Kim’s first major mission for the British Secret Service is complete, yet the reader continues to be denied access to the machinations of the Great Game itself. We are never to discover the identities of the two spies (besides their nationalities), and can only assume that they are operating under the Russian government.
The absence of information on this Himayalan encounter can only be expected. Kipling’s classic takes its interests from its namesake, and Kim has no time for the subtleties of international relations. As Lurgan Sahib says, Kim was chosen for the Great Game because of his ‘lust to go abroad at the risk of [his] life to find news’. The political weight behind this news is of little import to Kim, and is consequently only touched on lightly by the novel.
For this reason, some have argued that Kim does not qualify as a spy novel. Aleksandar Hemon, in his review of The Great Game: The Myth and Reality of Espionage, proposes the theme of espionage as simply a means for the novel to engage with the idea of the ‘white man’s burden’.
On the other hand, a body of work has built up around the mystery of the Great Game in Kim. Kipling’s refusal to ‘give the Game away’ has ensured his novel a central place in the continuing debate around the actions of the British Secret Service during the Raj period. Peter Hopkirk’s Quest for Kim: In Seach of Kipling’s Great Game is one of the most extensive resources on this theme.
‘The Prayer’, with its message of common humanity and religious acceptance, has been held up against the critical tradition that frames Kipling as a staunch imperialist who viewed India as inherently subordinate to the West.