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Rudyard Kipling’s ‘Plagiarism’ in Jungle Book

Rudyard Kipling

A letter by Rudyard Kipling, which he’d written in 1894, has now surfaced in London in which he’d admitted to plagiarising some of his best known works, including parts of the famous—The Jungle Book. It has been reported by a London newspaper which quotes a line from the letter, “it is extremely possible that I have helped myself promiscuously from other stories when writing ‘The Jungle Book’.

The letter is up for auction in London. However, it is to be noted that Kipling was not the first writer to plagiarise. Literary masters of all times like Shakespeare were also blamed for stealing parts of his famous plays from French and Greek works. However, the accusations were never proved.

Hardly had anyone discovered Kipling’s sin till today as a plagiarist but this newspaper or a person who gave it to the newspaper intending to garner a quick buck. So instead of being judgmental of Kipling’s writing ability, it is time to introspect and keep the thief in us at bay.

After all it was Kipling’s own letter written some 12o years ago, confessing to plagiarism. Had this letter not surfaced, he would still be a great storyteller, a great writer.

Plagiarism is a hearsay, which many authors preach but do not practice. It is rampant as a vilified fact in today’s writers more than it was rampant among old masters who restricted themselves to translating from other languages only. Today with flood of tonnes of information—on the internet—bloggers, writers and novelists are easily allured to steal, replicate situations, scenes, paragraphs from volumes of works and cook them in their own style.

The volume of content available online perhaps gives them the confidence to plagiarise, since it is not easy to find out where it has been stolen. Even though there are tools available that allow users to easily trace the copied content, they have limitations. Paraphrasing is beyond their purview.

The challenge is, thus, to keep away from the wide range of content online that affects our thought process and allures us to copy. An author’s effort should, however, be to cultivate his own thought process with new characters, situations and plot. It’s better to start jotting something at once we feel inspired from the real scenarios in life specifically inner responses to real situations, since a story is more of an inner response to the happenings in real life. The inner response takes these happenings to a step further through imagination and concoction. Often inner responses have to be exaggerated so that the stories take an interesting shape. Thus, the inner response—provided we pay attention to it—can help us create stories or content never written before.

It is worthless to pay too much attention to the letter which has emerged so late. Without reeling in time-travelled controversy, we should rather devote time at the desk in crafting tales, stories—so great—which even Kipling was incapable of. 


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