Jim Corbett

James Edward Corbett, known as Jim Corbett

Jim Corbett was a remarkable man, who was independent of mind, carrying out acts that were alien to his generation even by today’s standards. The fact that Jim Corbett was British, having been born and brought up in a foreign land, India, says much of how he was held in high esteem by the Indians, that the Government of India decided some 10 years after the British left, and two years after his death, to name the Corbett National Park after him.

Jim Corbett was the eighth child of the family, born on 25th July 1875, the son of a postmaster. Jim from an early age explored and got to know the jungle around him, learning the jungle signs, and the calls that would prove to be so useful when he was later to hunt the many man eating cats that terrorised the villagers for years.
The British Government of India, in recognition of Jim Corbett’s man eater hunting prowess and his keen interest in conservation granted him the “freedom of the forests” allowing him to go where ever he pleased.

Jim Corbett wrote several books specifically about how he hunted the man-eaters. Man eaters of Kumaon, (my favourite), and The Man Eating Leopard of Rudraprayag (an incredible story of how he used all his skills to try and outwit this highly intelligent animal, half the time stalking, and the other half being stalked by this leopard).

Jim Corbett the Champion of India’s Poor
Jim Corbett was not brought up in a wealthy family, indeed the opposite could be said to be true, yet he on one occasion lent his savings 500R to an Indian man who had lost his business to his partner who stole it when he was on holiday. A year later the man returned with the full amount + 25% interest. Jim accepted his 500R savings refusing the interest saying, “In our country we do not take interest from our friends”.
At Naini Tal, Jim Corbett bought land and settled 40 poor village families, for free, and even paid their annual land tax for them.

Today the villagers of Naini Tal have created a museum in Jim Corbett’s old house, carefully preserving the building with illustrations of his life and maintaining the gardens. At 10R per person it is well worth a visit. If you do visit why not donate more to help preserve this special place?

Jim Corbett served in both World Wars, raising a battalion of local people, which he took to the battlefronts in Europe in the 1st World War and trained soldiers in jungle warfare in the 2nd World War.
When India gained independence Jim Corbett settled in Kenya where he had many friends. In 1953 he escorted the young Princess Elizabeth to TreeTops under Mount Kenya, helping to protect her that night by guarding the ladder access all night long. Next morning the Princess awoke to be Queen Elizabeth II on the death of her father.

Jim Corbett was a fantastic storyteller. I would highly recommend reading his books, they are very well written in a simple, easy to read style. The hunt for the man-eater is not gory; it is a simple explanation of what happened and the skills he used to track the man-eaters down.

Jim Corbett hunted his first man eater in 1907. Now some one hundred years ago, Jim would be amazed that his books with their tales are still being printed and are as readable today as they were when he wrote them. He wrote his first tiger story (not about a man-eater), the Pipal Pani Tiger in 1931.

Jim Corbett’s books are: –

  1. Man Eaters of Kumaon (first published 1944), received considerable critical acclaim in both Britain and America. Within 4 years it was translated in to nine languages and six Indian dialects.
  2. The Man Eating Leopard of Rudraprayag (first published 1948). – This book is about a leopard who lived partly on animal and partly on human prey. The leopard accounted for the lives of 125 people between 1918 and 1925 and terrorised some 50,000 villagers living in a five hundreds square mile area. This leopard established an incredible reputation even being mentioned in the British Parliament . A fascinating story of Jim hunting and being hunted by this remarkable animal.
  3. The Temple Tiger and More Man-Eaters of Kumaon.
  4. Jungle Lore – This books talks about Jim’s early experiences in the jungle to taking the reader through what he learnt over many years. Jim himself says in chapter 7 of the book; “Having stated that the book of Nature has no beginning and no end, I would be the last to claim that I have learned all that is to be learnt of any of the subjects dealt with in Jungle Lore, or that the book contains any expert knowledge. But having spent so much of my life with nature, and having made a hobby of jungle lore, I have observed a little knowledge, and that knowledge I am imparting without reservations. I do not flatter myself that all who read these pages will agree with my deductions and statements, but that need be no cause for quarrel, for no two or more people look at any object with the same eyes.”
  5. My India – Using Jim’s own words it is about “… sketches of village life and work … which I have known  from my earliest days, where I have worked; and the simple folk whose ways and characters I have tried to depict for you are those among whom I spent the greater part of seventy years.”
  6. Tree Tops – Jim’s last story written shortly before his death in Kenya. It is about Her Majesty the Queen Elizabeth’s visit in 1952 to Tree Tops In Kenya and the part played by Jim Corbett.

Jim Corbett died on 19th April 1955 and is buried at the base of Mount Kenya, Kenya, Africa.