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Puck of Pook's Hill (and a Time Lord)

November 12th, 2008 (03:54 am)
current mood: insomniac

There once was a contrary and perhaps haughty child who disdained to read Kipling, whose work he associated with soldiers and other masculine role models which he felt older generations were trying to force upon him. So, it was not until somewhat later in his life, prompted by two people within a year, that he read Puck of Pook's Hill.

This really deserves a more detailed review; but Puck connects to so much of the fiction I have known, from the boys's stories set in castles, seemingly all written by various Treeces and Treases, which were in the class library when I was nine (I still have the list of books which I read at school, and I should trace them at some point) to the inevitable Doctor Who; I'd be surprised if Robert Holmes, with his Seekers and Seeleys and his fascination for language, didn't know Kipling's work (Holmes was youngest ever commissioned officer in his regiment in the Second World War, and served in Burma). Kipling's own description of this strand of his writing as "tales... to be read by children, before people realised that they were meant for grown-ups" has been recently echoed by Steven Moffat when explaining why he is the first to describe Doctor Who in the press as a children's series.

Kipling writes of colonised and coloniser and of the process of country-making which is the work of deep rivers - there is a golden river of Israel more powerful than the financial might wielded by the Jewish moneylenders of his last tale - as well as of sword and soldier. The recent cult of Brunel was anticipated by Kipling's engineer Hal o' the Draft. Empire dwarfs emperors and all things have their end; but there are little-noticed continuities among massive changes, like the mill, new in Puck's centurion friend Parnesius's day but ancient to the children Dan and Una. Kipling's Sussex landscape is contemporaneous with Tolkien's childhood Sarehole, and it fills out his evocations of it; the drainage of Romney Marsh is a feature of one story and shows that Kipling is just as concerned with the passing of old ways of life as Tolkien. The children's father, meanwhile, stands at the head of his own corner of rural society, much as Virginia planters in the late eighteenth century might have aspired to be heads of small colonies of free men, or closing their eyes to their slaves, believed themselves such.

Comments

(Deleted comment)
Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: November 12th, 2008 12:02 pm (UTC)

I'm not sure whether I really disdained Kipling; I just didn't like being told what to read...

I don't think Moffat does think he's the first to describe nuWho as a children's series - as you say, everyone has been doing it, including RTD. It's just that Moffat has been louder than most.

Posted by: Alice Dryden (huskyteer)
Posted at: November 12th, 2008 10:07 am (UTC)
Don Quixote

I only have vague memories of this - I should read it again. (I always liked the soldiery and jungly stuff, of course.)

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: November 12th, 2008 11:59 am (UTC)

I will have to look for the sequel, Rewards and Fairies.

Posted by: romancinger (romancinger)
Posted at: November 12th, 2008 05:24 pm (UTC)
me

Maybe not quite as good as 'Puck of Pook's Hill', but good. (I have loved Kipling from an early age.) I've thought for some time that Tolkien's hobbits owe something to Kipling's portrayal of Puck. (And then there is Old Hob, the countryman, too...)

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: November 12th, 2008 07:10 pm (UTC)

Agreed on both counts, and particularly with reference to Hobden, whose family represent the real continuity of the place.

Posted by: helflaed (helflaed)
Posted at: November 12th, 2008 10:22 am (UTC)

Try his poetry as well. It has a heck of a lot more bite to it than most people realise.

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: November 12th, 2008 11:56 am (UTC)

I picked up three volumes of Kipling's poetry at Oxfam a few weeks ago, though not the one which had actually been recommended to me by tree_and_leaf.

Posted by: muuranker (muuranker)
Posted at: November 12th, 2008 06:34 pm (UTC)

Gosh, had completely forgotten Pook of Pook's hill (although recognising it in Pratchett's _Hat Full of Sky_). Now I really want to read it again. Particularly enticed by that Jewish thread (when I was writing my thesis, the Jews kept turning up all over the place, and so rarely noticed).

You've got _Kim_ to come! I re-read this recently, and was astonished at the filters child readers are able to put in place. I thus had the pleasure of reading it for the first time twice.

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: November 12th, 2008 07:17 pm (UTC)

I've read little Pratchett, but might look up Hat Full of Sky after I've read a bit more Kipling. The Jewish thread is worth exploring, given that it's a Jewish character who forges the last in the chain of events which sees Weland's sword become Magna Charta. (Kipling's spellings)