Thanks to the new Disney Channel on Foxtel I saw the Jungle Book all over again recently. Last night I watched The Man Who Would Be King. Both are films based on stories by Rudyard Kipling. As my children observed, apart from the fact that both are based on really good stories, the films are really entertaining as well. Jungle Book seems to be filmed only recently and yet it is forty seven years old. On the other hand The Man Who Would Be King was filmed comparatively recently, in 1975 but deals with a subject which dates back to a short story Kipling wrote and AH Wheeler published in 1888 as part of a collection called the Indian Railway Library..
Kipling was adept at taking events he had heard of and people who really had existed and then weaving them with consummate skill into his stories. The Man Who Would be King was based on James Brooke, later the White Rajah of Sarawak and on Josiah Harlan, an American adventurer who was made the Prince of Ghor. The gory end, when Peachey brings Davot’s shrunken skull to Kipling in his newspaper office in Lahore was based on a true story of the return of the dismembered head of the German botanist Adolph Schlagintweit. The poor man had been beheaded on suspicion of being a Chinese spy by the Emir of Kashghar.
But the biggest accolades for Kipling came from Mark Twain, himself no slouch in the literary department. When told that Kipling was considered the greatest living writer of English, Twain said that it was sad that Kipling himself wished that he had written Twain’s Tom Sawyer; since he himself wished that he had written the Jungle Book.
The two geniuses in an advertisement for Old Crow Whiskey.