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English Literature in Transition, 1880-1920 50.2 (2007) 192-209

"References," "Cross-References," and Notions of History in Kipling's Puck of Pook's Hilland Rewards and Fairies
Lisa A. F. Lewis
Wallingford, England

On 13 December 1910, Kipling wrote to his friend Edward Lucas White that in Rewards and Fairies (1910), sequel to his historical fantasy Puck of Pook's Hill (1906), there were "references and cross-references."1 In his autobiography Something of Myself he would say of the book:

since the tales had to be read by children, before people realised that they were meant for grown-ups; and since they had to be a sort of balance to, as well as a seal upon, some aspects of my "Imperialistic" output in the past, I worked the material in three or four overlaid tints and textures, which might or might not reveal themselves according to the shifting light of sex, youth, and experience. It was like working lacquer and mother o' pearl, a natural combination, into the same scheme as niello and grisaille, and trying not to let the joins show.2

Writing in 1912, Dixon Scott saw the two books as a welcome new development in Kipling's work: "a wonderful attempt to make his qualities cure their natural defects—to make sharpness and bright neatness produce their natural opposites—depth and shimmer and bloom." Scott judged Rewards and Fairies to be the best example of this new manner, seeing the stories as "a complex tissue" in several layers.3

Despite the critical attention that has already been paid to these layers and textures, there are still discoveries in the two books to be made. Close reading reveals how subtly Kipling insinuates opinions that are much more complex than those usually attributed to him as "bard of empire" and glorifier of war. When he writes of empires, it is not of the glories and rewards of conquest, but of how such empires may be ruled or lost. Power and wealth are less important than culture for Edwardian children to inherit, and history is an important part of that culture. But recorded history and commentary on that history can be [End Page 192] misleading or deceptive. Kipling empowers his readers to use their own perceptions to seek out historical truths, suggesting ways in which this might be achieved. As examples to be followed, he shows many kinds of heroism, but the heroes' victories are over themselves. This article will examine the methods by which he plants these ideas, some in one book, some in the other, and some in both, all adding "depth" as well as "shimmer and bloom."

One method he uses is "cross-references" between story and story, or between a story and a poem attached to it. T. S. Eliot, who included more poems from the Puck books in his A Choice ofKipling's Verse than from any of Kipling's other collections, observed that the relationships between poems and stories in his books are important to the various layers of meaning: "we must finally judge him, not separately as poet and as a writer of prose fiction, but as the inventor of a mixed form."4 In this way, Kipling creates running subtexts throughout each book. Another method is linking images and motifs. Both are techniques he would use again.5 It could be thought that the various images and motifs that will be described here were part of a subconscious process, but his description of the writing of Rewards and Fairies, quoted above, suggests otherwise.

* * *

Philip Mason perceived the image of iron in Rewards and Fairies as having three meanings: "the power of redemptive suffering," "the power of the sword," and "custom and drudgery." "Here are three kinds of power," he says, "that may affect a man's life. The link between these three odd bedfellows is the compulsion that is exercised on a man by his own sense...


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