Was Rudyard Kipling, author of classics like Kim and The Jungle, a Nazi?

The answer is no, but it’s a weird question, right? Why would I even ask that? Let me explain.

I’ve just started going through the fiction collection and one of the things that became clear pretty quickly is that there are a lot of old books, like early 1900’s to 1940’s old. Now, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing; old books are cool and can sometimes be beautifully illustrated or gilded. Even better, some may be rare first editions or signed. So, as I go through the collection, I’m making sure to look at each book for any sort of distinguishing characteristic. You can imagine my surprise, then, when I came across a copy of Rudyard Kipling’s book Life’s Handicap: Stories of Mine Own PeopleOn the page opposite the title page was this:

Whaaaaaaaaat?!!?!?

My first thought was, “Was Kipling, author of The Jungle and Kim, a Nazi? How come I didn’t know this?” Then I thought, “What a great reference question,” so I set off to find the answer.

Before I even started to look online, I looked at the book first. Why? Because the book will provide a publishing date which could answer my question pretty quickly. The original publishing date was 1891 which predates the Nazis by some time, however, this edition was published in 1917 which is slightly before the start creation of the Nazi party around 1920. While one could assume that since this edition of the book came first, that Kipling was not, in fact, a Nazi. However, what if he was one of the early supporters/adopters of the party?

Another giveaway is the actual symbol. Something about it looked different from the Nazi symbol. Even though I know what the Nazi symbol looks like (how else would I have thought to even ask myself the Kipling/Nazi question), I wanted to compare the two. If you take away the eagle and just look at the symbols, you’ll notice two differences:

  1. The Nazi symbol is rotated on edge.
  2. The Nazi symbol is going in a different direction.

So, things are starting to look promising for Mr. Kipling not being a Nazi. Still, I wanted a definitive answer. Hmmmm, where to go? Where to go?

THE INTERNET!

BUT NOT GOOGLE OR WIKIPEDIA!

WAIT, WHAT?!

Sure, I could just go on Google, type in, “Was Rudyard Kipling a Nazi?”, click on the Wikipedia link, and get my answer. To that I say, “LAZY!” Wikipedia is not considered a scholarly source and if you use it in a paper, you are opening yourself up to a terrible grade. Instead, we need something 100% credible.

That is where SweetSearch comes in. SweetSearch is like Google for students. Every link that you get back has been looked over and verified by teachers, librarians, professors, and people who know things. You don’t have to worry about faulty, incorrect, or obsolete information if you use SweetSearch; it is a good starting off point.

If I type in [Kipling nazi], I get back a page that looks like this:

kipling

At quick glance, we can see many references to Kipling and the Nazi symbol (swastika) from a few credible sources (most notably the BBC). Further reading into these links tells us that the swastika is derived from the Indian symbol for good luck and that Kipling was heavily influenced by Indian culture. Once the Nazis began to rise to power and co-opted the swastika, Kipling had the images removed and denounced the Nazi party.

Things we learned:

  • Rudyard Kipling was not a Nazi.
  • SweetSearch is a good tool for finding quality information.
  • Sometimes we can find preliminary answers to our questions from the source itself, in this case the publishing date.
  • Verified our information with more than one quality source.
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2 thoughts on “Was Rudyard Kipling, author of classics like Kim and The Jungle, a Nazi?

  1. great post! today i wished i had the guidance of this master librarian and reference guru. here’s why… i was helping my 9-year-old daughter create a study guide for an upcoming 4th grade science test on animal adaptions. she decided it would be fun to create a presentation in keynote with images of animals and their various adaptations (migration, hibernation, shelter, etc.) i tried to explain that we could not just “cut and paste” any ole images off the internet. yet somehow i couldn’t find a good “open” source of animal images. national geographic saved the day in the end, but it brought up a great question: what are the best online reference sites for a young student (or student of any age, really), and how best to explain what flowers one can appropriately pick in the vast field of online flora that is the “images” search engine on the web?

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