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Imperial Gothic: The Strange Tales of Rudyard Kipling

21 Oct

When one is considering writers involved in the creation of ghost stories, supernatural fiction and tales of horror, Rudyard Kipling – the author of The Jungle Book and the Just So Stories – does not immediately spring to mind. Like many successful storytellers of the Victorian era, however, he was drawn from time to time to this particular genre. In some ways it is less surprising that Kipling turned his hand to Gothic entertainments than other English scribes who were lodged in the safe and mundane environs of leafy suburbia, for he spent a great deal of his early life in India at a time when mysticism was almost a way of life there. Indeed, a significant number of his stories have an Indian background. The term ‘imperial gothic’ has been coined to describe Kipling’s strange tales of India. The richness and alien qualities of this locale, allied to the unusual occurrences in Kipling’s plots, give the stories an extra unsettling frisson, which only enhances their power to disturb and intrigue the reader. There is a timeless element to Kipling’s stories of ghosts, monsters and inexplicable happenings, which evoke a bygone era while remaining as relevant and stimulating today as when they were first written. Kipling is an author who has never been entirely free of controversy, however, as we shall see.

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