Audiobook - Just So Stories

Are you sitting comfortably? Then Susan Omand will begin to tell you about the audiobook of the Just So Stories from our friends at Spokenworld Audio...

Come and sit, oh best beloved, and I shall tell you about the ‘Just So Stories’ by Rudyard Kipling. Or rather, the adaptation of some of the classic tales by Rafe Beckley for this SpokenWorld audio book.

There are five stories in this compilation:-

The Crab That Played With The Sea

A crab, called Pau Amma, disobeyed the Eldest Magician, who made the earth and the sea and instructed everything to obey Man. He slipped away to the Heart of the Sea and grew bigger and bigger until his movement in the sea caused the tides which alternately flood and strand the Man's house and canoe. The story goes on to tell of the bargains struck by the crab so that he might carry on living and eating - how the Eldest Magician shrank him so that he didn't affect the tides, how he got scissors (claws) to help him eat coconuts and how he had to lose his shell every year.

How The Camel Got His Hump

The Camel, who lived in a desert, was most "Scrutiatingly idle" and refused to work, instead watching his reflection in a pool of water. The Dog, the Horse and the Ox all asked him to join them working, but the Camel only answered “Humph!” When they complained to the Man, he said they would just have to work more to make up for it, so they complained to the Djinn in charge of All Deserts and he went to see the Camel, who "humphed". So the Djinn puffed up the Camel’s back into a hump(h) and condemned him to work for three days without eating, living on his hump(h) instead, to make up for the days he had missed. The camel still has his hump(h), he never did make up the lost days work at the start of the world, and he still behaves badly.

The Cat that Walked By Herself 

Originally, this was the cat that walked by "himself". All the animals in the forest used to be wild, the Dog, the Cow, the Horse and especially the Cat. The Man was wild too until he met The Woman who made them a home in a cave, warm and dry. The Dog, Horse and Cow were all lured in to be of service to the Man and the Woman with a promise of food and shelter. The Cat however, was not so easily fooled. The rest of the story is how the Cat inveigles her way into the cave, to the fire and drinking the milk by making deals with the Woman. When the Man returns from hunting with the Dog, they get angry at the Cat, the Man throws things at it and the Dog bares its teeth, and decide that the Cat hasn't made deals with them, so does not live in the cave. "And that is why 3 out of 5 Men, and all Dogs, do not like Cats".

How The Whale Got His Throat

The Whale used to eat fish of all kinds and sizes, until there was only one left in the sea. This small fish advised the whale to try eating a shipwrecked mariner instead, so the Whale swallowed the man and his raft. But the mariner jumped about so much that the Whale got hiccups and asked him to come out. The man answered that he would only come out if he got taken home so the Whale took him to the beach and let him go. But in the meantime, to stop this happening to anyone again, the clever mariner had made his raft into a grating which he fastened in the Whale’s throat with his braces so the Whale could only eat the smallest fish ever after.

The Elephant's Child

The Elephant's Child used to have a stumpy little nose, shaped like a boot. He also had a "Satiable Curtiosity", always asking questions of his aunts and uncles, and getting a good spanking for it. One day he asked what the crocodile ate for dinner and was told by the kolo kolo bird to "go to the banks of the great grey green greasy Limpopo river, all set about with Fever trees" and find out. So he went, even though he didn't know what a crocodile was. He met a bi-coloured python rock snake and got another spanking for asking the same question. Then he met the crocodile who caught him by the nose and said said he would have "Elephant's Child" for dinner. The snake appeared again and told the Elephant's Child to pull himself free. As he pulled, the Elephant's Child's nose stretched and stretched until it became a trunk and, as time went on, he discovered how useful it could be.

Kipling's work is definitely "of an age" and the stories are definitely redolent of society at the time of writing, the early 1900's. Men were Kings of all things, women kept house and had babies, children were tidy, polite and spanked rather than listened to and animals were either useful or hunted. But if you take that into account and don't go overly "politically correct" on them, these are still very charming tales.

The stories were beautifully read by the instantly recognisable voice of David Warner. I was quite surprised though that, along with the stories, every second track in this audio book is a little a capella song, performed by the Red Table Theatre. I didn't really understand their inclusion until, in my research for this review, I found out that this was actually performed as a show at the Edinburgh Fringe this year. As an audio book, it was lovely to listen to the stories and it took me back to my own childhood (a long looong time ago) when I first heard the rhythms of Rudyard Kipling. I am pleased they lived up to my memories of them.

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