Kim by Rudyard Kipling

About the Book

Lush, deep India rises from the tome of Rudyard Kipling’s novel Kim. Filled with lyrical, exotic prose and nostalgia for Rudyard Kipling's native India, Kim is widely acknowledged as the author's greatest novel and a key element in his winning the 1907 Nobel Prize in Literature. Kipling became the first English language writer to win the award and is the youngest-ever recipient of the prize.

It is the tale of an orphaned sahib and the burdensome fate that awaits him when he is unwittingly dragged into the Great Game of Imperialism. During his many adventures, he befriends a sage old Tibetan lama who transforms his life.

Kim was first published in McClure’s magazine as a series from December 1900 to October 1901 and it was first published in Book form by MacMillan & Co. Ltd in October 1901 as well. Set against the backdrop of the political conflict between Russia and Britain for supremacy in Central Asia, Kim is a work with an intense political background.

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Rudyard Kipling Biography

Rudyard Kipling

Rudyard Kipling (December 30, 1865 – January 18, 1936), a British author and poet, was born in Bombay, India. While he is best know for his children’s novel The Jungle Book Kipling’s entire literary body has earned him a place in history as an innovator of the written word and a brilliant poet.

Early in his childhood he was sent to England with his younger sister to live with a couple who took care of children of British nationals living in India. Living through poor treatment and neglect at the hands of these foster parents was likely a stimulus to Kipling’s later literary achievements. In 1881 Kipling returned to India where his parents were working where he took a job as a newspaper editor and started on his literary career.

When he was twenty-four he returned to England and quickly became immersed in the literary sphere. He became close friends with Charles Wolcott Balestier, with whom he collaborated on dime store novels, and soon married Balestier’s sister Caroline. The newlyweds settled in Brattlebro, Vermont and this is where Kipling wrote the Jungle Book and most of Captains Courageous. By this time Caroline was pregnant and Kipling’s first child, Josephine, was also born here.

In 1897, Kipling and his wife returned to England and amongst other poetry and stories, he published Captains Courageous. Kipling was a prolific writer, but some of his poems and short stories quickly became surrounded in controversy. The poem, The White Man’s Burden created much debate when it was first published as it was sometimes regarded as propaganda for imperialism and racism. The height of his popularity peaked around the early 20th century, but he soon started to become unpopular in many literary circles because of his perceived defence of Western imperialism.

In 1907 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature, and he was offered knighthood and the position of poet laureate, which he both rejected. Even through criticism, Kipling’s works have remained popular and have garnered praise as some of the great works of Western literature.

Kipling died in 1939 and is buried in Poet’s Corner in Westminster Abbey in London England.

Some Other Works by Rudyard Kipling

Books & Short Stories


Into the Movies

In 1950 a film adaptation of the novel was produced by Leon Gordon and Victor Saville. Additionally, another film version of Kim was made in 1984, which starred many great English actors such as Peter O’Toole, Bryan Brown and John Rhys-Davies among others.

Did you know?

Kipling SwastikaThe swastika is printed on many older editions of Kipling’s books. While the swastika’s original Indian meaning of the sign was of good luck and well-being, in the 1930’s was mistakenly believed to mean that Kipling sympathized with the Nazi party. However, the Nazi party did not adopt the swastika until 1920 and Kipling required that the engraver remove the swastika from the printing block before the Nazi’s took power. Kipling did not want to be thought of as supporting the Nazi’s, and in 1935 Kipling gave a speech warning that Nazi Germany was a danger to Britain.

Reading Guide

  1. For decades many critics have shown great disdain for Kipling, equating his work with the idea that British imperialism was a righteous and justified act. Is this assessment fair? Was Kipling simply writing what he knew or structuring his literature on his political beliefs?
  2. As Kim moves from the intellectual world of school to the spiritual world he finds with the lama later in the story, he continually questions who he is. Is this questioning simply that of a young orphan or does it hint at larger political unease?
  3. What is the purpose of the prophecy Kim brings to the soldiers?
  4. Is it surprising, given Kim’s spirituality, that he joins the Secret Service? How does he reconcile his two separate lives?
  5. In a 1943 essay, critic Edmund Wilson referred to the ending of Kim as a “betrayal” of the relationship of the old man and the young Kim, which made the book more literary than a mere adventure story. Do you agree with this? Why or why not?
  6. In her article “Adolescence, Imperialism, and Identity in Kim and Pegasus in Flight,” Nicole Didicher says, “Adults writing for adolescents inevitably use imperialist discourse to influence their readers’ maturation. Kipling . . . uses an existing imperialist society to present the protagonist’s establishment of his psychosocial identity.” Do you agree that all adult writers “inevitably” use imperialist discourse to reach their adolescent audiences? Did Kipling use imperialist India because that is what he knew, or was he simply entertaining a young audience?

Collectible Editions

Rudyard Kipling’s books are highly collectible. Look on AbeBooks to find a copy of Kim for your collection.