Here is the latest story on my Learn English Through Story channel.
The Rhinoceros has lovely skin that fits just right. But what happens when he spies a cake that Man has just made? A special cake with currants and plums in it…
A fresh, new retelling of the classic Just So Story from the author of the Jungle Book, Rudyard Kipling. Written over a hundred years ago. it has been re-written, illustrated and told by British children’s author and illustrator, Shoo Rayner, to bring it up to date with more modern ideas, language and idioms while keeping all the essential language of the original.
On wednesday, followinging on from yesterday’s blog, I visited Batemans, a National Trust property in Kent that was once the home of the Nobel Prize-winning writer, Rudyard Kipling – who wrote the Jungle book.
He also wrote the Just So Stories. I loved those stories so much as a child, that I ended up re-writing them to make them easier for children of today to understand.
It was a wonderful job. I could feel Kipling breathing down my neck, checking that I was doing the right thing by his masterpiece.
I removed a lot of high Victorian language and whimsy, revealing fresh, modern writing underneath. I also had to rewrite some bits which have become politically incorrect over the years, since the British Empire waned.
Kipling is often criticised these days for the attitudes expressed in some of his writing, but I honestly don’t think Kipling was racist, especially for the time he lived in. He always wrote warmly of India and it’s peoples, but there are one or two words and attitudes, that were acceptable at the time, that I had to “smooth out” for today’s sensibilities.
The Just So Stories are written for and addressed to “My Best-Beloved”. This was Kipling’s daughter, Josephine. She died of pneumonia when she was six. Kipling had pneumonia at the same time. They didn’t tell him for six weeks, until he was strong enough to hear the awful news.
That story has always affected me. Finding myself in front of things that belonged to Josephine caught me quite by surprise – a very emotional moment.