The Jungle Book (novel)

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The Jungle Book
Written by: Rudyard Kipling
Central Theme:
First published: 1894
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"Now this is the Law of the Jungle -- as old and as true as the sky;
And the Wolf that shall keep it may prosper, but the Wolf that shall break it must die.
As the creeper that girdles the tree-trunk the Law runneth forward and back --
For the strength of the Pack is the Wolf, and the strength of the Wolf is the Pack."

A collection of stories published in 1894 by Rudyard Kipling, primarily about a Wild Child named Mowgli, followed by a sequel, The Second Jungle Book, in 1895. The stories detail Mowgli's childhood and youth, of his upbringing with the wolf-pack and his battles with the great lame tiger Shere Khan, of his friendship with Bagheera the panther and Baloo the bear and Kaa the python, of his abduction by the Bandar-Log of the Cold Lairs, and his great war against the Dhole, of his meeting with the White Cobra and of his vendetta against his old people. Not all of the stories concerned Mowgli, the most well known ones being "Rikki Tikki Tavi" and "Toomai of the Elephants" in the first, and "The Miracle of Purun Bhagat" and "The Undertakers" in the second.

The original work has long fallen out of copyright; the stories are in the Public Domain, and Mowgli and friends are now Public Domain Characters.

The Jungle Books were instant hits and they remain popular more than a century after they were conceived by Kipling. There are endless debates about the quality of Kipling's prose and poetry, his politics and his views on race, but the Jungle Books are still considered classics, even today.


In 1900, Kipling wrote a stage adaptation of the Mowgli stories which he never published or produced. It was finally discovered among his papers and published in 2000 as The Jungle Play.

Zoltan Korda turned The Jungle Book into a live-action movie using real animals in 1942, giving the part of Mowgli to Sabu, the star of The Thief of Bagdad.

Disney found The Jungle Book, and loved at least some of its ideas, so they chose it for one of their Animated Adaptations. The result was and is widely considered a great Disney film, the best and perhaps most original animated Disney film of the 1960s. That said, this adaptation of The Jungle Book was one of the greatest cases of Adaptation Displacement in history, so great a case that Disney felt free to use some of Mowgli's friends and foes and rivals far, far away from the books and jungles where they were conceived, and so it considers them its own. This is the probable reason why Kipling doesn't receive a credit on Tale Spin, an Animated Series that puts three of the main characters from The Jungle Book (or Disney's version, at least) into an Alternate Continuity. A second series was created using the Disney interpretations Jungle Cubs reinventing the childhood lives of the animal residents into comical stories. See Disney: The Jungle Book.

On the other hand, the great animation genius, Chuck Jones, produced three animated TV specials in the 1970s, Mowgli's Brothers, Rikki Tikki Tavi and The White Seal that were much more faithful to the original stories.

There is also a Soviet animated series that is extremely faithful to the stories and to the general mood and style. No human-like mimics in animals here. However, some of the animal characters changed their gender—most notably, Bagheera is female (since the word "panther" is always feminine in Russian) in this adaptation.

An anime series based on the books was also created. Jungle Book: Shonen Mowgli, though somewhat more faithful to the original novels than the Disney adaption, takes a similar more whimsical atmosphere, as well as expanding the cast and plot line to fit it's over fifty episode long run. The anime aired during the late eighties and early nineties, amusingly around the same time Disney recycled some of their concepts adapted from the books for the Disney Afternoon series Tale Spin.

There was a live-action 1994 film based on the Jungle Book, called Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book. It was directed by Stephen Sommers. While taking elements from the original books and the 1967 animated film, it had a very different storyline. It mostly focused on Mowgli's (Jason Scott Lee) life after leaving the jungle: having to become accustomed to life in British-colonial India and attempting to woo upper-class Love Interests Katherine Anne "Kitty" Brydon (Lena Headey). This film was a modest box office hit, earning $43,229,904 in the United States market. It was the 31st most successful film of its year. The critics rather liked it, though some complained that it wasn't family friendly.

An unrelated film called The Second Jungle Book: Mowgli & Baloo (1997) was released, possibly to cash in on the popularity of the above. It featured a still pre-teen Mowgli (Jamie Williams) pursued by the recruiting agents of a circus. The film performed poorly in theaters, but proved a hit in the video market. Which explains why there was yet another live action film, Jungle Book: Mowgli's Story (1998), a straight to video production. It featured Brandon Baker as Mowgli and various voice actors speaking for the animal characters. Despite featuring well-known actors such as Clancy Brown and Nancy Cartwright, it seems to be the most obscure of the three (though ironically the nearest Disney got to a faithful rendition of the novel).

And in 2016 Disney released a Live Action Adaptation of its own (continuing its 21st-century tradition of remaking its classic animated films as live action). It featured an All-Star Cast of voices for the animals and newcomer Neel Sethi as Mowgli, and included its own mutations to the original story line.

Tropes used in The Jungle Book (novel) include:

"Be careful; I am Death!"

    • From Nag, the cobra:

"Who is Nag? I am Nag. The great God Brahm put his mark upon all our people, when the first cobra spread his hood to keep the sun off Brahm as he slept. Look, and be afraid!"

  • Berserk Button: Do not. Harm. Mowgli's. Mother. He will not kill you. He will systematically ruin your village, and send you scurrying for your life.
  • Big Badass Wolf
  • Big Brother Mentor: Bagheera and Baloo, especially the former. Occasionally, Kaa and Brother Wolf.
  • Butt Monkey: Tabaqui in many depictions tends to see his friendship with Shere Khan as something of "street cred". Since Shere Khan himself is often the butt of jokes from other animals (including his own mother), it's needless to say it doesn't quite work that way. Oh, and the little guy has rabies too. Or at least, it's mentioned that jackals are prone to rabies.
  • Casual Danger Dialog
  • Cats Are Mean: Played straight and subverted. Shere Khan the man-eating tiger is one of the main villains, but Bagheera the black panther is a trustworthy friend.
  • Cue the Flying Pigs: At the beginning of "Toomai of the Elephants", the title character is told by Petersen Sahib that he may one day go into all elephant stockades "when thou hast seen the elephants dance"; although there is evidence that such events occur, no human has yet witnessed it, thus the statement equates to "never". Sure enough, though, by the end of the story, Little Toomai has seen the dance of the elephants.
  • Does Not Like Shoes: Mowgli. In fact, he's pretty unimpressed by clothing in general.
  • The Dreaded: One of the things Disney's adaptations conveniently left out is the fact that Bagheera is one of the most feared (and respected) creatures in the entire jungle. The same goes for the giant rock python Kaa.
  • Eloquent in My Native Tongue
  • Everything's Worse with Bears: Averted with Baloo.
  • Exact Eavesdropping:
    • Mowgli overhears that his adoptive human parents are to be executed, and immediately sets about saving them.
    • Rikki-Tikki-Tavi the mongoose only hears the two cobras' cunning plan to rid the bungalow of humans. A bit too convenient, no?
  • Fantastic Caste System: Each species acts a little like an Indian caste and has parts of the law of the Jungle designed specifically for it.
  • Friend to All Living Things
  • Full-Frontal Assault
  • Held Gaze: The Jungle Book references the direct gaze that when an animal views it that in Real Life it signals a threat to the animal; and it comes into play during the wolf-pack meeting at the beginning when Mowgli is allowed into the pack. His ingenuous, even gaze is unsettling to the animals gathered when he looks at them, meeting their gaze for only a few seconds, as most look away quickly except for ones like Bagheera, who knows something of the ways of men. And by the time Mowgli's grown up even Bagheera has to look away.
  • Humans Are the Real Monsters
  • I Gave My Word
  • The Igor: Tabaqui, the jackal who kisses up to Shere Khan.
  • The Imp: Again Tabaqui, being a cowardly little jackal amist a bunch of Earth's most formidable predators, his activities consist largely of teasing the wolves and spreading word of Shere Khan's wrath.
  • Intellectual Animal
  • Lamarck Was Right
  • Literary Allusion Title
  • Manly Men Can Hunt: "Remember the wolf is a hunter, go forth and get food of thine own."
  • Mama Bear: Or rather, Mother Wolf.
  • Manly Tears: In more senses than one.
  • Meaningful Name: In the story "Mowgli" (a name Kipling made up) means "frog", which refers both to his hairless skin and to his "amphibious" life between the worlds of the Jungle and that of Man.
  • Mighty Whitey: Subverted, Mowgli is Indian (though it's implied that he acts "whiter" than other Indians).
    • Subverted in one line from 'Letting in the Jungle'. "He knew that when the Jungle moves only white men can hope to turn it aside."
    • The first story he appears in, "In the Rukh", takes place after the books, and Mowgli impresses his white, British boss, Gisborne. Then the boss's German boss, Muller, with a thick Funetik Aksent pays a visit, recognizes what Mowgli is, and tells Gisborne to give him free rein.
  • Naked on Arrival
  • No Name Given
  • Not So Harmless:
    • While an Informed Attribute for the most part, Tabaqui, often an irritating coward that serves as a bigger laughing stock of the Jungle than Shere Khan, is noted for his occasion bouts of insanity (suggested to be formed from rabies), biting and attacking anything in his path, during which point the wolves and Shere Khan himself are fearful of him.
    • Shere Khan himself, though considered an egotistical fool by many, he's still a great hulking tiger.
  • Old Master: Kaa, who is the oldest creature in the jungle—his sheer size only makes sense when you realise this.
  • Panthera Awesome:
    • Shere Khan.
    • And Bagheera. More so than Shere Khan in the original book.
  • Papa Wolf: It's generally Akela, rather than Mowgli's actual wolf dad.
  • Physical Scars, Psychological Scars: Hathi the elephant has a large white scar from the time he fell into a spiked pit trap and felt humiliated enough that when he escaped he razed three villages.
  • Prequel and Sequel: Kipling had first created Mowgli for the short story "In the Rukh", which was republished in 1893 in the collection Many Inventions. In that story Mowgli meets a British forestry official, marries and has a child.
  • Public Domain Character
  • Raised by Wolves: Mowgli is a classic example.
  • The Renfield: Tabaqui to Shere Khan.
  • Reptiles Are Abhorrent: Subverted and played straight. Kaa the python is a wise ally to Mowgli, but the White Cobra proves to be insane, and Nag and Nagaina are the villains in "Rikki-Tikki-Tavi." Apparently, Kipling had something against cobras.
    • The cobras in the home of the Bandar-Log were portrayed reasonably well.
    • The White Cobra was only partly insane; his rather cryptic warning of death proved to be correct, just not for Mowgli.
    • There is also the holy cobra in the village. When it leaves, it is seen as the last straw and signal for the villagers to depart in "Letting In the Jungle".
    • Crocodiles, on the other hand, are always evil: see "The Undertakers" and the poem "A Ripple Song".
  • Something Completely Different: Each anthology has a story that has nothing whatsoever to do with the jungle or India: in the first, it's The White Seal, set in the northern oceans; in the second, it's Quiquern, which is about huskies and Inuits.
  • Shirtless Scene: Mowgli is always shirtless.
  • Unholy Matrimony: The two cobras in Rikki-Tikki-Tavi are mates who wish to assassinate all the humans in the house so that their children will have room to grow.
  • Unspoken Plan Guarantee: Averted. Mowgli's plans to kill Shere Khan and defeat the Red Dogs are laid out to the reader in great detail, and both are pulled off without a hitch.
  • Unusual Euphemism: A classic one:

By the Red Flower Bagheera meant fire, only no creature in the jungle will call fire by its proper name. Every beast lives in deadly fear of it, and invents a hundred ways of describing it.

  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: In the stories, all animals have sapient intelligence like humans. But humans are still treated as objectively worth more than non-human animals. Especially in Rikki-Tikki-Tavi (A mongoose goes to kill two cobras who want to kill the humans in a bungalow so that they can raise their children.) Probably justified in this case, since the cobras would also be a potential threat to Rikki Tikki as well. Plus, the humans had saved the mongoose's life.
  • Who Will Bell the Cat?
  • Wild Child