How the Whale Got his Throat
by Rudyard Kipling
IN the sea, once upon a time, O my Best Beloved, there was a Whale, and he
ate fishes. He ate the starfish and the garfish, and the crab and the dab,
and the plaice and the dace, and the skate and his mate, and the mackereel
and the pickereel, and the really truly twirly-whirly eel. All the fishes
he could find in all the sea he ate with his mouth—so! Till at last
there was only one small fish left in all the sea, and he was a small
'Stute Fish, and he swam a little behind the Whale's right ear, so as to
be out of harm's way. Then the Whale stood up on his tail and said, 'I'm
hungry.' And the small 'Stute Fish said in a small 'stute voice, 'Noble
and generous Cetacean, have you ever tasted Man?'
'No,' said the Whale. 'What is it like?'
'Nice,' said the small 'Stute Fish. 'Nice but nubbly.'
'Then fetch me some,' said the Whale, and he made the sea froth up with
'One at a time is enough,' said the 'Stute Fish. 'If you swim to latitude
Fifty North, longitude Forty West (that is magic), you will find, sitting
on a raft, in the middle of the sea, with nothing on but a
pair of blue canvas breeches, a pair of suspenders (you must not
forget the suspenders, Best Beloved), and a jack-knife, one ship-wrecked
Mariner, who, it is only fair to tell you, is a man of
So the Whale swam and swam to latitude Fifty North, longitude Forty West,
as fast as he could swim, and on a raft, in the middle of
the sea, with nothing to wear except a pair of blue canvas
breeches, a pair of suspenders (you must particularly remember the
suspenders, Best Beloved), and a jack-knife, he found one single,
solitary shipwrecked Mariner, trailing his toes in the water. (He had his
mummy's leave to paddle, or else he would never have done it, because he
was a man of infinite-resource-and-sagacity.)
Then the Whale opened his mouth back and back and back till it nearly
touched his tail, and he swallowed the shipwrecked Mariner, and the raft
he was sitting on, and his blue canvas breeches, and the suspenders (which
you must not forget), and the jack-knife—He swallowed
them all down into his warm, dark, inside cup-boards, and then he smacked
his lips—so, and turned round three times on his tail.
But as soon as the Mariner, who was a man of
infinite-resource-and-sagacity, found himself truly inside the Whale's
warm, dark, inside cup-boards, he stumped and he jumped and he thumped and
he bumped, and he pranced and he danced, and he banged and he clanged, and
he hit and he bit, and he leaped and he creeped, and he prowled and he
howled, and he hopped and he dropped, and he cried and he sighed, and he
crawled and he bawled, and he stepped and he lepped, and he danced
hornpipes where he shouldn't, and the Whale felt most unhappy indeed. (Have
you forgotten the suspenders?)
So he said to the 'Stute Fish, 'This man is very nubbly, and besides he is
making me hiccough. What shall I do?'
'Tell him to come out,' said the 'Stute Fish.
So the Whale called down his own throat to the shipwrecked Mariner, 'Come
out and behave yourself. I've got the hiccoughs.'
'Nay, nay!' said the Mariner. 'Not so, but far otherwise. Take me to my
natal-shore and the white-cliffs-of-Albion, and I'll think about it.' And
he began to dance more than ever.
'You had better take him home,' said the 'Stute Fish to the Whale.
'I ought to have warned you that he is a man of infinite-resource-and-sagacity.'
So the Whale swam and swam and swam, with both flippers and his tail, as
hard as he could for the hiccoughs; and at last he saw the Mariner's
natal-shore and the white-cliffs-of-Albion, and he rushed half-way up the
beach, and opened his mouth wide and wide and wide, and said, 'Change here
for Winchester, Ashuelot, Nashua, Keene, and stations on the Fitchburg
Road;' and just as he said 'Fitch' the Mariner walked out of his mouth.
But while the Whale had been swimming, the Mariner, who was indeed a
person of infinite-resource-and-sagacity, had taken his jack-knife and cut
up the raft into a little square grating all running criss-cross, and he
had tied it firm with his suspenders (now, you know why you were
not to forget the suspenders!), and he dragged that grating good and tight
into the Whale's throat, and there it stuck! Then he recited the following
Sloka, which, as you have not heard it, I will now proceed to
By means of a grating
I have stopped your ating.
For the Mariner he was also an Hi-ber-ni-an. And he stepped out on the
shingle, and went home to his mother, who had given him leave to trail his
toes in the water; and he married and lived happily ever afterward. So did
the Whale. But from that day on, the grating in his throat, which he could
neither cough up nor swallow down, prevented him eating anything except
very, very small fish; and that is the reason why whales nowadays never
eat men or boys or little girls.
The small 'Stute Fish went and hid himself in the mud under the Door-sills
of the Equator. He was afraid that the Whale might be angry with him.
The Sailor took the jack-knife home. He was wearing the blue canvas
breeches when he walked out on the shingle. The suspenders were left
behind, you see, to tie the grating with; and that is the end of that
WHEN the cabin port-holes are dark and green
Because of the seas outside;
When the ship goes wop (with a wiggle between)
And the steward falls into the soup-tureen,
And the trunks begin to slide;
When Nursey lies on the floor in a heap,
And Mummy tells you to let her sleep,
And you aren't waked or washed or dressed,
Why, then you will know (if you haven't guessed)
You're 'Fifty North and Forty West!'