Study Guide

Kim Chapter 3

By Rudyard Kipling

Chapter 3

There's Something To This Lama Guy

  • An angry farmer tries to chase Kim and the lama off his property as they go looking for the River of the Arrow in one of his fields.
  • But Kim quickly guilt-trips the farmer into worrying that harassing a holy man like the lama will bring him bad luck, so the farmer apologizes and offers the two of them a meal.
  • (If you haven't gotten this sense already, we will just confirm that Kim is a champion mooch.)
  • As they cross the field, Kim spots a cobra and wants to kill it.
  • The lama says no, "Let him live out his life" (3.23) and walks about a foot away from the snake as though it's not horribly venomous.
  • Kim finally seems actually impressed by the lama's spiritual nature.

Is It This River? No… Okay, How About This One? Nope… This One? Geez—No

  • Kim and the lama continue walking on foot, stopping at every body of water they pass to check if it's the River. (It never is, though.)
  • As they travel, they come upon an elderly headman for a village, who likes to entertain people.
  • The headman invites the village priest over so they can have a little party for Kim and the lama, and the elders of the village all gather round to hear Kim's tales of Lahore and his travels with the lama.
  • The lama brings up Kim's Red Bull again.
  • Kim clearly feels puffed up with importance: he tells the men that his star sign prophecies war (dun-dun-dun).
  • In fact, there is an old man at this party who knows all about war—he fought on behalf of the British Indian government during the "Mutiny" of 1857 (3.57).
  • (We are putting "Mutiny" in quotation marks here because this is the British term for what happened—the word mutiny implies an illegal attempt to overthrow someone's legitimate authority, but of course the British Indian government was not legitimate; the British conquered India and exploited its resources for profit.)
  • (The Revolt of 1857 was really a rebellion against British colonial rule in India by British-trained Indian soldiers—also called sepoys. British forces eventually put down this first Indian war for independence, but it forever changed the relationship between the British Empire and India. For more on Kipling and the Revolt of 1857, check out our "Character Analysis" of the Old Man Who Fought in '57.)
  • When Kim swears that there are eight thousand troops marching from Pindi (now called Rawalpindi) and Peshawur (now Peshawar), the old man wants proof.
  • (Meanwhile, the lama is like, What? Where was I when Kim was finding all of this out?)
  • Kim does a spot-on imitation of the tall man with black hair who gave the orders, and the old man is so impressed with this imitation that he salutes Kim.

The Grand Trunk Road

  • The next day, the old soldier arrives at the temple where the lama and Kim have spent the night.
  • The old man wants to show them the path that leads to the Grand Trunk Road south to Benares.
  • As they walk, the lama notices that the old man is carrying his sword.
  • So the old man tells of his experiences fighting against his fellow Indian soldiers in the Revolt of 1857.
  • He fought on the side of the English, and received many medals after the Revolt ended for his bravery.
  • The lama tries to interest the old man in his River of the Arrow, which will cleanse the old man of all of his sins.
  • At last, they arrive at the "Big Road" (3.177), which is the Grand Trunk Road.
  • This is an ancient highway running east to west across India (which now joins India and Pakistan).
  • On this vast road, they see a man brutally beating his horse.
  • The lama runs over to the horse to pat and soothe it, and a policeman scolds the man driving the cart for beating his horse like that.
  • But the old soldier embraces the horseman: it's his son.