What Would You do to be King?

Rudyard Kipling has long been a favorite author of mine because of his Just So stories. They filled my childhood with wonder and I can still picture the animated version of “How the Elephant Got its Trunk” that I must have watched hundreds of times. Then when I was hunting for novellas for research on the form, I came across The Man Who Would be King

Yes, a movie version of it came out in ’97. Yes, I was too young to actually watch it, but you can be sure I’m going to hunt it down now. ‘Cause…Sean Connery, how can you say no to that? But back to the novella…

This story is structured like many adventure tales of the time: there is a narrator who is not at all an actual part of the story, but serves as a vehicle for the actual adventurers to expound upon their tale. This format worked great for The Time Machine, it doesn’t work so well with this one, unfortunately.

Basically, you’ve got a reporter who ends up being nice to a couple of gentlemen down on their luck, watches them ride off, determined to make themselves kings in the Middle East, then watches one come back broken and nearly dead who tells him of the marvelous time they had wherein they did indeed become kings and then were betrayed by the desire for a woman. And I didn’t give one whit about the reporter, I wanted to be off gallivanting with the adventurers because they seemed like they were having so much more fun than the poor writer. The way in which the story was told kept the reader at arms length from the action, unlike the time machine where the story still managed to be immersive. And this story had such amazing potential, too! I could have been riveting.

Someone obviously agreed with me on that front, so they made a movie. Which I’m now going to go watch, because if Connery gets into the same kind of trouble that these men did, its going to be amazing…

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