Born in British India, Rudyard Kipling wrote the classic story The Jungle Book before he was 30 years old. His writing juxtaposes the innocence of being a child with the cruelty of the world around him — and the comfort in finding kindness in unexpected places. Kipling’s quotes can guide readers to live a fulfilling life, even if they’re unlucky enough to grow up outside the jungle.
While Rudyard Kipling is primarily known as a children’s author, his works for adults reflect a sage consideration of the political climate at the turn of the 20th century. From commentary on World War I to a quiet reflection on building character, his words endure far past his lifetime.
“If you can fill the unforgiving minute / With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run / Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it, / And — which is more — you’ll be a Man, my son!” - “If—”
“When Earth’s last picture is painted and the tubes are twisted and dried, / When the oldest colours have faded, and the youngest critic has died, / We shall rest, and, faith, we shall need it— lie down for an æon or two, / Till the Master of All Good Workmen shall put us to work anew.” - “When Earth’s Last Picture is Painted”
“I Keep six honest serving-men: / (They taught me all I knew) / Their names are What and Where and When / And How and Why and Who.” - “The Elephant’s Child,” Just-So Stories
“To be your own man is a hard business. If you try it, you'll be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.” - Reader’s Digest, 1959
“For Fiction is Truth’s elder sister. Obviously. No one in the world knew what truth was till some one had told a story.” - quoted in Writings on Writing
“The truly healthy man doesn’t know he has a liver.” - The Light That Failed
“You mustn’t mind what other people do. If their souls were your soul, it would be different. You stand and fall by your own work, remember, and it’s waste of time to think of any one else in this battle.” - The Light That Failed
“I’d take any punishment that’s in store for him if I could; but the worst of it is, no man can save his brother.” - The Light That Failed
“Laughing through clouds, his milk-teeth still unshed, / Cities and men he smote from overhead. / His deaths delivered, he returned to play / Childlike, with childish things now put away.” - “Epitaphs of the War”
Kipling’s use of anthropomorphism places wise words in the mouths of mongooses, wolves, panthers, and bears. Children and adults alike can appreciate these wild (and shrewd) quotes coming from not-so-wild animals.
“The strength of the Pack is the Wolf, and the strength of the Wolf is the Pack.” - The Jungle Book
“Ye may kill for yourselves, and your mates, and your cubs as they need, and ye can; / But kill not for pleasure of killing, and SEVEN TIMES NEVER KILL MAN.” - The Second Jungle Book
“The Camel’s hump is an ugly lump / Which well you may see at the Zoo; / But uglier yet is the hump we get / From having too little to do.” - Just-So Stories
“The reason the beasts give among themselves is that Man is the weakest and most defenseless of all living things, and it is unsportsmanlike to touch him.” - The Jungle Book
“Bagheera gave him half a dozen love-taps from a panther’s point of view (they would hardly have waked one of his own cubs), but for a seven-year-old boy they amounted to as severe a beating as you could wish to avoid.” - The Jungle Book
“I will go out until the day, until the morning break— / Out to the wind’s untainted kiss, the water’s clean caress; / I will forget my ankle-ring and snap my picket stake. / I will revisit my lost loves, and playmates masterless!” - The Jungle Book
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