These notes are based on those written by Donald Mackenzie for the OXFORD WORLD'S CLASSICS edition of Puck of Pook's Hill and Rewards and Fairies (1995) with the kind permission of Oxford University Press. Except where stated otherwise, the page numbers below refer to the Macmillan Uniform Edition of Rewards and Fairies (1910, and frequently reprinted since).
In `Cold Iron' Kipling makes an explicit comparison between `the Boy's' loss of his magic powers and Christ's human incarnation: `Iron out of Calvary is master of men all.' In this story the Boy's `Magic' has a power and an unearthly beauty that enthralls the fairy people who adopted him...
But Puck realizes that the 'shadow-nights and shadow-girls' are merely a distraction: `I saw him lift his eyes ... towards folk in housen all the time ... his heart aching to go straightforward among [them].' The `Cold Iron' which the Boy must avoid if he is to retain his magical powers represents the sorrow and suffering inseparable from the human condition. `What could you or I have done against the Smith that made it and laid it for him to find?' Puck asks Sir Huon. And ... the Boy sees it as his mission to go among `folk in housen' and alleviate their sorrow as best he can. The runes on the slave-ring he fastens round his neck as a symbol of his servitude signify the mystery of faith: `Few can see / Further forth', and his intuitive but uncomprehending acceptance of his fate confirms Puck's confident assertion at the opening of the story: `Where there's true faith, there's no call for magic.
After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, this cup is the new testament in my blood; this do, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me.[line 27] outside my city wall cf. the hymn by Cecil Alexander (1847):
[1 Cor. 11, 25.]
Jesus saith unto them, Come and dine. And none of the disciples durst ask him, Who art thou, knowing that it was the Lord.
Jesus then cometh, and taketh bread, and giveth them, and fish likewise.
[John 21, 12-13.]
'There is a green hill far away,and Heb. 13, 12:
Outside a city wall...'
Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate.[line 30] Balm and oil
Is there no balm in Gilead; is there no physician there ? why then is the health of the daughter of my people not recovered ?
[Jer. 8, 22]
But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him.
And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine ...
[Luke 10, 33-4]