Kim is a novel by Rudyard Kipling. It was first published serially in McClure's Magazine from December 1900 to October 1901 as well as in Cassell's Magazine from January to November 1901, and first published in book form by MacMillan & Co. Ltd in October 1901. The story is set against the backdrop of The Great Game, the political conflict between Russia and Britain in Central Asia.

The novel is notable for its detailed portrait of Indian people, culture, and its varied religions. It is generally considered by critics to be Kipling's best serious long novel.

Plot summaryEdit

Kim (Kimball O'Hara) is the orphaned son of an Irish soldier. He earns his living by begging and running small errands on the streets of Lahore. He occasionally works for his friend, Mahbub Ali, a horse trader who is one of the native operatives of the British secret service.

One day, he befriends a Tibetan Lama who is on a quest to free himself from the Wheel of Things by finding the legendary 'River of the Arrow'. Kim becomes his chela, or disciple, and accompanies him on his journey. On the way, Kim incidentally learns about parts of the Great Game and is recruited by the British to carry a message to the British commander in Ambala. Kim's trip with the Lama along the Grand Trunk Road is the first great adventure in the novel.

By chance, Kim's father's regimental chaplain identifies him by his Masonic certificate, which he wears around his neck and Kim is forcibly separated from the Lama and sent to a top English school in Lucknow. The Lama insists on funding Kim's education and Kim remains in contact with him through his years at school. Kim also stays in contact with his secret service connections and is trained in espionage while on vacation from school (the game of looking at a tray full of mixed objects and noting which have been added or taken away is still used for training spiesTemplate:Fact and is still called "Kim's Game").

After three years of schooling, Kim is given a government appointment so that he can begin his role in the Great Game. Before this appointment begins, however, he is granted time to take a much-deserved break. Kim rejoins the Lama and, at the behest of Kim's superior Hurree Chunder Mookherjee, they make a trip to the Himalayas. Here the espionage and spiritual threads of the story collide, with the Lama unwittingly falling into conflict with Russian intelligence agents. Kim obtains maps, papers, and other important items from the Russians--who were working to undermine British control of the region. Mookherjee befriends the Russians under cover, acting as a guide and ensures that they do not recover the lost items. Kim, aided by some porters and villagers, help to rescue the Lama.

The Lama realizes that he has gone astray. His search for the River of the Arrow should be taking place in the plains, not the mountains, and he orders the porters to take them back. Here Kim and the Lama are nursed to health, Kim delivers the Russian intel documents to Babu, a concerned Mahbub Ali comes to check on Kim, and the Lama finds his river and achieves Enlightenment. The reader is left to decide whether Kim will henceforth follow the materialistic road of the Great Game, the spiritual way of Tibetan Buddhism, or a combination thereof. Kim himself has this to say: "I am not a Sahib. I am thy chela."

Characters in "Kim"Edit

  • Kimball "Kim" O'Hara – is an orphan son of an Irish soldier, protagonist. "A poor white, the poorest of the poor."
  • Mahbub Ali – a famous Pashtun horse trader and devout Muslim
  • Teshoo Lama – a Tibetan Lama. The abbot of a great monastery. Rich and powerful in his own country, but content to be a lowly beggar while in India.
  • Lurgan Sahib – a gem trader and master spy.
  • Hurree Chunder Mookherjee (Hurree Babu, also The Babu) – a Bengali intelligence operative working for the British; Kim's direct superior
  • Abdullah
  • The Kulu woman (the Sahiba)
  • The Woman of Shamlegh (Lispeth)
  • The Amritzar girl; a courtesan
  • The Arain Farmer
  • Reverend Arthur Bennett
  • Father Victor
  • Colonel Creighton; British Army officer and spy

Literary significance and criticismEdit

Considered by many to be Kipling's masterpiece, opinion appears varied about its consideration as children's literature or not.[1][2]

Allusions/references from other worksEdit

Two novels by John Eyton, Kullu of the Carts and Kullu and the Elephant (c. 1929), are clearly derivative of Kim; likewise, Eyton's Jungle-born (1925) appears to borrow elements from the Jungle Books.

Much science fiction, especially the planetary romances of Leigh Brackett and its descendants like the early Darkover novels of Marion Zimmer Bradley, shows a deep influence from Kim in its exoticism, its multifarious civilizations, secretive and sometimes hidden, and the relations between the Earthmen (stand-ins for the British) and the native inhabitants. Robert A. Heinlein's novel Citizen of the Galaxy was influenced by Kim (and possibly its science fictional successors) in the exotic settings, the espionage backdrop, and in details such as the memorization technique. Poul Anderson's The Game of Empire is also inspired by Kim, including opening and closing scenes that are direct pastiches.

A novel by John Masters, The Lotus and the Wind, is also set in the Great Game, and one of its main protagonists is a character seeking some form of spiritual enlightenment.

The British double agent, Kim Philby is said to have derived his nickname from the novelTemplate:Fact.

Quotes and concepts from the novel shape significant parts of Tim Powers' novel Declare, which also incorporates the life and career of Kim Philby as part of the extensively-researched background.

Laurie R. King published a novel in 2004 wherein her characters (Arthur Conan Doyle's detective Sherlock Holmes and Laurie R. King's creation Mary Russell) are sent to India to rescue a now mature Kim, who in this story met Holmes in his youth. The book is set in 1924, and the story depends on the fact that Holmes travelled to Tibet shortly after his apparent demise at Reichenbach Falls in Conan Doyle's "The Adventure of the Final Problem".

In "The English Patient" the character Kip, an Indian sapper in the British army who is a native of Lahore and knows personally many of the locations mentioned in the book including "The gun Zamzama", several times quotes "Kim" - which he considers as representing the colonialist occupiers of his city and his country.

T.N. Murari wrote two novels, The Imperial Agent (1987) and The Last Victory (1988), following Kim as an adult. These books focus on Kim's struggle to reconcile his Indian roots (and India's early struggle for independence) with his loyalty to the British.

Antal Szerb mentions Kipling's Kim in his book The Pendragon Legend briefly, when a person sitting next to the protagonist in the library seems not to know what to read nor how to request a book. When asked what he is interested in, he indicates rock climbing. Kim is recommended to him by the protagonist.

Kipling became friends with a French soldier whose life had been saved in the First World War when his copy of Kim, which he had in his left breast pocket, stopped a bullet. The soldier presented Kipling with the book (with bullet still embedded) and his Croix de Guerre as a token of gratitude. They continued to correspond, and when the soldier had a son Kipling insisted on returning the book and medal.Template:Fact

In the movie Breach, one counter-intelligence officer asks another: "Tell me five facts about yourself. I'll tell you which one is a lie." This is a likely reference to Kim's Game.

Film, TV or theatrical adaptationsEdit

For the main article about the film, see Kim (film)
  • An MGM film adaptation of the novel, directed by Victor Saville and produced by Leon Gordon, was released in 1950. It was adapted by Helen Deutsch and Leon Gordon, and starred Errol Flynn, Dean Stockwell, Paul Lukas, Robert Douglas, Thomas Gomez and Cecil Kellaway. It featured a music score by André Previn.
  • A London Films television film version Kim was made in 1984. It was directed by John Howard Davies and starred Peter O'Toole, Bryan Brown, John Rhys-Davies, Julian Glover and Ravi Sheth as Kim. It has been released on DVD.

References to real-world in the novelEdit

  • Kipling's father John Lockwood Kipling was the curator of the Lahore Museum, and is described in the scene where Kim meets the Lama.
  • The gun in front of the Lahore Museum described in the first chapter is an existing piece called Zamzama, sometimes referred to as Kim's gun.
  • Kim dreams of a "Red bull in a green field" which he recognises when he sees a military formation sign of a bull on a green background. The formation sign is still used by a military formation in Ambala Cantonment in India. Even in the book the formation sign belonged to an establishment in Ambala.


  • Quest for Kim: In Search of Kipling's Great Game by Peter Hopkirk (1997) ISBN 0-472-08634-0 — the author visits the locations of the novel and discusses the real-life personages that may have possibly inspired its characters
  • Kim, by Rudyard Kipling. Ed. by Zohreh T Sullivan. W. W. Norton & Company. This is the most extensive critical modern edition with footnotes, essays, maps, etc..

External linksEdit

Template:Wikisource Sources



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