The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling tells the tale of Mowgli, a young Indian boy, who, after straying from his village, ends up being taken in by a pack of wolves and living among the creatures of the forest.
Click here to see the rest of this review
The story begins as Shere Khan, a fearsome tiger whose name is known throughout the jungle, attempts to hunt down Mowgli after he strays from his village. The tiger was also nicknamed Lungri by his mother (translating to The Lame One) due to the fact that he was born with a crippled leg. For that reason he fails to catch Mowgli, and the child is instead taken in by the animal that becomes known as Father Wolf, who takes him home to his wife, Mother Wolf. Shere Khan attempts to get them to hand Mowgli over, claiming him as rightful prey, but the two refuse. They then name him Mowgli, the word for frog, and the boy is raised among the Seeonee wolf pack, alongside Mother Wolf's actual cubs.
When Father Wolf takes Mowgli to Council Rock (a parliament of sorts where the Seeonee convene on matters of import), he attempts to have him officiated an authentic member of the pack. Though many of the wolves refute the concept as absurd, the leader of the pack, Akela, accepts his entrance. Baloo, a black bear, and Bagheera, a panther, end up vouching for the child's admission as well, rendering him an official wolf. Baloo soon after becomes the boy's teacher, instructing him on all matters from the speaking of animal languages to jungle lore. Bagheera, who was raised by a man himself, keeps him connected to his humanity, and instructs him that one day he'll have to return to his own kind.
Trouble strikes when Akeela is tricked into abdicating his position as leader of the pack. This happens after Shere Khan convinces some of the younger wolves to support his own endeavors in order to capture Mowgli. Since a wolf that is too old to hunt is driven out, or even killed, by the pack, these younger wolves end up steer a young, speedy buck in Akela's direction, knowing he won't be able to catch it. When they attempt to depose the old wolf in the aftermath, however, Mowgli picks up the Red Flower (fire) to drive Shere Khan away.
Soon after this, Mowgli is kidnapped by the Bandar-log monkey tribe; they carry him deep in the jungle where they hold him prisoner. Since Baloo and Bagheera don't consider themselves able to take on the Bandar-log on their own, they enlist the services of Kaa, a serpent, who has a particular appetite for monkeys. Just the mere sight of Kaa causes the monkeys to disperse, and Mowgli is released. He promises Kaa to send all goats in his direction from there on out.
After being released by the monkey tribe, Mowgli wanders the jungle and encounters a human village. Curious, he enters it and is taken in by Messua, a woman who has lost her own son and offers to adopt Mowgli. Mowgli, accepting the offer, is appointed to watch the village herds, and continues to meet up with his jungle family semi-frequently, particularly his brother, Gray Wolf. Gray Wolf informs Mowgli that Shere Khan is still set on killing him. Gray Wolf thus forces Tabaqui, a lowly jackal that loyal to Shere Khan, to tell him the details of the tiger's plan. He then kills Tabaqui and lures Shere Khan into a canyon, where they bring about a stampede of buffalo and trample the tiger to death. Soon after, the villagers throw stones at Mowgli, accusing him of being a sorcerer for the manner in which he communicates with animals. He flees and returns to the wolf pack, resolved to hunt with them indefinitely until the end of his days.
Soon after his return, Kaa brings Mowgli to the Cold Lairs to meet an old white cobra named Thuu (White Hood). He is the guardian of what is called ‘the king's treasure'. After showing it to Mowgli, the boy takes an ankus and goad with him, both of which Thuu warns will bring death upon the person possessing them.
Mowgli then discards the ankus in the jungle, thinking it cursed. But Bagheera advises they go back to retrieve it so that they can return it to its rightful home. When they arrive, however, they discover it has already been taken, and soon enough come upon six men who died in its possession. Mowgli then returns the ankus to the Cold Lairs, where hopefully it will remain undisturbed.
In the time following, old Akela is killed. This happens while Mowgli is attempting to thwart the devastation caused by red dogs called Dholes (they run in large packs and are wildly destructive). Mowgli leads them towards the lair of the the Little People (bees) who drive the Dholes towards an ambush wolves. It is there that Akela meets his demise.
Following the death, Mowgli begins to experience what he can only describe as unhappiness. He is just shy of seventeen years old, and leaves the jungle to travel to another one. He encounters Messua on the way and she tells him she believes she is her long lost son. She has also given birth to another child, who she calls his brother.
In the final pages, Mowgli returns to the village for a brief while before Gray Brother convinces him to return to the jungle. On his way out, however, he encounters a girl, to whom he becomes attracted. It is then that he leaves the jungle forever and returns to the world of men indefinitely.
Best part of story, including ending:
It's the Jungle Book! I loved every bit of it--particularly the tale of the Bandar-log.
Best scene in story:
I love when Bagheera and Baloo enlist Ka to come to Mowgli's aid in the Bandar-log kingdom. It embodies for me how the jungle might function on a level of special hierarchy.
Opinion about the main character:
I like that Mowgli is conflicted between his identity as a man and his cultural identity as a member of the wolf pack.