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by Rudyard Kipling

Kim Cunning And Cleverness Quotes

How we cite our quotes: (Chapter. Paragraph)

Quote #1

True, he knew the wonderful walled city of Lahore from the Delhi Gate to the outer Fort Ditch; was hand in glove with men who led lives stranger than anything Haroun al Raschid dreamed of; and he lived in a life wild as that of the Arabian Nights, but missionaries and secretaries of charitable societies could not see the beauty of it. His nickname through the wards was 'Little Friend of all the World'; and very often, being lithe and inconspicuous, he executed commissions by night on the crowded housetops for sleek and shiny young men of fashion. It was intrigue,—of course he knew that much, as he had known all evil since he could speak,—but what he loved was the game for its own sake—the stealthy prowl through the dark gullies and lanes, the crawl up a waterpipe, the sights and sounds of the women's world on the flat roofs, and the headlong flight from housetop to housetop under cover of the hot dark. (1.5)

We know from the first chapter of this book that Kim was basically bornto be a spy: he's only around thirteen or fourteen here, but he is already "[executing] commissions" to carry secret messages all over the city of Lahore (usually messages about or for ladies). And Kim isn't running these secret errands for money; he's in it because he loves "the game for its own sake."

It's probably a lucky thing that Kim enjoys sneaking around and running secret missions "for its own sake," since being a spy means by definition that he will never get the public recognition that a more fame-hungry kid might crave.

Quote #2

The lama, not so well used to trains as he had pretended, started as the 3.25 a.m. south-bound roared in. The sleepers sprang to life, and the station filled with clamour and shoutings, cries of water and sweetmeat vendors, shouts of native policemen, and shrill yells of women gathering up their baskets, their families, and their husbands.

'It is the train—only the te-rain. It will not come here. Wait!' Amazed at the lama's immense simplicity (he had handed him a small bag full of rupees), Kim asked and paid for a ticket to Umballa. A sleepy clerk grunted and flung out a ticket to the next station, just six miles distant.

'Nay,' said Kim, scanning it with a grin. 'This may serve for farmers, but I live in the city of Lahore. It was cleverly done, Babu. Now give the ticket to Umballa.'

The Babu scowled and dealt the proper ticket. (2.7-10)

(In this case, the Babu is not the character Hurree Chunder Babu. Here, the term "babu" just refers to this guy's job as a low-level clerk.)

The friendship between Kim and the lama includes an interesting role reversal right at the start: even though the lama is an elderly man and Kim is a boy, the lama is a total innocent and Kim is absolutely world wise. So the lama is a bit frightened by the train when it pulls into the station in the middle of the night, but Kim is so used to the noise and excitement of the station that he notices right away when the clerk tries to cheat him. Kim may be much younger than the lama, but he is also clearly the cunning one of the two.

Quote #3

'When all is ready, thy sons, doubt not, will be told. But it is a long road from thy sons to the man in whose hands these things lie.' Kim warmed to the game, for it reminded him of experiences in the letter-carrying line, when, for the sake of a few pice, he pretended to know more than he knew. But now he was playing for larger things—the sheer excitement and the sense of power. (3.67)

At this early point in the novel, Kim is starting to get excited by the Great Game. He's run this successful (but still unofficial) mission to Umballa on behalf of Mahbub Ali, and he has found out some cool stuff about troop movements to the North as a result.

But Kim isn't experienced or mature enough yet to translate that excitement into a sense of duty for the British Indian State. So when he meets up with the Old Man Who Fought in '57 and tells him what he overheard about a coming war with the Five Kings in the north, Kim feels a "sheer excitement and the sense of power" to be the one with such important news. As Kim grows up a bit, he learns that it is actually more cunning—and more important—to hang onto news like that until he can use it.

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