GUNGA DIN by Rudyard Kipling


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In his introduction to this picture-book version of one of Kipling's best-known poems, Kingsley Amis describes the British soldier who narrates it in Cockney accents: "". . .coarse and ignorant. . .but capable of loyalty, unselfishness, compassion, and even respect for individuals of other races--not very common a hundred years ago."" This is a difficult poem, even for adults (how many can decipher ""An' you're sent to penny-fights an' Aldershot it""?). And the difficulty is compounded by the several levels of prejudice--Kipling compassionately condescending to the soldier who compassionately condescends to the water carrier who saves his life. Only a mature reader equipped with the history of imperialist Britain will be able to sort it all out enough to accept a phrase like ""for all his dirty 'ide/'E was white, clear white, inside."" Parker's splendid watercolors (with added gouache) are obviously a labor of love, bringing the grim, dusty world of these dogged soldiers and their belatedly dredge to life. Though not essential, this edition does serve to elucidate the final, oft-quoted phrase: ""You're a better man than I am, Gunga Din!

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1987
Page count: 32pp
Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich