Sunday, July 1, 2007

Rudyard Kipling's "Great Game": Kim, Spy Stories, and "The Spies March"

Rudyard Kipling's "Great Game": Kim, Spy Stories, and "The Spies March"

By Wesley Britton

In his 2004 review of Frederick P. Hitz' The Great Game: The Myth and Reality of Espionage, Alexander Hemon noted that Hitz was clearly aware of the seminal importance of Rudyard Kipling's Kim (1901). After all, Hitz drew his title from the famous phrase usually associated with Kipling--"The Great Game." Then, Hemon's review included the very arguable claim that Kim was "the first modern spy novel" as it "uses espionage to go after something immeasurably bigger then the technicalities of collecting intelligence." Kipling's Kimball O’Hara, Hemon noted, "was part of the struggle for Central Asia between the Russian and British empires known as the Great Game." Merging a spiritual quest with espionage, the story of Kim is about a boy who "becomes a challa (pupil) to a Buddhist lama, which, after he is recruited [by the British Secret Service], becomes a perfect cover" for a spy mission.

Still, Hemon believed "Kim is really not primarily about spying. Kipling's book is about a whole set of issues crucial to the British colonial discourse, and the spying in it allows them to come into focus. The book is about becoming a perfect British subject, about the ways in which the (moral) project of "civilization" affects an individual psyche . . . Kim's quest is about accepting his responsibility toward the Empire and its subjects—Kim is about a white boy's burden." (Hemon)

Of course, this is but one interpretation of the novel seen through many critical lenses, sometimes praised as the first post-Colonial novel, sometimes blasted as Jingoist propaganda. But, being a book dealing with a variety of themes and motifs, and, in Hemon's view, "not really about spying," can Kim really be considered the first modern spy novel? While the claim for this honor has been given to many books--most frequently to John Buchan's 1915 The 39 Steps--occasional mentions of the Kipling story do occur in discussions of espionage literature. (note 1) For example, Bruce Schneier quoted an uncited review of Kim which allegedly claimed, "Kipling packed a great deal of information and concept into his stories, and in `Kim' we find The Great Game: espionage and spying. Within the first twenty pages we have authentication by something you have, denial of service, impersonation, stealth, masquerade, role- based authorization (with ad hoc authentication by something you know), eavesdropping, and trust based on data integrity. Later on we get contingency planning against theft and cryptography with key changes." Thus, Kipling can be viewed as a "security author." (Schneier)

So it seems worthwhile to explore Kim and determine its place--if any--in the genre of spy literature. At the same time, an overview of Kipling's short stories employing espionage show more early uses of "The Great Game." And a look at a 1911 Kipling poem, "The Spies March," may reveal, uniquely, that Kipling might have been the first to scribe spy verse.

A Spy Kid in India

The first question to answer is clearly--was Kim a spy novel at all, especially as the story has lengthy sections with no overt connections to spycraft? Despite critical views downplaying the undercover elements of the book, Ian Mackean's analysis points to the espionage plot as one of the two main threads running through the book. One is Kim's mentoring by a Buddhist monk on his own spiritual quest; this parallels another education for Kim who is singled out by Colonel Creighton for recruitment into the Secret Service.

This begins in Lahore where Mahbub Ali, a horse trader with the secret code name C25 1b, gave the 13-year-old Kim a cryptic message to deliver to a British officer in Umballa. As Mackean notes, "Kim takes to the 'Great Game' of spying like a duck to water." It suits his independent, inquisitive, adventurous personality perfectly, being a natural
development for the child who loved the 'game' of running secret missions across the rooftops of Lahore. As Kipling stated in Chapter One, "what he loved was the game for its own sake - the stealthy prowl through the dark gullies and lanes, the crawl up a water-pipe . . . the headlong flight from housetop to housetop under cover of the hot dark." (Mackean) Not knowing that Mahbub was a member of the British Secret Service, Kim delivered the message as directed and then lay in the grass and watched and listened until he learned that his message meant that eight thousand men would go to war. Later, he learns of the mission's success when Mahbub tells him, "The game is well played. That war is done now and the evil we hope nipped before the flower, thanks to me and thee." (Mackean)

Kim is not involved with the Secret Service again until the final sentences of Chapter Eight when Mahbub instructs Kim on where to go for training, saying "Here begins the Great Game." Until that point, Kim traveled with the lama before finding a Irish regiment that removed the orphan from the holy man's care and sends him to a school for white children. There, he specialised in surveying and map-making, "essential skills for his future role as a spy." Thereafter, he is answerable to Colonel Creighton--rarely on stage--and agents Mahbub Ali, Babu, and Lurgan who trains him in the art and science of spying.

During his education, as Kim had grown up essentially a dark-skinned orphan in India, his identity was a fusion of East and West. So, in Mackean's view, the twin influences of the lama and the spymasters are equal forces in forging the boy's identity. "When his schooling is complete Kim's training as a spy under Creighton's associates continues, one of his teachers being the 'shaib' Lurgan . . . During his stay with Lurgan in Chapter 9, as well as practising the observation test now known as 'Kim's game', Kim is subjected to a psychological test in which Lurgan tries, through hypnotism, to make him believe that a broken jug has reconstituted itself." Kim resists Lurgan's attempts to manipulate his mind by silently reciting the mathematical tables he learned at school. "Kipling seems to be showing that much as Kim found the ordered regimented thinking of white men repellent at first, the mental discipline he has absorbed from his European schooling has given him an ability to keep control of his mind in a way that would not have been possible for a native. This ability, no doubt, would be vital if he were ever captured and interrogated by enemy spies." (Mackean)

So, on one hand, the lama instructs Kim in the Buddhist philosophy of renouncing attachments to earthly bonds. Likewise, "As a spy, Kim will also have to renounce ordinary life. He will lead a life of disguise and deception, never able to reveal his true motives to anyone . . . And just as the lama's mission will only be understood by a select few among Buddhist holy men, Kim's mission will only be understood by a select few among the British Secret
Service." (Mackean)

One episode not summarized by Mackean occurred in Chapter 11 after Kim leaves with the llama and encounters another agent, known only as E 23, on a train. The two spies recognize each other after seeing each other's identification amulets and, surprisingly, E 23 isn't surprised to discover a contact but 17 years old. Once Kim realizes E 23 has a message for him, he leans forward to hear the whispered report, "his heart nearly choking him. This was the Great Game with a vengeance." Carrying a secret letter, E 23 is in disguise, on the run as he's accused of murder. Strangely, it's the younger agent who aids the more experienced spy by helping him quickly prepare a new disguise that fools the local police.

Later, again on the road with the llama, Kim encounters Babu who assigns him to join his mission to intercept two foreign spies, one Russian, one French, who are operating in the Himalayas. Babu meets up with the spies and travels with them while Kim and the llama travel on the same route. After the two parties meet up, one of the spies tears the lama's diagram of the Buddhist universe, then strikes him in the face. Kim is provoked into fighting him. This leads to a mutiny of the foreign spies' coolies, which sends everyone off into different directions. As a result, Kim is able to find and hide the spies' secret documents. "Kim is instrumental, along with the Babu, in thwarting the foreign spies, their mission being particularly successful because the foreign spies never realize that Kim and the Babu are secret agents - as far as they know their expedition has been wrecked by a chance encounter with a holy man and his young disciple . . . This fight and Kim's triumph will be a coup for Kim which will surely secure his career as a spy." (Mackean)

"The Great Game" and "Mcguffins"

Clearly, much of Kim was very much a spy adventure. However, Mackean's observations indicating Kim had a future in espionage are questionable. In the final chapter, the llama and Mahbub Ali discuss Kim's future, and Mahbud leaves the boy with the llama who sees Kim as a likely teacher. The final paragraphs are of the llama talking to Kim about purifying him in the River of Life, not of "The Great Game."

But the question remains--does the use of espionage in a story with a wider palate drawing from historic, realistic settings mean it's a "modern spy novel"? And if so, can Kim be considered "first" due to its copyright date of 1901?

Of course, spy literature--at its best--is rarely a simple yarn about heroic figures who beat the odds behind enemy lines, in embassies during the Cold War, or infiltrating terrorist cells. To use John Le Carre's term, "The furniture of espionage" allowed writers like Le Carre' and Graham Greene to use spies to illustrate and dramatize wider themes. In the case of Kim, critics point to ideological concerns, notably in the novel's conclusion. "The novel’s end provides no clear answer for Kim or for the reader. Although in the last chapter Kim tells the lama, `I am not a Sahib, I am thy chela,' it seems obvious the great game has not released Kim." (Mahony) Citing Sara Suleri, J. Birjepatil wrote, "Kim's collaboration in the Great Game is emblematic of not so much an absence of conflict as the terrifying absence of choice in the operations of colonialism. Thus Kim's hybridity instead of serving as locus of conflict pragmatically becomes an instrument of the Great Game." (Birjepatil) And the Game, at least in the words of Babu, has no end. "When everyone is dead, The Great Game is finished, not before."

From another angle, "The learning curve in Kim also applies to the lama. He has been made to see that the spiritual life is indebted for its protection to the real world. His question: `What profit to kill men?' had received a sensible, down to earth answer: `Very little — as I know; but if evil men were not now and then slain it would not be a good world for weaponless dreamers.'" Further, Sharad Kestar claims, "The thirteen year old street Arab is at seventeen wise beyond his years, and though he will join the `Great Game', the lama has not lost him. So too, the cares of the Raj will take their `turn' on the “Wheel of Things”. The impact of their machinations are only as the click of beads in a Buddhist rosary, and the prayers which see all, forgive all." (Kestar) In Kestar's view, "On India’s chequered board, Kim’s protagonists are pawns, and in the end their lives are games to be played out." Without the mystical dimensions, such views point to character elements in later spy stories from Somerset Maugham onward, that undercover operatives are less independent adventurers than pawns in wider vistas, the strings pulled by faraway bureaucrats and policy makers.

However, to view Kim O'Hara as anyone's pawn may be placing the character in a context of critical agendas more so than anything within the text. For one example, when Kim helps agent E 23 on the train, the llama warns him he has tossed a pebble that will ripple into many directions. This prophecy is fulfilled when the agent safely escapes to Delhi, an innocent man is pulled in for questioning by the authorities, and, when the train reaches Kim's last destination, "the last ripple of the stone Kim had helped to heave was lapping against the steps of a mosque in faraway Rome." Throughout the novel, once Kim has completed his formal education he acts instinctively, correctly, and is as likely to give advice to his supervisors as hear it. When Babu, for example, worries about ways to get the documents from the French and Russian spies, it's Kim who retorts, "There are more ways of getting to a sweetheart than butting down a wall."

One reason it's difficult to portray Kim as a pawn is that he is not caught up in affairs of the state nor is operating from any driven motives. In the view of Feroza Jussawalla, "Kim has no allegiance to the British, to Colonel Creighton or the war effort. He is simply in it for the adventure and fun. Kim was singled out as his mentors noted his "lust to go abroad," his willingness to risk his life to "discover news," and, as Largan tells him, "seek out "men who have done a foolishness against the state." Few, Largan believes, are good at this sort of work--Kim is a rare breed.

In literary terms, The orphan is akin to the "Clubland" heroes who enjoyed the sporting life of upper-class British gentlemen in the stories of Buchan, Dornford Yates, and Sapper. In stories where protagonists are "pawns," typically they are either innocent civilians pulled into nasty business against their will or are professional operatives who learn they've been duped by higher powers. This isn't the case for Kim and the adventurers of his era. He shares the same spirit as men like the colorful founder of the modern British Secret Service, Mansfield George Smith Cumming, who made the famous 1909 cheerful boast that espionage was “a capital sport!” This attitude was reflected in the words of the even more colorful secret agent, The Scarlet Pimpernel: "I've got a smack in the eye, and I've become engaged in sport. And what a sport! What a game." (Britton 8-9) This idea of spying and gamesmanship would be a recurring motif in, notably, the Bond novels where games of chance, golf, and working through mazes made sportsmanship a staple of British fiction and later television and films. In this light, Kim indeed reflected contemporary attitudes regarding "The Great Game."

Still, other works preceded Kim and vie for the claim of first modern spy novel. It's true, as Kingsley Amis put it, that realism wasn't yet the point for most spy stories at the beginning of the Twentieth Century. For him, the pre-007 spy genre began "with the almost completely free-lance status of a Bulldog Drummond" and William Le Queux's Duckworth Drew (Amis 2). Drew's early adventures were precursors to later adventures focused on new technology as when he encountered an "electronic eye," an Italian device that detonated mines (Amis 2). In addition, Le Queux's novel, The Great War in England in 1897 (1894 was an early example of literary speculations about an invasion of England. The Secret Service (1896) dealt with Jews in Russia, and England's Pearl (1899) was an early novel shifting British fears from the French to Germany. Despite the extremely minor literary contributions of these fanciful adventures, Le Queux can be seen as a logical predecessor to Tom Clancy and the sub-genre of "speculative fiction" that became popular in the 1980s and 1990s (Britton 9).

At the same time, fellow UK novelist A. E. W. Mason's The Courtship of Morrice Buckler (1896) also fared better with contemporary critics more so than in hindsight. One reviewer, then, claimed this book put Mason "in the forefront of cloak and dagger writers." (McCormick 134). More successful, in terms of output, was E. Phillips Oppenheim who produced 115 novels and 39 short story collections, many of which were Edwardian spy stories emphasizing gambling and secret diplomacy as in The Mysterious Mr. Sapine (1898). Praised by John Buchan as his "master in fiction," Oppenheim spiced up his tales with local color in major city settings as in Mr. Grex of Monte Carlo (1915). Oppenheim was also later lauded by Eric Ambler as one of the earliest outstanding writers of cloak and dagger stereotypes including "the black-velveted seductress, the British Secret Service numbskull hero, the omnipotent spymaster," and the appeal to the snobbery of readers of the era (McCormick 144).

So, nailing down just which book deserves the title of "first modern spy novel" must remain an open question, the answer depending on just how one defines "modern." Critics vary widely determining the characteristics demonstrating trends, contexts, eras, and trappings. Still, while admitting Kim is not primarily a spy novel, John Derbyshire observed that biographer Andrew Lycett "repeats the story, which I have heard elsewhere, that Kim is a cult book among spies; Allen Dulles, it is said, used to keep a copy beside his bed. I hope this is true--I mean, it would be nice to think that our intelligence operatives have such good literary taste." (Derbyshire) (note 2)

Kim certainly has one advantage over many of the titles and authors listed above as it is still in print, still read, and considered, if nothing else, a children's classic. But it seems clear Kipling deserves more credit for his many contributions to the genre that have been often overlooked by critics. For one matter, while it's now common practice to use the phrase, "The Great Game" as a virtual euphemism for espionage, before Kipling, the term had different connotations. The phrase, usually attributed to Arthur Conolly, was first used to describe the rivalry and strategic conflict between the British and the Tsarist Russian Empires for supremacy in Central Asia, specifically in Afghanistan. According to Wikipedia, "The classic Great Game period is generally regarded as running from approximately 1813 to the Anglo-Russian Convention of 1907. Following the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 a second, less intensive phase followed." (The Wikipedia entry includes a chronology of significant events during both periods.) "Thanks in part to Rudyard Kipling, mention of `The Great Game' conjured up images of dashing heroism in the Wilds of the Afghanistan Mountains. While this romanticism was certainly a part of the game, it was more often played by politicians in London and St. Petersburg than by adventurers in the steppe." ("Great Game"-Information)

As it happened, Kipling made another indirect contribution to espionage nomenclature. While his story of a talking locomotive, ".007" (1897) might have been a possible influence on Ian Fleming's children's story, Chitty, Chitty--Bang Bang, (this is but surmise), there's no likely connection between that fantasy and the code-number given James Bond. However, as reported in my Beyond Bond: Spies in Film and Fiction (2005), film director Alfred Hitchcock claimed seeds for his own spy projects, most notably his famous "McGuffins," came from the writings of Kipling. "Most of Kipling's stories," Hitchcock said in 1967, "were set in India and they dealt with the fighting between the natives and the British forces on the Afgan-Istan border. Many of them were spy stories and they were concerned with the efforts to steal the secret plans out of a fortress. The theft of secret documents was the original `McGuffin.'" (Truffaut and Scott 98) Beginning in the 1930s, Hitchcock made such McGuffins stables in his films, describing them as "the device, the gimmick . . . or the papers the spies are after." (98) Ironically, during the same decade, in 1937 Kim Philby--who reportedly was given the name "Kim" after the character in Kipling's novel--began his long career as a double-agent in British intelligence, setting up the foundations for the infamous "Cambridge Spy Ring." (Britton 29)

Short Stories

Interestingly, of the five published Kipling short stories with espionage tropes, none fully match the elements described by Hitchcock. Critical responses to them, to date, would seem to support editor Alan Furst's contention in his introduction to his 2003 The Book of Spies: An Anthology of Literary Espionage that there are apparently few classic spy short stories (Miller39). Instead, the book showed that the best espionage fiction seemed to be in full-length novels with developed and intertwining plot lines, complex characters, and situations requiring elements beyond what can be found in genres like detective or science-fiction stories. As Furst's collection relied on chapters from novels and few bona fide short stories so popular when Kipling and later figures such as Dornford Yates and Leslie Charteris contributed to magazines in the first half of the century, perhaps spy short fiction was not fairly addressed in the anthology. Putting literary merit aside, it still can be said that Kipling, after quasi-espionage stories by Doyle and Poe, and along with writers like E. Phillips Oppenheim, deserves acknowledgement as being among the earliest scribers of the secret agent short story genre.

For example, Kipling's first two spy stories were included in the collection, Life's Handicap (1891). According to John Radcliffe, "The Man Who Was" (1890) has "to do with a British officer who had been captured in Russia on an intelligence mission and escaped many years later." (Radcliffe) In notes on the story edited by John McGivering, the "story first Appeared in Macmillan’s Magazine of April 1890." Frederick Kinsey Peile adapted it for the stage and it was performed at Drury Lane in London in 1907. McGivering added, "This story reflects the powerful feeling, shared by soldiers and civilians in British India, that they faced a serious threat from Imperial Russia, which at that time was extending its power and influence south and east into Asia." ("New Reader") (note 3) Whether a direct influence or not, the story's title was also the first in a long series of "The Man Who . . . " spy books and films from G. K. Chesterson's The Man Who Was Thursday (1908) to Ewen Montagu's The Man Who Never Was (1953) to the two versions of Alfred Hitchcock's The Man Who Knew Too Much.

According to Douglas Kerr, “The Man Who Was” shows one side of the army, "the rituals and loyalty and gentlemanly self-restraint of regimental officers; "The Mutiny of the Mavericks" has a different focus (Kerr). John McGivering says the low regarded farce, also from Life's Handicap, deals with a secret Irish republican organisation, based in America, aiming to ferment mutiny against the British among Irish soldiers of the British army. "They send an agent, Mulcahy, who joins up in the 'Mavericks' and does all he can to stir up feeling against the authorities." The soldiers recognise Mulcahy for what he is, and reject his attempts to provoke a mutiny. Then, when they are sent into battle, the agent provocateur learns he has failed in his mission and will die either at the hands of the enemy or by his alleged comrades and is killed in the fight ("New Readers")

The third spy adventure, according to John Radcliffe, was "A Burgher of the Free State" which was first "published in the London Daily Express weekly from June 26 to July 4 1900 . . . It was not collected until the Sussex Edition which was published after Kipling's death in 1936. It has to do with South Africa at the time of the Boer War." (Radcliffe)

Due to the extensive use of naval details, Commander Alastair Wilson and Rear-Admiral P.W. Brock provided extensive notes regarding "The Bonds of Discipline" 1903) which appeared in a variety of publications. it seems that Kipling was working on it in November, 1899 and perhaps the story "was suggested by an actual incident, which received little publicity at the time and was not recorded for posterity." ("New Readers") In this comic tale, A French spy's cover is blown when he looks for secrets about a British ship. The captain decides to "bamboozle the Frenchman by putting on a show of total incompetence, and, loyally backed up by the crew, proceeds to put the plan into action for 24 hours. At the end of that time, the Frenchman is passed on to a providential collier, where he will have to work his passage. But he later reproduces all the
misleading actions to which he has been exposed as fact, and publishes them." According to Wilson:

"In some ways, the tale may be considered almost as one of Kipling’s tales of revenge. Nationally, our relations with France, at the time the tale was started
(1899), were strained, to say the least (the incident at Fashoda, in the Sudan, had occurred only the previous year). So, at one level, the tale is of Britannia pulling the wool over the eyes of the `Frogs.'" ("New Readers")

"The Spies March"

The last of Kipling's short stories with an espionage connection was "The Edge of the Evening" which appeared in 1913, collected in A Diversity of Creatures. In this comic yarn, an American millionaire tells a British friend about an evening when an enemy bi-plane unexpectedly lands at a country estate. After a shoot-out with various English gentlemen, two aviators are killed. The group learns the two fliers were spies and ponder how to avoid a court trial for the murder. After prolonged debate and a mock trial of themselves, they put the dead spies back in the plane, set it off, and it flies off to an unknown destination, presumably crashing in the channel. (note 4)

Two years earlier, Kipling published the much more serious "The Spies March," a unique poem often interpreted to be about the role of the spy in war. The eight stanza refrain first appeared in The Literary Pageant: A Charity Magazine issued July 12, 1911 in aid of Prince Francis of the Teck Memorial fund for Middlesex Hospital. Apparently, one inspiration for the poem was an "Extract from a private letter from Manchuria" as Kipling used the following as a motto for the poem:

“The outbreak is in full swing and our death-rate would sicken Napoleon . . . . Dr. M— died last week, and C— on Monday, but some more medicines are coming. . . We don’t seem to be able to check it at all . . . . Villages panicking badly . . . . In some places not a living soul . . . . But at any rate the experience gained may come in useful, so I am keeping my notes written up to date in case of accidents . . . Death is a queer chap to live with for steady company.”

According to Kipling expert John Radcliffe, why the writer used this note is not clear and, to date, few critics have commented on the poem. "It was written when Kipling was very conscious of the danger of war in Europe and the need to prepare for it, and - one assumes - to be alert to the possible infiltration of spies into England." (Radcliffe) Kipling librarian John Walker adds the poem was probably instigated by Sir John Bland-Sutton, Kipling's close friend and physician for many
years, who "was associated with Middlesex Hospital. Presumably at Bland Sutton's request, Kipling contributed `The Spies' March'" To the Literary Pageant (Walker). It was later collected in The Years Between (1919). The text reads:

The Spies’ March

THERE are no leaders to lead us to honour, and yet with out leaders we
sally, Each man reporting for duty alone, out of sight, out of reach, of his
fellow.There are no bugles to call the battalions, and yet without bugle we rally
>From the ends of the earth to the ends of the earth, to follow the Standard
of Yellow!

Fall in! O fall in! O fall in!

Not where the squadrons mass,
Not where the bayonets shine,
Not where the big shell shout as they pass
Over the firing-line;
Not where the wounded are,
Not’ where the nations die,
Killed in the cleanly game of war—
That is no place for a spy!
O Princes, Thrones and Powers, your work is less than ours—
Here is no place for a spy!
Trained to another use,
We march with colours furled,
Only concerned when Death breaks loose
On a front of half a world.
Only for General Death
The Yellow Flag may fly,
While we take post beneath—
That is the place for a spy.
Where Plague has spread his pinions over Nations and Dominions—
Then will be work for a spy!

The dropping shots begin,
The single funerals pass,
Our skirmishers run in,
The corpses dot the grass!
The howling towns stampede,
The tainted hamlets die.
Now it is war indeed—
Now there is room for a spy!
O Peoples, Kings and Lands, we are waiting your commands—
What is the work for a spy?
(Drums)—Fear is upon us, spy!

“Go where his pickets hide—
Unmask the shape they take,
Whether a gnat from the waterside,
Or a stinging fly in the brake,
Or filth of the crowded street,
Or a sick rat limping by,
Or a smear of spittle dried in the heat—
That is the work of a spy!
(Drums)—Death is upon us, spy!

“What does he next prepare?
Whence will he move to attack?—
By water, earth or air?—
How can we head him back?
Shall we starve him out if we burn
Or bury his food-supply?
Slip through his lines and learn—
That is work for a spy!
(Drums)—Get to your business, spy!

“Does he feint or strike in force?
Will he charge or ambuscade?
What is it checks his course?
Is he beaten or only delayed?
How long will the lull endure?
Is he retreating? Why?
Crawl to his camp and make sure—
That is the work for a spy!
(Drums)—Fetch us our answer, spy!

“Ride with him girth to girth
Wherever the Pale Horse wheels
Wait on his councils, ear to earth,
And say what the dust reveals.
For the smoke of our torment rolls
Where the burning thousands lie;
What do we care for men’s bodies or souls?
Bring us deliverance, spy!”

While the subject of "The Spies March" might seem, at first glance, about espionage, John Walker offers a different interpretation. "I think that this is one of the `layered' pieces he enjoyed so much. The Society of Epidemiologists (originally a wartime group, I think) adopted part of the poem as theirs, interpreting the spies as
those needed in the battle against disease. Remember, this was written for a hospital fund raising publication, and for the Middlesex, where epidemiology was a specialty. It is
fever, and not the fight." (Walker) To support this interpretation, in "Kipling and Medicine - Sanitation," Gillian Sheehan connected the extract from the letters heading the poem to Kipling's lifelong concern with proper sanitation (Sheehan). Putting the poem in this context, the stanzas clearly take on different meanings than commonly assumed. With this reading, espionage becomes metaphor giving readers a "layer" that was not the central theme of "The Spies March."


"Famed Spectacular Adventure Story Filmed Against Authentic Backgrounds in Mystic India The Greatest Spy Thriller of Them All!"
(Tag line for 1951 film version of Kim)

Lest film buffs fear the movie adaptations of Kipling's spy stories have been slighted here, it's worth noting that on January 26, 1951, MGM released its lush on-location version of Kim giving top billing to screen swashbuckler, Errol Flynn. The actor played Mahbub Ali, the Red Beard, despite the relatively minor role played by the character in the novel. Dean Stockwell was Kim and Paul Lukas played the Lama, the latter to mixed reviews for his credibility in the part. Telescoping the novel, the plot focused on Kim disguising himself as an Indian to avoid school and indulge in some espionage for the British, via Errol Flynn's shady horse-trading. In 1984, a made-for-television movie headlined Peter O'Toole as the Lama and young Indian actor Ravi Sheth as Kim. Most reviewers found this version truer to the letter and spirit of the novel, albeit with an inserted sub-plot not in the novel involving a British soldier and his Indian wife.



1. Robin W. Winks noted how the novels of Buchan established the template for subsequent spy fiction in his introduction to The collection of Buchan's The Four Adventures of Richard Hannay: The 39 Steps, Green Mantle, Mr. Standfast, The Three Hostages. (Boston: D. R. Godine. 1988). I developed the concepts in both Spy Television (2004) and Beyond Bond, listed below.

2. In an April 10, 2007 personal e-mail to this author, writer Ron Payne claims, "John Huston, with whom I used to correspond when he lived in Mexico, discussed 'the spy elements' in Kipling and how he wanted to work some of it into his original script of 'The Man Who Would Be King.' After all, he did have James Bond (Sean Connery) and Harry Palmer (Michael Caine) in the leads. Huston loved Kipling and considered himself a 'Kiplingesque hero,' as he really saw himself as a cross between 'Danny Dravot' and 'Peachy Carnahan.'

3. Notes, resources, and links for "The Man Who Was," "The Mutiny of the Mavericks," and "The Bonds of Discipline" are included at "The New Readers Guide" listed below.

4. According to Lisa Lewis in her "The Manuscript of Kim," Kipling abandoned another potential spy adventure. "Mother Maturin" was the story of an old Irish woman who
kept an opium den in Lahore but sent her daughter to be educated in England. She marries a Civilian and comes to live in Lahore - hence a story how Government
secrets came to be known in the Bazaar and vice versa. The character would be used in a film script, drafted by Kipling around 1920 together with an American film director, Randolph Lewis, to be called ‘The Gate of a Hundred Sorrows’. The film was never made, but in an attempt to drum up interest Lewis leaked its plot to the New York Times, who published a summary on 29 April 1923. See the full article at the "New Readers Guide" cited below.


Amis, Kingsley. The James Bond Dossier. New York: New American Library. 1965.

Birjepatil, J. " Hybridity And History In Rudyard Kipling." Marlboro College. - 29k -

Britton, Wesley. Beyond Bond: Spies in Film and Fiction. Westport, CT: Praeger Pub. 2005.

Derbyshire, John. "Rudyard Kipling & The God of Things as They Are" New Criterion 18, no. 7 (March 2000): 5-13.

Hemon, Alexander. "The timely anxieties of spy literature." Slate magazine. Monday, June 14, 2004.

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