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The Man Who Would Be King and Other Stories (Oxford World's Classics) Paperback – August 1, 2008

4.4 out of 5 stars 165 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review


"An excellent collection with particularly thorough notes."--Professor M. Mackey, Ph.D., California State University, Sacramento


"A lovely little book."--James Dahl, West Georgia College


--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Joseph Rudyard Kipling (1865 1936) was an English short-story writer, poet, and novelist, who won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1907. His books include The Jungle Book and the Just So Stories.

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Product Details

  • Series: Oxford World's Classics
  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (August 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199536473
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199536474
  • Product Dimensions: 7.7 x 0.6 x 5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (165 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #484,085 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is a story about two con men in British Imperial India who cook up a scheme to make themselves kings in Afghanistan. One of Kipling's better short stories, it was admired by writers as disparate as J.M. Barrie and H.G. Wells. It suffers a little from having had a zillion imitators in the intervening century or so, and like a lot of Kipling's works, there's an undertone of paternalistic imperialism that modern readers may find grating, but it isn't like he's showing the British in a positive light either -- this is Kipling at his best, and at his best he was too good a writer to let anyone, including the British, off the hook.

Read this if you're trying to figure out whether or not you like Kipling's works that are aimed for adults -- it's very different in tone from, say, The Jungle Book or _Just So Stories_, which were written for children. If you like this, I recommend you grab Plain Tales from the Hills, his first collection of stories set in British India; it should also be available online for free.

If you're interested in the historical background for this story, it was at least partially inspired by a real individual, an American named Josiah Harlan.
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Format: Kindle Edition
What a great short story. Greed, guts and struggles for glory. If you haven't read this story but have only seen the movie, you are missing out. True, you can't see Sean Connery but you easily get the flavor of the period. And it is free! This is a great short story to read on your Kindle Iphone app.
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Format: Paperback
The story of the man who would be king describes the journey of two half-mad yet determined Englishmen from obscurity in India to divine rule in far-off Kafiristan. The two men smuggle themselves into Afghanistan posing as a mad priest and his servant, steal some mules when their camels can go no further, trek over the vast mountains, and set themselves up as kings by demonstrating the power of the rifle to spear-brandishing natives (in the most murderous way, one might add). They later establish their status as gods by introducing Masonic mystery and orders to the mountain villages. Eventually, however, their humanity is exposed, thus wrecking the dream of empire.
The story itself is witty and exciting, driven by the raw prose and longing for exotic adventure characteristic of Kipling. At the same time, this short tale is remarkable as a summary of imperialism and its problems. The questionable motives and courses of actions of the imperialists are exposed, yet at the same time they are shown to reflect human nature more than ideology or political purpose. The ease with which a small number of people with superior technology can subjugate much larger numbers is also demonstrated in a non-sentimental fashion (it is certainly not a politically correct story by present standards). Finally, the ending emphasizes the impossibility of maintaining authority in the long run under such circumstances - technological knowledge must be revealed to maintain order, responsibility must be shared with intermediaries, and propaganda will eventually be appropriated for subversive purposes. If only historians could be as brief and straightforward as Kipling in recognizing these simple facts about how imperialism came about and how it was doomed to failure.
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Format: Paperback
In Rudyard Kipling's The Man Who Would Be King, a young adventurer named Daniel Dravot penetrates feudal Afghanistan disguised as a cleric. In this nonfiction account with a similar title, MacIntyre, a columnist for The Times of London, tells the story of the real life adventurer who may have been Kipling's inspiration. He describes the life and adventures of Josiah Harlan (1799-1871), a young Quaker from Chester County, Pennsylvania, who set sail for China in 1822, telling his fiancée that they would marry when he returned. Upon reaching Calcutta, Harlan received a letter announcing that she was marrying another man. He resolved never to return home.

So began his adventures. After a failed stint in the Indian army--an action for which the Quakers excommunicated him--Harlan met Shujah al-Mulk (1792-1842), an Afghan king exiled to India in 1809 after just six years on the throne. Harlan offered a deal: he would raise an army, subdue Kabul, and restore the kingdom. In exchange, he would become vizier, the equivalent of prime minister. The deal struck, Harlan began recruiting native troops, using the U.S. flag as his own. In 1827, he and his army began their long march. But he soon had second thoughts about his army's loyalty. He picked a trusted team, paid severance to the others, and launched his Plan B: dressed as a dervish, he made his way to Kabul, arriving in 1828 just as an epidemic of cholera ravaged the city. Years passed and Harlan changed his allegiance to Shujah's rival, King Dost Muhammad Khan (1793-1863), to whom he became aide-de-camp. This Afghan king granted Harlan's wish for power. The itinerant Pennsylvania Quaker and stilted lover became prince of Ghor, today a province in central Afghanistan.

Harlan's story is riveting.
Read more ›
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Format: Paperback
Most people who pick up this book will already have read some of the travelogues of the "mad dogs and Englishmen" who wandered through Central Asia in the 19th and early 20th century: Burnaby and Nazaroff's memoirs, as well as any of Peter Hopkirk's books on the era.

But here we have a real fish out of water story, and a fascinating one at that: an American Quaker leading, or joining, armies through Afghanistan and elsewhere in the name of, variously: the sitting ruler of Afghanistan, the deposed predecessor, his Sikh neighbor, the British Empire, and arguably himself as "Prince of Ghor."

The tale is fascinating because it's so poorly-known, despite the fact that Kipling's fiction, which I understand to be inspired by Harlan and other adventurers of the time, is so well-known.

Undoubtedly, Harlan's own financial misfortune and quiet death contributed to the obscurity of the narrative, but Macintyre does a great job of weaving the scraps together, and keeping the story's pace. An interesting read, and a bit of history which has earned its place in Central Asian lore.
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