The stories, first published in 1902, are pourquoi stories, fantastic accounts of how various phenomena came about. A forerunner of these stories is "How Fear Came" in The Second Jungle Book (1895), in which Mowgli hears the story of how the tiger got his stripes.
The Just So Stories have a typical theme of a particular animal being modified from an original form to its current form by the acts of man, or some magical being. For example, the Whale has a tiny throat from a swallowed mariner who tied a raft in there to block the whale from swallowing others. The Camel has a hump given to him by a djinn as punishment for the camel refusing to work (the hump allows the camel to work longer between eating). The Leopard has spots painted on him by an Ethiopian (after the Ethiopian painted himself black). The Kangaroo gets its powerful hind legs, long tail, and hopping gait after being chased all day by a dingo, who was sent after the Kangaroo by a minor god whom the Kangaroo had asked to make him different from all other animals.
The original editions of Just So Stories were illustrated by Kipling.
The full list of Just-So Stories
- How the Whale Got His Throat — explains why the big whale eats such small prey.
- How the Camel Got His Hump — explains how the idle camel was punished.
- How the Rhinoceros Got His Skin — explains why Rhinos have folds in their skin and bad tempers.
- How the Leopard Got His Spots
- The Elephant's Child — the story of how the elephant's trunk became long.
- The Sing-Song of Old Man Kangaroo — the story of how the kangaroo turned from a gray, woolly animal with short, stubby legs, to the athletic animal we know today.
- The Beginning of the Armadillos — The story of how the hedgehog and the turtle transformed into the first armadillos.
- How the First Letter Was Written—introduces the only characters who appear in more than one story, a family of cave-people, called Tegumai Bopsulai (the father), Teshumai Tewindrow (the mother), and Taffimai Metallumai, (the daughter). Explains how Taffimai delivered a picture message to her mother.
- How the Alphabet Was Made — Taffy and her father invent the earliest form of the alphabet.
- The Crab That Played with the Sea
- The Cat That Walked by Himself — the longest story, explaining how all wild animals became domesticated by man except for the wildest of all, the cat.
- The Butterfly That Stamped—the story of how wise king Solomon rid himself of troublesome wives, and saved the pride of a butterfly.
- The Tabu Tale (missing from most British editions; first appeared in the Scribner edition in the U.S. in 1903)
As well as appearing in a collection, the individual stories have also been published separately, often in large-format illustrated editions for younger children. A video edition has also been released; on VHS tapes it required three tapes with four episodes on each.
The "magic mark" inscribed on the stone under the man's foot in Kipling's original illustration for "The Crab That Played With the Sea" is actually an inverted swastika, also known as a Manji; Kipling used the Manji as an emblem on his books, for its oriental connections.
- Just-so story in the context of evolutionary explanations.
- Just So Songs
- The Cat Who Walked by Herself, a Soviet animated feature film based on The Cat that Walked by Himself
- Just So (musical)
Notes and references
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- Complete Audio book: Rudyard Kipling - The Just So Stories - read by actor Art Malik
- http://www.boop.org/jan/justso/ Full text of the stories, including Kipling's illustrations
- Just So Stories at Project Gutenberg
- Free audiobook download of Just So Stories FreeClassicAudioBooks.com
- The Elephant's Child Free Audio Story by Storynory
- Archived Audio recording of an educational ArtsSmarts "How the Elephant Got His Trunk" project
- The Just So Stories read by Tim Bulkeley