Just So Stories

Storytelling is an art.

Some books are a little slapdash in their approach, a little clumsy. Some are all about the story and the characters, with little or no interest in how it is presented. The words are just that. Words. Tools to get the idea across and nothing more. Their stories are fast-paced and intense, with no time for words like music.

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But for some storytellers, the words are more than tools. They’re magic spells and fairy dust. How they sound, how they feel, the rhythm they create. It adds to the story and takes a simple fairy tale to new heights.

I have seen many, many books do this well, but one of my all-time favorites is the collection of Just So Stories. Rudyard Kipling (also the author of the Jungle Book) is an exemplary author with a host of brilliant titles to his name, but my favorites are his collection of short stories explaining, oftentimes in a magical, matter-of-fact way, the origins of things we take quite for granted. From How The Camel Got His Hump, to The Cat Who Walked By Himself, this collection is filled with charming, often comical and always clever, stories that have the lasting brilliance to be myth and fairytale all at once.

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Told in the style of a traditional story around the fire, these short tales have drawn me back to them again and again. Rudyard Kipling’s mastery of words is what makes these stories such a delight. Whether it is the Elephant’s Child on the banks of the great gray green, greasy Limpopo River, scattering melon rinds with his mere-smear nose that has not yet grown to be a proper trunk, or the small, frightened Stickly-Prickly who would like nothing better than to find a way to fool the Painted Jaguar, these beautiful stories explain in their own unique way the wonders of the world around us.

Hear and attend and listen; for this befell and behappened and became and was, O my Best Beloved, when the Tame animals were wild.

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