Friday, March 4, 2011

Classic Lit: The Man Who Would Be King by Rudyard Kipling

The Man Who Would Be King tells the story of Danny Dravot and Peachy Carnehan, two English adventurers/entrepreneurs who set off for Kafiristan - a region in what is now Afghanistan - with the goal of becoming kings of the native population. The narrator of the story, a newspaperman, does not hear from the men for two years, until an ill, nearly insane Carnehan comes creeping back. What happened to the duo in Kafiristan? Did their plan work and, if it did, what caused the downfall of Dravot and Carnehan?

This story falls under the category of "lost world" or "lost race" fiction. Kafiristan is inhabited by whites who have a forgotten history of Masonic lore (that was probably the most interesting, and strangest, part of the story). I was actually rather disappointed after finishing The Man Who Would Be King. It seemed to be just a variation on King Solomon's Mines (H. Rider Haggard, 1885), and a really short one at that. Kipling would actually have made the story more interesting if he had stretched it out, given more details of Dravot and Carnehan's journey and experiences. I was surprised at how short it was and how little I got from reading it.

My copy of The Man Who Would Be King is the Signet edition of 1975, which I obtained from my parents' bookshelf. The story was originally published in Kipling's 1888 collection The Phantom Rickshaw and Other Eerie Tales.

1 comment:

  1. I have always had an interest in reading the book or poem of Man Who Would Be King, besides watching John Huston's film adaptation of Rudyard Kipling's story!!!