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  • The Man Who Would Be King and Other Stories

  • By: Rudyard Kipling
  • Narrated by: Sean Barrett
  • Length: 9 hrs and 35 mins
  • 4.4 out of 5 stars (106 ratings)

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The Man Who Would Be King and Other Stories

By: Rudyard Kipling
Narrated by: Sean Barrett
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Summary

In a remote part of 19th-century Afghanistan, two British adventurers pursue their ambition to rule an empire. Using betrayal, threats, and guns, they win the respect of a primitive tribe and become worshipped as gods until one day they draw blood, and the game is up. "The Man Who Would Be King" is an action-packed tale about the pitfalls of colonialism and the temptations and evils of power. This volume also includes the stories "The Phantom Rickshaw", "The Strange Ride of Morrowbie Jukes", "The Mark of the Beast" and many more.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your My Library section along with the audio.

Public Domain (P)2015 Naxos AudioBooks

What listeners say about The Man Who Would Be King and Other Stories

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Took me away

I’ve only recently discovered Rudyard Kipling. I had assumed he would be toe curlingly racist & imperialist but although he describes some British attitudes & behaviour from that time he clearly has sympathy & respect for other religions, races etc. His story telling is wondrous. A Different time & place but wisdom & wit. Very evocative. I’ve always loved Somerset Maugham & I’m sure he must have been influenced by Kipling in terms of human emotions & ability to capture an atmosphere.

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Learning about India

Gripping stories that give insight to life in India under British rule. Makes me wanna know more about Indian tradition and the complexity of being governed by a foreign power.

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Delighful collection of short stories

A Delightful collection of Kipling short stories. Nicely read. Love the movie with Michael Caine and Sean Connery and was surprised that MWWBK was only a short story not a full novel. Some of the other tales could be adapted for tv if it still had shows like The Twilight Zone or Armchair Theatre. But instead stick on your headphone, listen and be transported to a different world

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Great selection of stories

A fantastic selection of atmospheric stories (listed below) by Kipling, evocatively read by Sean Barrett with great delineation of tone, voice etc. Quite a few of these stories have a supernatural bent, and I think Kipling achieves appropriate atmospheres very effectively. Others are more straightforward, but all show his perception, humanity, and fascination with and fondness for India and its peoples.

- The Man Who Would Be King
- The Phantom Rickshaw
- My Own True Ghost Story
- The Strange Ride of Morrowbie Jukes
- The Mark of the Beast
- Without Benefit of Clergy
- The Sending of Dana Da
- Wee Willie Winkie
- On The City Wall
- The Education of Otis Yeere
- The Judgement of Dungara
- Baa, Baa, Black Sheep

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Dark stories for a dark time

Kipling is a good storyteller and the first tale is by far the most straightforward and cinematic, but the others are just as interesting, even if the underlying message is darker.

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Loved every minute of it.

I really enjoyed both the stories and the performance. The delivery of "black sheep" had my heart broken

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Classic Kipling

Classic Kipling, who could ask for more.

He sees his india with honest eyes and multiple viewpoints not simply of the Raj.

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Brilliant collection of short stories

This is a very good selection of Kiplings short stories as expected some are better than others but I would say all are enjoyable and listenable.

The stories are obviously of their time and must be considered through the lense of history and empire in which they are steeped. However Kiplings clear sensibility and understanding of India and Empire are evident throughout and make for very interesting listening.

Very good narration with some good accents however the attempt at a Germany missionary was a bit odd!

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So Nice

It's so lovely to listen to stories, such as "Wee Willie Winkie" and "Baa Baa Black Sheep", that I can't help but listen to them again and again.

Excellent performance from Sean Barrett, which gives life, and perhaps more, to the stories, as always; thank you.

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Superb reading

These were familiar stories, cleverly written and in this format read superbly by Sean Barrett. His voice suited the tales, and he clearly understood Kipling's written words and intentions.
The readings are a joy but I dropped one star for the awkwardness with the PDF. It should surely be possible to align stories with chapters and name them in the chapter listings. But that is a minor flaw in a wonderful performance.

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  • Jefferson
  • 21-08-18

Varied Stories about Love, Life & Death in the Raj

The Naxos The Man Who Would Be King collects 12 Kipling short stories originally published between 1885 and 1890. The tales are varied in quality, mood, and genre. A few are classic, a few forgettable, the rest strong. There are two adventure stories (one brutal, one surreal), two ghost stories (one straight, one comedic), three supernatural stories (one straight, two comedic), three romance stories (one comedic, one tragic, one political), and two boy stories (one comedic, one excruciating). They are unified by Kipling's authentic depiction of life in the Raj (British Empire in India); by his criticism of and sympathy for the Anglo rulers and their indigenous subjects; by his ability to write compelling stories, characters, and settings that reveal the human condition; by his first-person narrators and nested narratives; and by his concise, dynamic, and flexible style.

Here follows an annotated list of the stories.

1. The Man Who Would Be King (1888)
Two British con man "loafers" plan to become kings in Kafiristan, a mysterious, mountainous corner of Afghanistan, by smuggling in guns and training the locals in soldiery, agriculture, and infrastructure. How they succeed and fail makes an absorbing and appalling adventure story that satirizes the ignorant attempts of "superior" civs to force enlightenment on "inferior" ones, not unlike the Raj project.

2. The Phantom Rickshaw (1885/1890)
In this morbidly funny and moving psychological study of guilt Jack Pansay comes to see the phantoms of a rickshaw, its coolies, and the woman he wronged as more real than the living people around him. The doctor diagnoses overwork and indigestion, but the narrator figures that "there was a crack in Pansay's head and a little bit of the Dark World came through. . ."

3. My Own True Ghost Story (1888)
The narrator has never experienced any of the many ghosts in India, until he stays the night in a dak-bungalow. Convinced he's heard a spectral billiard game in the next room he's planning to write a ghost story with which to paralyze the British Empire-- until he takes a peek into the room.

4. The Strange Ride of Morrowbie Jukes (1885)
After riding out into the desert to kill a wild dog, feverish engineer Morrowbie Jukes comes to his senses in a sandy crater. He finds himself among dozens of skeletal and smelly Indians dumped there after failing to die from fatal diseases. Rather than give Jukes his due respect as a white Sahib, the living dead laugh at or ignore him, and one ex-Brahmin even tries to master him. There is no escape from the pit. The vivid details and surreal horror--existence pared down to eating roast crow--prefigure Kafka or Kobo Abe.

5. The Mark of the Beast (1890)
"The gods of the heathen are stone and brass, and any attempt to deal with them otherwise is justly condemned." Everything in this story contradicts that sentiment, after a drunken Brit stubs his cigar out on the forehead of a statue of the Hindu god Hanuman and starts behaving bestially. A doctor diagnoses hydrophobia, but the narrator and the policeman Strickland suspect the curse of a leper priest.

6. Without Benefit of Clergy (1890)
John Holden is a British bachelor civil servant in India by day, an unsanctioned husband of a 16-year-old Muslim Indian girl by night. When Ameera bears a son, the couple experiences "absolute happiness," but "The delight of that life was too perfect to endure." There is great beauty, love, and pain in the story: "It was not like this when we counted the stars."

7. The Sending of Dana Da (1888)
Kipling mocks Anglo theosophy and spiritualist religious types via a mysterious (con) man's supernatural "sending" of kittens to an ailurophobic foe of the narrator.

8. Wee Willie Winkie (1888)
The 6-year-old son of the regimental colonel follows the foolish fiancé of Lt. Coppy across a verboten dried riverbed into Afghanistan, the land of the "Bad Men" ("goblins"). His little boy-talk is almost too cute (e.g., "Vis is a bad place, and I've bwoken my awwest"), his awareness that he is the "child of the dominant race" repugnant. And the bandits know that if they harm the captives, the British regiment ("devils") "will fire and rape and plunder for a month till nothing remains."

9. On the City Wall (1889)
A prostitute, her admirer, a political prisoner, a Muslim festival in a Hindu part of Lahore, and the narrator's perceptions of all those. Love, faith, India, changing times, and the difficulty (and hypocrisy) of British Raj rule. This is a great story: funny, ironic, sensual, romantic, political, and moving.

10. The Education of Otis Yeere (1888)
In this comedy of manners, Mrs. Hauksbee feels empty and wants power, so she applies all her formidable strategy and style to make a man. She molds boring Otis Yeere, whose career in the Raj is going nowhere, into a smart Man on the Rise. With its many Wildean lines (e.g., "A man is never so happy as when he is talking about himself"), the story is funny, but Otis' broken heart and Mrs. Hauksbee's ego sting.

11. The Judgment of Dungara (1888)
When a well-meaning but ignorant German missionary husband and wife succeed too well in converting the Buria Kol, a nude and lazy folk who worship a God called Dungara, the sly priest of Dungara takes action.

12. Baa Baa Black Sheep (1888)
This fictional account of the experience of Kipling and his sister uproots 5-year-old Punch and 3-year-old Judy from their idyllic lives with their parents in Bombay and inserts them for five years into the Dickensian hell of Downe Lodge in England.

The reader of the audiobook, Sean Barrett, greatly enhances the stories, handling the many characters--young or old, male or female, British or Indian, sane or mad--all just right.

If you've read Kipling's Plain Tales from the Hills, you know what to expect here, though the stories in this collection are longer and fewer. Both sets of stories provide a vision of British rule in India (and of "civilized" rule of "uncivilized" peoples anywhere) more complex than merely, "Kipling was an imperial apologist." His humane interest in all kinds of people--from prostitutes to priests, from 6-year-old British Colonel's sons to aged Sikh revolutionaries--shines through.

19 people found this helpful

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  • Andre
  • 02-05-16

Worth a Second Read

Where does The Man Who Would Be King and Other Stories rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

The Man Who Would Be King and Other Stories is among the best short story collections I have listened to so far. The stories were so condensed and crafted that I listened to the book back-to-back to pick up all of the nuances of details I had missed in my first reading.

What other book might you compare The Man Who Would Be King and Other Stories to and why?

I would compare The Man who Would Be King and Other Stories to Ray Bradbury's collections, because they were both great storytellers. However, Kipling's focus on India during the height of British colonial empire lends his stories the air of the exotic and the political.

What about Sean Barrett’s performance did you like?

Sean Barrett performed the hundreds of characters with craft and creativity, especially women, children, soldiers, Muslims, Hindus, and Sikhs. There were many castes and classes of characters he had to voice over a broad range of Anglo-Indian society at that time. When I heard Barrett, I heard India.

If you could take any character from The Man Who Would Be King and Other Stories out to dinner, who would it be and why?

If I could talk any character from The Man Who Would Be King and Other Stories out to dinner, I would take Kipling himself. He had served as a reporter and correspondent in India. Any reporter and correspondent that served in his stories represented him, eager to hear stories in this exotic land in a time of conflict. Stories literally walked into the door of this reporter's office. A dinner with him would be fascinating because he would regale me for hours. As a storywriter myself, I would ask him questions about his craft.

Any additional comments?

Read and listen to Kipling's books. He is an exemplary short story writer and a pioneer of its form.

6 people found this helpful

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  • 5webblets
  • 10-05-21

Well written but dark

These are so very well written and performed but overall, the themes are very dark and can be disturbing. The colonial mindset is strange to consider in our current climate but well worth remembering if only to avoid. Highly recommend if you are in the mood for soul searching and a little creepiness but if you are looking for something cheerful, keep looking!

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  • Kirk A Mann
  • 14-02-19

Outstanding Deep Mystical Stories

Very grateful to have discovered Rudyard Kipling story telling. Such beauty profound deep lyrical writing. The Narrator is extraordinary and lovely to listen to. So happy to have discovered Rudyard Kipling ... He is one of the best authors I have ever had the pleasure of listening to.

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  • lynette
  • 16-02-21

Sad

Not as enjoyable as Jungle book - hard stories that teach life lessons. Most of these Kipling stories were just sad or macabre.

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  • TriGuyStri
  • 12-12-22

wonderful stories

just wish the titles of each short story were announced definitively. Had to sort it out as the story progressed. otherwise fantastic

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  • Vincent P Nolan, Jr
  • 07-10-22

Hard To Dislike A Classic Storyteller

I had previously read some Kipling. His style and alliteration is always beautiful. The Man Who Would Be King is a great short story!

The remaining compilation is an up and down experience, with several fantastic stories and a few that are so period and place specific that they were hard to follow.

I listened to the entire compilation and was more than glad I did. The final trilogy is worth any wading through earlier stories.

The narrator was quite good, but at times was so melodic that I lost track of the stories. This may not be entirely his fault as some of the lesser stories were at times difficult to follow in their own right.

Kipling remains a great storyteller in the best English tradition.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 02-07-22

Incredible stories

Whatever else may be said of Kipling, he's no bore. The stories he has to tell are riveting, and feel so real. He builds a window, however tinted, into a world about which I have known very little. And what's more the works are very well read by Sean Barrett.

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  • Joshua S. Dunn
  • 25-03-22

Fantastic

Thee narrator was great and the prose was wonderful! I definitely recommend this. my only complaint is that this version of the audiobook doesn't appropriately label the sections by the name of the short story. The included PDF file is helpful but it doesn't fully solve the issue.

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  • Jeremy Mumford
  • 10-02-22

Complicated

Reading these stories today is complicated. Kipling was undeniably racist, but also intelligent, observant and empathetic. Engaging with his vision of empire is worthwhile, both historically and politically. The stories are beautifully crafted. It is possible to acknowledge the real racist animus but bracket it, and respond to the moral imagination in the stories, but this requires accessing his vision of the Indian characters as sympathetically as the text allows. Here, the narrator‘s otherwise good performance sales us. His Indian accents are not terrible, but they make the Indian characters sound more foolish, especially the women. This does a deep disservice to a story like “on the city wall,“ in which a strong and intelligent Indian woman is the pivot of the story. The powerful “Without the benefit of clergy” is nearly unlistenable.