Puck of Pook’s Hill
Rudyard Kipling
6:55 h
Level 4
Puck of Pook's Hill is a fantasy book by Rudyard Kipling, published in 1906, containing a series of short stories set in different periods of English history. It can count both as historical fantasy – since some of the stories told of the past have clear magical elements, and as contemporary fantasy – since it depicts a magical being active and practising his magic in the England of the early 1900s when the book was written. The stories are all narrated to two children living near Burwash, in the High Weald of Sussex, in the area of Kipling's own house Bateman's, by people magically plucked out of history by the elf Puck, or told by Puck himself. (Puck, who refers to himself as "the oldest Old Thing in England", is better known as a character in William Shakespeare's play A Midsummer Night's Dream.) The genres of particular stories range from authentic historical novella (A Centurion of the Thirtieth, On the Great Wall) to children's fantasy (Dymchurch Flit). Each story is bracketed by a poem which relates in some manner to the theme or subject of the story.

Puck of Pook’s Hill

Rudyard Kipling

They saw a small, brown ... pointy-eared person ... step quietly into the Ring.

Puck’s Song

See you the dimpled track that runs,
hollow through the wheat?
that was where they hauled the guns
smote King Philip’s fleet.

See you our little mill that clacks,
So busy by the brook?
She has ground her corn and paid her tax
Ever since Domesday Book.

See you our stilly woods of oak,
And the dread ditch beside?
O that was where the Saxons broke,
On the day that Harold died.

See you the windy levels spread
About the gates of Rye?
O that was where the Northmen fled,
When Alfred’s ships came by.

See you our pastures wide and lone,
Where the red oxen browse?
O there was a City thronged and known,
Ere London boasted a house.

And see you, after rain, the trace
Of mound and ditch and wall?
O that was a Legion’s camping-place,
When Cæsar sailed from Gaul.

And see you marks that show and fade,
Like shadows on the Downs?
O they are the lines the Flint Men made,
To guard their wondrous towns.

Trackway and Camp and City lost,
Salt Marsh where now is corn;
Old Wars, old Peace, old Arts that cease,
And so was England born!

She is not any common Earth,
Water or wood or air,
But Merlin’s Isle of Gramarye,
Where you and I will fare.

Weland’s Sword

The children were at the Theatre, acting to Three Cows as much as they could rememberof Midsummer Night’s Dream. Their father had made them a smallplay out of the big Shakespeare one, and they had rehearsed it with him and with theirmother till they could say it by heart. They began where Nick Bottom the weaver comesout of the bushes with a donkey’s head on his shoulder, and finds Titania, Queen of theFairies, asleep. Then they skipped to the part where Bottom asks three little fairies toscratch his head and bring him honey, and they ended where he falls asleep in Titania’sarms. Dan was Puck and Nick Bottom, as well as all three Fairies. He wore a pointy-earedcloth cap for Puck, and a paper donkey’s head out of a Christmas cracker — but it tore ifyou were not careful — for Bottom. Una was Titania, with a wreath of columbines and afoxglove wand.

The Theatre lay in a meadow called the Long Slip. A little mill-stream, carrying waterto a mill two or three fields away, bent round one corner of it, and in the middle ofthe bend lay a large old fairy Ring of darkened grass, which was their stage. Themill-stream banks, overgrown with willow, hazel, and guelder rose made convenient placesto wait in till your turn came; and a grown-up who hadseen it said that Shakespeare himself could not have imagined a more suitable settingfor his play. They were not, of course, allowed to act on Midsummer Night itself, butthey went down after tea on Midsummer Eve, when the shadows were growing, and they tooktheir supper — hard-boiled eggs, Bath Oliver biscuits, and salt in an envelope — withthem. Three Cows had been milked and were grazing steadily with a tearing noise that onecould hear all down the meadow; and the noise of the mill at work sounded like bare feetrunning on hard ground. A cuckoo sat on a gatepost singing his broken June tune,‘cuckoo-cuk,’ while a busy kingfisher crossed from the mill-stream to the brook whichran on the other side of the meadow. Everything else was a sort of thick, sleepystillness smelling of meadow-sweet and dry grass.

Their play went beautifully. Dan remembered all his parts — Puck, Bottom, and the threeFairies — and Una never forgot a word of Titania — not even the difficult piece where shetells the Fairies how to feed Bottom with ‘apricocks, ripe figs, and dewberries,’ andall the lines end in ‘ies.’ They were both so pleased that they acted it three timesover from beginning to end before they sat down in the unthistly centre of the Ring toeat eggs and Bath Olivers. This was when they heard a whistle among the alders on thebank, and they jumped.