The Man Who Would Be King — II

S M Chen
5 min readOct 7, 2023

Rudyard Kipling (1865–1936), a Brit who was born and spent his early life in India, won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1907.

Rudyard Kipling. In public domain

It was one time popular and critical acclaim converged. It has not always been so.

In addition to his perhaps better-known works such as “The Jungle Book” and “Kim,” as well as the memorable poem “If,” Kipling wrote a novella which was turned into a fascinating 1975 film starring Sean Connery and Michael Caine.

“The Man Who Would Be King” told of 2 British soldiers, Peachy Carnehan and Danny Dravot, played by Caine and Connery, who traveled from India to the land of the Kafirs (unbelievers), which is likely modern-day Afghanistan.

Movie poster

The indigenous people were at first impressed with the two men of lighter complexion. Whereupon Connery aspired to become their king. And might have had his mortality (“Aha! He is not a god after all — he bleeds!”) not been revealed before his ascension.

Whereupon both he and Caine were subjected to a fate most unkingly and not something we might not wish upon anyone.

Dravot/Connery was set, alone, upon a rope bridge high above a deep ravine. The retaining ropes were then hacked by the people he had intended to deceive and he tumbled thousands of feet into perdition. In addition to bleeding, he failed to defy the law of gravity. This again proved to his captors he was indeed mortal.

Carnehan/Caine suffered a fate different but hardly to be preferred. He was crucified between two pines but, alive but permanently maimed, made his way out of the country to tell his strange tale to anyone who would lend an ear.

The ancient Israelites, whose triumphs and travails (most mostly the latter; it took them 40 years to traverse a rather short distance) are detailed in Holy Writ, wanted a king. They looked about and saw other nations had kings.

They wanted one, too.
The fact they had the Almighty on their side seemed to matter not a whit.