‘The Camel’s Hump’ is a poem that appears in Rudyard Kipling’s fable How the Camel Got His Hump. The story is about a lazy camel who avoids working and just sits idle in one place. As a consequence, the natural forces (a Djinn in this case) punish the camel with a hump on its back. Kipling is an Indian-born British poet. He is the maestro of children’s literature. One of his most famous productions of children’s fiction is The Jungle Book, published in 1894. It was a huge success and got him fame. Kipling received the Nobel Prize in literature in 1907. He wrote several other novels, including The Light That Failed, Captain Courageous, and Kim. Kipling’s best-known poems include ‘Mandalay,’ ‘Gunga Din,’ and ‘If—.’
The Camel’s Hump by Rudyard Kipling The Camel's hump is an ugly lump Which well you may see at the Zoo; But uglier yet is the hump we get From having too little to do. Kiddies and grown-ups too-oo-oo, If we haven't enough to do-oo-oo, We get the hump-- Cameelious hump-- The hump that is black and blue! We climb out of bed with a frouzly head And a snarly-yarly voice. We shiver and scowl and we grunt and we growl At our bath and our boots and our toys; And there ought to be a corner for me (And I know there is one for you) When we get the hump-- Cameelious hump-- The hump that is black and blue! The cure for this ill is not to sit still, Or frowst with a book by the fire; But to take a large hoe and a shovel also, And dig till you gently perspire; And then you will find that the sun and the wind, And the Djinn of the Garden too, Have lifted the hump-- The horrible hump-- The hump that is black and blue! I get it as well as you-oo-oo-- If I haven't enough to do-oo-oo-- We all get hump-- Cameelious hump-- Kiddies and grown-ups too! - from Just So Stories (1902)
Explore The Camel’s Hump
In the poem ‘The Camel’s Hump,’ Kipling draws similarities between lazy humans and a camel. The camel’s hump has been taken into a negative light, calling it “uglier” to sight. Its hump is seen as a metaphor for being inactive and sluggish. Doing nothing is a sheer waste of time and energy. According to the poet, the person who sits back doing nothing productive is unpleasant to the sight, just like the “Cameelious hump.” The poet thus conveys the message to be active, involved in things, be innovative, and never stop to make oneself better and the best.
In ‘The Camel’s Hump,’ Kipling explores the consequences of being sluggish through a fictional anthropomorphic “camel.” The story is about how the lazy camel learns a lesson. It enlightens the camel about not being sloppy and lazy again. Kipling alludes to the camel’s story in order to warn readers not to be lazy like him. Otherwise, we have to bear an “ugly lump” on our backs. As a remedy, he suggests leading an active life. We have to work until we sweat. Hard work is the only way to stop growing a ridiculous, “Cameelious hump.”
‘The Camel’s Hump’ is written in a lyrical form. The lines of this poem are highly rhythmic in nature, running into 7 stanzas of 4 and 5 lines each. There are three quatrains. A stanza with 4 lines is called a quatrain. The language of the poem is simple yet effective for “Kiddies and grown-ups too.” The poem produces a swinging rhythm, which the toddlers love. The sound of “too-oo-oo,” “you-oo-oo,” and “do-oo-oo” makes it easier for the children to follow the poem and enjoy reciting. Besides, the poem is composed in the iambic meter with a few variations. In the second and last stanzas, a group of three lines rhymes together. The poet also uses various punctuation marks like dots and dashes.
In ‘The Camel’s Hump,’ Kipling showcases the use of the following poetic techniques:
- Metaphor: It is used to refer to a certain idea or a thing to show a similarity. For example, “The Camel’s hump” is a metaphor for a lazy person or state of mind. Kipling describes how laziness can be an obstacle in the path of success.
- Repetition: It occurs when a word or phrase frequently occurs throughout the poem, as in the repetition of the phrases like “Cameelious hump” and “The hump that is black and blue!” It is meant for the sake of emphasis.
- Alliteration: It is the occurrence of the same letter or sound at the beginning of the closely placed words; for example, “sit still,” “black and blue,” “horrible hump,” etc.
- Anaphora: It occurs when a word or expression is repeated at the beginning of consecutive lines within a text; for instance, The term “and” is repeated in the first two lines of the fourth and sixth stanzas.
- Epiphora: This device is used to show the repeated words or phrases at the end of some neighboring lines. For instance, the term “hump” is repeated at the end of lines 3 & 4 in the second stanza. It also occurs in some other instances.
- Refrain: In this poetic device, a line or phrase is being repeated often at the end of successive stanzas. For example, the phrase “The hump that is black and blue!” is used at the end of the second, fourth, and sixth stanzas. This line reminds us of the consequences of our laziness.
The most prominent theme of ‘The Camel’s Hump’ is the concept of laziness. Laziness is the only means of failure. There is a very popular English saying that goes, “An idle brain is the devil’s workshop.” Idle people can have the most lethargic way of living. They do not earn respect and are taken for granted. Laziness paves the way for self-destruction. According to the poet, we get a “Cameelious hump” if we don’t have enough to do something and sit idly. It delays the realization of our dreams and makes us procrastinate. The person may become obese and may encounter various health issues. Hence, the best possible way to ward off slothfulness is to remain active.
The Camel’s hump is an ugly lump
Which well you may see at the Zoo;
But uglier yet is the hump we get
From having too little to do.
Kipling begins the poem ‘The Camel’s Hump’ on a very rhythmic note. He tells readers that laziness is not a good sign. He has compared the “hump” of the camel to lethargy and laziness. Being lazy doesn’t get one anywhere. He warns his little readers that if they are lazy like the camel, a hump will develop too on their backs. It can cause trouble to them while sleeping or doing other things. He reminds the children of the zoo where they can spot a camel with the same “ugly lump.” But, the “hump” resulting from laziness is uglier than we ever thought of.
Kiddies and grown-ups too-oo-oo,
If we haven’t enough to do-oo-oo,
We get the hump—
The hump that is black and blue!
The poet commences with the tone of warning for the little tots that if they do not engage themselves in something productive and sit idle wasting their time, they will grow the same “Cameelious hump,” a hump like a camel. The word “hump” has been taken in a negative light here. It denotes a sort of curse/punishment for the one who owns it, just like the camel. The camel has to bear the burden of the heavy hump. It tires the camel out while doing work.
Therefore, one should not waste time and practice doing something productive every day. The poet uses the phrase “black and blue” in a figurative sense. These colors are often symbolic of shame and pain. By using these colors, he wants to convey that if we refuse to work hard, we may face embarrassment and pain of seclusion.
We climb out of bed with a frouzly head
And a snarly-yarly voice.
We shiver and scowl and we grunt and we growl
At our bath and our boots and our toys;
The poet begins by critiquing the human tendency of wasting time. He says that we are too lazy to get out of bed early, with “frouzly,” uncombed hair. After waking up, we waste so much time getting ready. We keep frowning faces all day long and take ample time in bathing. Still, we wonder why we don’t have any leisure time. In this way, Kipling satirizes the indolent behavior of human beings, how they misuse their precious time at a personal level, leading to their inappropriate behavior in the professional world.
And there ought to be a corner for me
(And I know there is one for you)
When we get the hump—
The hump that is black and blue!
In this stanza, the poet talks about the “corner,” symbolic of the hiding places. We will be in dire need of such a hide when we grow a “Cameelious hump.” These corners will facilitate a hiding spot for us. Kipling constantly warns readers to work hard. Otherwise, the consequences will be too harsh. They might grow a “black and blue” hump. Here, the hump is a symbol of shame and embarrassment. With a hump on the back, we will run from place to place to hide. Therefore, it is better not to take any chances and start doing something, at least. The phrase “Blue and Black” is repeated again to show the severity of the consequences if not taken proper notice of the cause.
The cure for this ill is not to sit still,
Or frowst with a book by the fire;
But to take a large hoe and a shovel also,
And dig till you gently perspire;
This stanza is a life-saver for the young audience. Before reading this stanza, they must be wondering about some remedy to keep the “Cameelious hump” at bay. Kipling suggests various ways by which one can overcome lethargy and avoid growing humps. He advises not to sit by the side of the fireplace, holding a book in hand, turning its pages, and escaping into the world of imagination. Instead, he suggests that one can “dig” the earth until “you gently perspire.” By this remark, he suggests us a way to fight laziness. It includes gardening. If we pick this as a hobby, we can spend some time out in nature, adoring its beauty and charm. The only way to overcome slothfulness is to remain physically active and keep doing things that please us.
And then you will find that the sun and the wind,
And the Djinn of the Garden too,
Have lifted the hump—
The horrible hump—
The hump that is black and blue!
Kipling further adds to ‘The Camel’s Hump’ that by being energetic and productive, we will find all the forces of nature (the sun and the wind) helping us. Not only that, the “Djinn of the Garden,” a magical being who makes the wishes come true, lifts the hump from our back. He refused to do so for the lazy camel as a lifetime punishment. Being active not only proves to be a blessing for oneself but also helps in getting rid of the “black and blue” “Cameelious hump.” Like the other stanzas, this stanza has a rhythmic tone, which pleases the young readers.
I get it as well as you-oo-oo—
If I haven’t enough to do-oo-oo—
We all get hump—
Kiddies and grown-ups too!
Kipling ends the poem in a humorous tone. He tells the children that we should work hard. If we are not doing enough work, the hump will grow again. It might bring the same old troubles. The poet uses the term “enough” to denote the notion of not being content with an active lifestyle. One should always have enough tasks to not indulge in idle acts such as pointlessly counting sheep in mind. Kipling also mentions that the “hump” of lethargy can catch anybody of any age group, including kids. So we should never try to run away or escape as it can lead to the worst consequences.
‘The Camel’s Hump’ appears in one of Kipling’s stories he wrote for children entitled How the Camel Got His Hump. This story was published in the collection of origin stories, Just So Stories, in 1902. Kipling started working on the book by telling the first three stories to his daughter, Josephine. The stories had to be told “just so,” or she (Josephine) would complain. In the stories, Kipling accounts how different animals (such as leopards, camels, elephants, etc.) got their distinctive features.
Overview of How the Camel Got His Hump
According to the tale, many animals like horses, dogs, and oxen went to the camel to ask for help a long time ago. The camel was sitting idle in the middle of the desert doing nothing. Still, he refused to aid the animals. The animals got furious as they had to work on the camel’s part too, which increased their workload.
The angry animals met the Djinn in the desert, who listened to their misery and decided to meet the camel. When Djinn asked the camel to help him out, the camel uttered, “Humppp.” The Djinn lost his temper and gave the camel a bulky “hump” on his back, as he demanded when the Djinn asked him for help.
Afterward, the camel realized his mistake and asked for forgiveness, but the djinn refused to take back the curse. As a result, the camels have a hump on their back. It makes their life seem miserable. The poem ‘The Camel’s Hump’ traces its roots from this origin story by Kipling.
According to the poem ‘The Camel’s Hump,’ the camel got its hump from “having too little to do.” It means the camel did not have anything to do at all. In the story where the poem appears, the Djinn gave the lazy camel a hump as it was constantly uttering “Humph” in a proud and disdainful tone.
Laziness is the main theme. Kipling discusses this theme by alluding to the lazy camel from his story How the Camel Got His Hump. Like the camel, we may grow a “Cameelious hump” if we refuse to work or stay active.
The hump humans grow due to laziness is uglier than the camel’s hump. According to Kipling, the hump is black and blue.
The “Camel’s hump” is compared to an “ugly lump” in the very first line. A lump means an irregularly shaped substance. This “hump” symbolizes laziness in the poem.
Readers who enjoyed reading Rudyard Kipling’s ‘The Camel’s Hump’ will also find the following poems interesting. You can also explore more Rudyard Kipling poems.
- ‘Alice the Camel’ — This fun nursery rhyme describes a camel named Alice and how it loses its humps.
- ‘Friendly advice to a lot of young men’ by Charles Bukowski — This poem lays out the things the poet thinks we should and should not do in life.
- ‘Ode on Indolence’ by John Keats — This ode revolves around a speaker’s indolent thoughts.
You can also explore the most famous English language poems.