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MauriceBecque1924WhiteSeal

1924 illustration for "The White Seal" by the French artist Maurice Becque.

"The White Seal" is a short story by the British author Rudyard Kipling. It first appeared in print in the August 1893 issue of the London-based magazine National Review.[1] It was published again in 1894 as part of the anthology The Jungle Book.

Unusually for a story in The Jungle Book, none of the action in "The White Seal" takes place in India. The story proper begins on an island in the Bering Sea between Russia and Alaska. The title character and protagonist, Kotick, is the first white seal ever to have been born on the island. When Kotick discovers that some of the seals on the island are killed by hunters for their skins every year, he sets off on a quest to find an island where seals can live without fear becase no humans have ever visited it. His quest takes him all over the Pacific Ocena and beyond.

Readers should be aware that "The White Seal" contains a graphic description of the aftermath of a seal hunting expedition. Parents reading the story aloud to their children may wish to paraphrase this section, letting them know that the seals are killed but sparing them the gorier details. The descriptions of the injuries that fighting seals inflict on each other are also quite graphic at times. Furthermore, the native Aleut people of the island are described in a racially offensive way as "not clean people". This line can be easily skipped over when reading the story aloud because it has no bearing whatsoever on the plot.

The text of "The White Seal" is also peppered with several Russian words and phrases, although translations are provided for all of them.

An animated adaptation of "The White Seal" was produced for American television in 1975.

Adaptations

Director Chuck Jones adapted "The White Seal" for American television as a 24 minute animated film. The cartoon was first shown on CBS on March 24, 1975 and was also released theatrically. It faithfully follows the overall plot of the original short story and is also largely faithful to the spirit of Kipling's tale, although it does not always follow it to the absolute letter. In one of the most memorable scenes from the cartoon, Kotick saves the lives of a group of seals by temporarily frightening away a party of seal hunters who mistake him for the vengeful ghost of all the seals they have ever killed. The cartoon features the voice of the British actor Roddy McDowell as the narrator, the adult Kotick and most of the other characters. The voice of Kotick's mother is provided by the highly respected voice actress June Forray.

Footnotes

  1. The British magazine National Review was published between 1883 and 1960. Its name was changed to National and English Review in 1950. It is not to be confused with the American magazine National Review that has been published since 1955. In common with the American National Review, however, the British National Review presented a right-wing political perspective.

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