and pretty speech (…)10.

10While I agree with Child that Kipling intends to educate children according to values that go well beyond Victorian conventionalism in these stories, aiming at helping them attain a moral standard that involves honesty and true values, I argue that they are not only based on the Jātakas, but also build an entire system of values which is didactically transmitted to children (Kipling’s implied audience). The origin of this system is not so much Victorian moral requirements regarding how the little ones should be brought up, but rather the age-old wisdom of the Jātakas.

11Kipling’s storytelling employs a highly conversational and dialogical tone, sprinkled with jokes and rhymes that always maintain the audience’s attention awake in a manner that reminds one of the age-old Indian tradition of linking storytelling with performance, of which Kipling, a lover of Indian culture, was deeply aware11. He constantly addresses his implied in praesentia audience – « O my Best Beloved » – and thus not only keeps them always involved but also asserts his own emotional commitment as a storyteller. He also appeals directly to the traditional background of India by drawing inspiration for the plot and narrative structure of Just So Stories from the background of the Jātakas, which, likewise, are explanatory animal fables that are so much about humans and their predicament

12Jātaka stories are about evolution, travelling, and new beginnings. They are stories about becoming someone else through reincarnation or metamorphosis, animal stories about changes that always have a deeper meaning in the path to spiritual freedom. According to Sarah Shaw, « a Jātaka is a story about a birth, and this collection of tales is about the repeated births – and deaths – of the Bodhisatta, the being destined to become the present Buddha in his present life »12. Hence, they are stories about origins, or « pourquoi » stories, which, as Shaw points out, give us, through the idea that birth happens again and again, a very flexible tool for linking many narratives and thus probing the interconnectivity of all universe. Repetition is also very dear to children, as their learning processes are very much based on repeating details they are happy to recognize. The animal stories refer to previous incarnations of the Buddha that cast a different light on the significance of their fable-like development. In some, the Bodhisatta is a mere witness to an important changing event in the world, which also reveals the many connectivities within the universe.

13The ethics of the Jātakas implies that even when looking at individual events, there is a general attitude of detachment and forgiveness that prevails, with a moral purpose in sight that is beyond the limitations of this world. Kipling puts such ethics to work in much of his writing, using it, among other things, to scrutinize the British ways of the time through a severe critical lens. One clear focus of such criticism is Anglican protestantism, with which he strongly disagreed13, as shown in some of his Plain Tales of the Hills. In the tale entitled « Lispeth », for example, a tribal girl converted to Christianity is denied the right to marry an Englishman she falls in love with by the Anglican missionary couple who have encouraged her conversion, suggesting that there is only this much equality that can exist between the tribals and the British. In the partly autobiographical « Baa Baa Black Sheep », a boy of five, Punch, and his three-year-old sister Judy (personae of little Rudyard and Alice Kipling) are sent to England to benefit from the English education system at home. The « calculated cruelty » of this system is exposed as we see Kipling in the guise of Punch deeply missing India, identified as his true home and the cradle of his dearest childhood stories told by his ayah, one of the most important sources of his storytelling. Some important values of Buddhism are upheld in these stories, among which non-violence, detachment, and self-forgiveness. Kipling thus reasserts the essential principle of narrative knowledge as the truest and most complete one, as expressed in the Indian tradition of storytelling which reinterprets traditional foundation narratives over and over again so as to make them relevant to today’s world. Kipling also plays on the Buddhist idea that life is suffering: Jātakas feature Buddha as an untouchable, as is the case with Punch in « Baa Baa Black Sheep ».

14Just-So Stories draw on the Jātakas arguably more than any other Kipling writings. They are stories about the origins of things ending in a moral with clear educational purposes (for children), which is ultimately what stories are about. Any teaching is better transmitted if incorporated into a story, which makes storytelling well used as an effective means to educate children. Kipling published the first three of these stories a year before his daughter Josephine (Effie) died in 1899, at the age of 6, then the rest in the volume after her death (this being the volume Child refers to, Just So Stories for Little Children, published in 1902, one year after Kim, with drawings accompanied by comments by the author himself). The volume, reprinted in an American edition in 1912, with additional colour illustrations by Joseph M. Gleeson, partly records bedtime stories Kipling had told Effie, partly reflects his own process of learning, through the therapeutic function of repeated storytelling, to reach a certain detachment from the pain of her death.

15Various editions of Just So Stories, are illustrated, which adds an effect of showing to the act of telling14. The narrator repeatedly addresses his audience of children, deliberately stirring them into having opinions and even participating in the making of the story or, at least, its application in real life. In this, he mimics the enactment of stories by Indian oral storytellers, whose storytelling is very much a dialogue with their in praesentia audience, who often interrupts, asks questions and makes additions. The first of the stories, « How the Whale Got His Throat », begins as follows:

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. All the fishes he could find in all the sea he ate with his mouth—so! Till at last there was only one small fish left in all the sea, and he was a small ’Stute Fish, and he swam a little behind the Whale’s right ear, so as to be out of harm’s way. Then the Whale stood up on his tail and said, « Im hungry ». And the small ’Stute Fish said in a small ’stute voice, « Noble and generous Cetacean, have you ever tasted Man? »15.

16We recognize here Kipling's highly engaging storytelling style tailored especially to match children’s language and imagination, as well as nursery rhyme patterns. Also, by addressing them « O my Best Beloved », Kipling’s narrator periodically states his love for these children and his interest in their good education, which adds an important emotional dimension and empathy to the stories and makes them easier to follow and learn from. Text and image go together, in the form of illustrations by Kipling himself or by other people16 – an associational practice Kipling learned from his father Lockwood Kipling, to whom some of the illustrations to his work belong. Comments to such illustrations are more than just a caption, inviting an intertwining of telling and showing that clearly draws on the traditional Indian syncretism of storytelling and performance:

THIS is the picture of the Whale swallowing the Mariner with his infinite-resource-and-sagacity, and the raft and the jack-knife and his suspenders, which you must not forget. The buttony-things are the Mariner’s suspenders, and you can see the knife close by them. He is sitting on the raft but it has tilted up sideways, so you don't see much of it. The whity thing by the Mariner’s left hand is a piece of wood that he was trying to row the raft with when the Whale came along. (...) The reason that the sea looks so ooshy-skooshy is because the Whale is sucking it all into his mouth so as to suck in Mr. Henry Albert Bivvens and the raft and the jack-knife and the suspenders. You must never forget the suspenders17.

17The Mariner of infinite-resource-and-sagacity is so resourceful because he is English (a residue of imperialism, of course, but also a role model intended for the English children listening to the story): the Mariner also obeys his Mum, who has allowed him to go sailing on a raft, or otherwise he wouldn’t have gone. Nevertheless he could not have been so successful in sticking a piece of the raft (tied with his precious suspenders « which you must not forget ») without the ’Stute Fish, a helper or catalyst to the plot of the story, without whom the dénouement may have been an entirely different one:

HERE is the Whale looking for the little ’Stute Fish, who is hiding under the Door-sills of the Equator. The little ’Stute Fish’s name was Pingle. He is hiding among the roots of the big seaweed that grows in front of the Doors of the Equator. I have drawn the Doors of the Equator. They are shut. They are always kept shut, because a door ought always to be kept shut. The ropy-thing right across is the Equator itself; and the things that look like rocks are the two giants Moar and Koar, that keep the Equator in order (...)18.

18The ’Stute Fish is a secondary, but highly significant character, who brings a theatrical element to the story, very likely derived by Kipling from the Indian tradition of storytelling and performance. In several forms of classical Indian theatre (Kathakali being one famous example) there is a stock character called vidusaka, who plays the part of the facilitator of events. As I have demonstrated in my earlier book, he is « an eraser of boundaries between the high and the low, between canonic order and anti-canonic subversion, between consciousness and the unconscious », as well as « an important connector between the world of the stage and the audience »19. In a way similar to other plot-facilitating Fool figures in world folklore, such as the Native American trickster20, the vidusaka is a secondary character in fable-like narratives with a didactic function, yet he is crucial in the development of events, who might have taken a totally different turn without him. In the Jātakas, the importance of vidusaka-like characters comes primarily from the fact that, beyond their being facilitators in the story, they could be interpreted as hidden embodiments of the Bodhisatta himself. Even though in the Jātakas the Boddhisatta « plays the best and prominent part »21, he is not always the main character in the story, but rather the catalyst, without whom the story’s development could not have taken place. According to Buddhist teaching, this is actually the Bodhisatta’s role: to facilitate the path to illumination for the average human being.

19The quote above22 is a caption to a picture included in the 1912 edition with additional colour pictures by Joseph M. Gleeson, an explanatory supplement to the drawing which shows what the narrative plot of the story tells. Gleeson’s illustration, accompanied by Kipling’s caption, strengthens the credibility of the events narrated and thus also their didactic function that targets Kipling’s audience of children. Yet, irrespective of whether we refer to a illustrated edition of Just So Stories (such as the 1912 one)23 or to one without illustrations (such as the 2001 Dover one)24, Kipling stays faithful to a combination of showing and telling, maintained through the conversational tone of the stories, which is expected to keep the implied listeners’ attention wide awake.

20A moral in verse at the end of the story, sounding a bit like a nursery rhyme so that it will stick in children’s memory better, with an emphasis on a magic place latitude Fifty North and longitude Forty West in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, in between Canada and the UK, actually signals the travelling, as well as transformative nature of all storytelling:

When the cabin port-holes are dark and green
Because of the seas outside;
When the ship goes wop (with a wiggle between)
And the steward falls into the soup-tureen,
And the trunks begin to slide;
When Nursey lies on the floor in a heap,
And Mummy tells you to let her sleep,
And you arent waked or washed or dressed,
Why, then you will know (if you haven't guessed)
YoureFifty North and Forty West!25

21The same techniques are in place in the following story despite its more punitive outcome. It is about a camel who gets punished by a Djinn to wear a hump on his back because he continuously answered « humph! » in denial to other animals’ invitations to work alongside them. The moment when the Djinn works his magic over the camel is celebrated by Kipling in a truly performative way, through which the idea that laziness is punished is strengthened by the force of concrete example:

This is the picture of the Djinn making the beginnings of the Magic that brought the Humph to the Camel. First he drew a line in the air with his finger, and it became solid; and then he made a cloud, and then he made an egg—you can see them both at the bottom of the picture—and then there was a magic pumpkin that turned into a big white flame. Then the Djinn took his magic fan and fanned that flame till the flame turned into a magic by itself. It was a good Magic and a very kind Magic really, though it had to give the Camel a Humph because the Camel was lazy. The Djinn in charge of All Deserts was one of the nicest of the Djinns, so he would never do anything really unkind26.

22Characters like the ’Stute Fish and the Djinn, who are hiding somewhere in the background as the actual plot of the story is unfolding, as troublemakers who upset a dogmatic status quo, are essential action facilitators. Such characters are there in most of the stories, sometimes preserving the showing effect of the stories (by acting as the voices who draw the audience’s attention to the obvious nature of the events that take place), like the Kolokolo Bird in « The Elephant’s Child » or Yellow Dog Dingo in « The Song-Song of Old Man Kangaroo ». Their function is sometimes taken over by a whole universe that assumes an animistic function, leading to the formation of language, as is the case in « How the First Letter Was Written » and its sequel, « How the Alphabet Was Made ». Such a strategy involves building a logic of sorts behind the correspondence of each letter to a meaning, giving children good mnemonic props, as well as good moral reasons to remember the letters of the alphabet. « How the Rhinoceros Got His Skin » and « How the Leopard Got His Spots » are stories not only about changes in physical appearance, but also about becoming wiser and sometimes learning to give up vanity and be content with who one is. This, by the logic of the latter story, seems to be a better reason as to why the Ethiopian would never change his black skin back to what it was than the racism of which Kipling has been sometimes accused. Whatever the case, in all these stories about evolutions from one state to another, not necessarily a better one, but one involving some precious acquired knowledge, Victorian moral purposes in children’s education are met through Kipling’s good use of the logic and narrative structure of the Jātakas.

23I would like to conclude by proposing that Kipling’s texts perform the ambivalence of the colonial discourse and, even though they reflect a great deal of English prejudice, it is in the narrative knowledge of the Jātakas that Kipling finds the wisdom of his stories. He thus implicitly asserts the non-dualism of Buddhism posited against colonial conflict, which, despite possible accusations of imperialism, acknowledges his respect for and creative use of the background of Indian traditions. As Peter Caracciolo shows in an authoritative article on the inspiration provided by Jātaka tales to Victorian writers such as Conrad, Wells, and Kipling, Kipling uses the Jātakas because, like the stories he himself is interested in telling his Victorian audience of children or grown-ups, the Jātakas’ function is to teach various moral principles through the power of narrative example27. Indeed, one can safely argue that, for example, « How the Camel Got His Hump » is a disguised story about the protestant work ethics so much upheld by English education. Nevertheless, the Djinn, who sorts out the conclusion, is a direct representative of Eastern wisdom. This suggests that, to Kipling, Buddhist and, generally, Eastern teachings derived mostly from the experience he acquired in India, provide not just a source of valuable teaching, but the best way in which one can live up to British standards.

24Even though Just-So Stories reproduce some racist views of the time, as does Kipling’s writing in general, the collection reflects Kipling’s commitment to India in a much more important way. In the book, the author translates the educational wisdom of Indian lore for the benefit of British children, teaching them the values that Victorian England may have believed in and preached, but which India knew how to transmit, through the narrative knowledge of fables, much more efficiently. Thus, Kipling indirectly, yet convincingly reflects upon the extent to which Victorian England relied for its wisdom on the jewel in its crown, India.


Caracciolo Peter, « Buddhist Teaching Stories and Their Influence on Conrad, Wells, and Kipling: The Reception of the Jātaka and Allied Genres in Victorian Culture », The Conradian, 1986, vol. 11, no 1, p. 24-34.

Draga Alexandru, Maria-Sabina, Performance and Performativity in Contemporary Indian Fiction in English, Leiden/Boston, Brill Rodopi, 2015.

Karlin Daniel, « How the stories got their name: Kipling and the origins of the “Just-So” stories », 2015, Available online: <http://blog.oup.com/2015/12/kipling-stories-names/>, Accessed: May 25, 2016.

Kemp Sandra, « John Lockwood Kipling: the international legacy of arts and crafts », London, Victoria and Albert Museum, 2016, Available online: <http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/j/john-lockwood-kipling-the-international-legacy-of-arts-and-crafts/>, Accessed: May 25, 2016.

Kipling Rudyard, Just So Stories, add. color plates Joseph M. Gleeson, New York, Doubleday Page & Company, 1912, Available online: <https://books.google.fr/books?isbn=373681514X>, Accessed: May 25, 2016.

Kipling Rudyard, Kim, London, Macmillan, 1901.

Mackean Ian, « Rudyard Kipling: Kim », 2001, Available online: <http://www.lsj.org/web/literature/kipling.php>, Accessed: May 25, 2016.

Mukherjee Meenakshi, The Twice Born Fiction: Themes and Techniques of the Indian Novel in English, New Delhi/London, Heinemann, 1971.

Said Edward W., « Introduction », in Kipling Rudyard, Kim, New York, Penguin Classics, 2000.

Said Edward, Culture and Imperialism, New York, Vintage, 1994.

Scott David, « Kipling, the Orient, and Orientals: “Orientalism” Reoriented? », Journal of World History, 2011, vol. 22, no 2, p. 299-328, Available online: <http://www.jstor.org/stable/23011713>, Accessed: May 25, 2016.

Shaw Sarah, The Jātakas, New Delhi, Penguin, 2006.

Suleri Sara, The Rhetoric of English India, London/New York, Routledge, 1992.


1 Peter Morey, Fictions of India: Narrative and Power, Edinburgh, Edinburgh University Press, 2000, p. 2.

2 Ibid., p. 28.

3 Sara Suleri, The Rhetoric of English India, London/New York, Routledge, 1992, p. 4.

4 J. Jeffrey Franklin, The Lotus and the Lion: Buddhism and the British Empire, Ithaca/London, Cornell University Press, 2008, p. 135.

5 Ian Mackean, « Rudyard Kipling: Kim », 2001, Available online: <http://www.lsj.org/web/literature/kipling.php>, Accessed: May 25, 2016.

6 David Scott, « Kipling, the Orient, and Orientals: “Orientalism” Reoriented? », Journal of World History, 2011, vol. 22, no 2, p. 299-328, Available online: <http://www.jstor.org/stable/23011713>, Accessed: May 25, 2016.

7 William Walsh, Indian Literature in English, London, Longman, 1990, p. 160.

8 William Walsh, Indian Literature…, p. 161.

9 David Scott, « Kipling… », art. cit., p. 326.

10 « Harold Hannyngton Child’s review of Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories for Little Children, published in the TLS of October 3, 1902 », in The Times Literary Supplement, August 10, 2016, Available online: <http://www.the-tls.co.uk/articles/public/kiplings-latest/>, Accessed: September 17, 2016. Many thanks to Chris Dorsett for pointing this reference out to me.

11 I have discussed at length the importance of the Indian legacy of storytelling and performance (going hand in hand both in the oral storytelling traditions of India, where stories used to be performed, rather than told, by oral storytellers, and in Indian theatre, where there is almost always a storyteller figure who explains the plot to the audience) in my book Performance and Performativity in Contemporary Indian Fiction in English (Leiden/Boston, Brill Rodopi, 2015). As an informed admirer of Indian culture and traditions, as shown extensively in his writings, Kipling was aware of this tradition and put it to good use.

12 Sarah Shaw, The Jātakas, New Delhi, Penguin, 2006.

13 As Franklin shows, Kipling’s religion, like Kim’s, « was too heterodox and syncretistic to be reduced to any single belief », which basically springs from his disagreement with Anglican protestantism (op. cit., p. 131).

14 See the 1912 American edition of Just So Stories, with additional color plates by Joseph M. Gleeson (New York: Doubleday Page & Company), Available online: <https://books.google.fr/books?isbn=373681514X>, Accessed: May 25, 2016.

15 Rudyard Kipling, Just So Stories, New York, Dover, 2001, p. 1.

16 Such as Joseph M. Gleeson (see note 13 above) or Lockwood Kipling, the author’s father.

17 Rudyard Kipling, Just So Stories, op. cit., 1912, p. 4.

18 Rudyard Kipling, Just So Stories, op. cit., 1912, p. 10.

19 Maria-Sabina Draga Alexandru, Performance and Performativity, op. cit., p. 137.

20 The Native American tribal trickster is a mediator between reason and emotion, the world of the living and the world of the dead, between what is said and what is actually (subversively) meant in discourse: « a comic holotrope », « an enchanter, comic liberator and world healer », an « enchanter » who « mediates wild bodies and adamant minds » (Gerald Vizenor, The Trickster of Libery: Tribal Heirs to a Wild Baronage, Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press, 1988, p. x-xi).

21 Sadhan Chandra Sarkar, Studies in the Common Jātaka and Avadāna Tales, Calcutta, Sanskrit College, 1990, p. iv.

22 See note 18.

23 Rudyard Kipling, Just So Stories, op. cit., 1912.

24 Rudyard Kipling, Just So Stories, op. cit., 2001. 

25 Rudyard Kipling, Just So Stories, op. cit., 2001, p. 4.

26 Rudyard Kipling, Just So Stories, op. cit., 1912, p. 20.

27 Peter Caracciolo, « Buddhist Teaching Stories and Their Influence on Conrad, Wells, and Kipling: The Reception of the Jātaka and Allied Genres in Victorian Culture », The Conradian, 1986, vol. 11, no 1, p. 25.

Pour citer ce document

Maria-Sabina Draga Alexandru, « Jātaka Tales and Kipling’s Commitment to India » dans « Indian Birth and Western Rebirths of the Jātaka Tales », « Lectures du monde anglophone », n° 3, 2017 Licence Creative Commons
Ce(tte) œuvre est mise à disposition selon les termes de la Licence Creative Commons Attribution - Pas d’Utilisation Commerciale - Partage dans les Mêmes Conditions 4.0 International. Polygraphiques - Collection numérique de l'ERIAC EA 4705

URL : http://publis-shs.univ-rouen.fr/eriac/index.php?id=205.

Quelques mots à propos de :  Maria-Sabina Draga Alexandru

University of Bucharest
Maria-Sabina Draga Alexandru is Associate Professor of American Studies at the University of Bucharest. Her research interests are: contemporary Indian fiction in English and its mythical rewritings, interactions between narrative and performance in contemporary global literatures in English, ethnic American literatures, minority cultures in the media, postcolonialism and postcommunism, and gender studies. She has published articles in journals such as Comparative Literature Studies, The Journal of Commonwealth Literature, Perspectives, The European Journal of American Culture etc. and books such as: The Postmodern Condition: Towards an Aesthetic of Cultural Identities (University of Bucharest Press, 2003), Identity Performance in Contemporary Non-WASP American Fiction (University of Bucharest Press, 2008), Between History and Personal Narrative: East-European Women’s Stories of Transnational Relocation (co-edited; Vienna and Berlin: LIT Verlag, 2013), and Performance and Performativity in Contemporary Indian Fiction in English (Leiden and Boston: Brill Rodopi, 2015). She is currently completing a book on the global outreach of 20th century American culture.