Tuesday, 26 April 2016

'The Jungle Book' by Rudyard Kipling (1894)

Synopsis: The Jungle Book is a collection of seven short stories with accompanying poems. The most famous stories in the book are the three which concern a young boy called Mowgli who is found by a family of wolves in an Indian jungle. Much to the anger of Shere Khan, a man-eating Bengal tiger, the wolves refuse to surrender the child to him and raise the boy as one of their own. Mowgli is also given two guardians - a black panther called Bagheera and a sloth bear called Baloo - who teach him all of the laws and languages of the jungle. Mowgli then spends the next ten years of his life with the wolves and his friends but, when Shere Khan then starts to turn members of the wolf pack against him, Mowgli realises that the jungle is no longer a safe place for him and that he'll eventually have to kill his enemy. In The White Seal a Northern fur seal called Kotick who lives in the Bering Sea searches for a new home where he and his fellow seals can be safe from being hunted by humans; in Rikki-Tikki-Tavi a mongoose called Rikki-Tikki saves a human family from a pair of deadly cobras, in Toomai of the Elephants a 10 year old elephant handler boy called Toomai follows his elephant Kala Nag into the jungle and ends up witnessing a secret elephant dancing ritual; and finally in Her Majesty's Servants a British soldier eavesdrops on a conversation between various military service animals.


Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book is really quite different to the classic 1967 Disney film adaptation that I think most of us grew up with but, as much as I love the Disney version, the original three Mowgli stories are a wonderful read and I can now completely understand why some would prefer them to the film. Kipling's jungle has a much darker and grittier feel to it than the Disney version's and his Mowgli is more likeable since he's much more independent and resourceful. We also get the lovely story Rikki-Tikki-Tavi in this book - a charming and thrilling tale about a heroic mongoose's efforts to save his adopted human family. The other stories that are in this book I personally found a bit dull but I enjoyed the Mowgli stories and Rikki-Tikki-Tavi so much that they mostly made up for them.

Additionally one of the main reasons for my wanting to read The Jungle Book was because it was the major source of inspiration for Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book and, now that I've finally read it, it's made me love Gaiman's novel even more. I have more of an appreciation for just how clever and imaginative Gaiman was in being able to reinterpret Kipling's book and I can see more parallels between the two texts than I did before. The character of Miss Lupescu in The Graveyard Book is obviously based on Baloo (since Baloo is stricter and is less easy-going than the Baloo of the Disney film), the ghouls on the monkeys, the night-gaunts on Chil the Kite, and the danse macabre on the secret elephant dance ritual in Toomai of the Elephants.

I personally found The Jungle Book to be far more accessible and enjoyable than Kipling's other novel Kim and I'm hoping that both the new Disney film version (which I haven't yet seen) and the upcoming Warner Brothers adaptation will be able to capture some of its magic.

Rating: 4/5

2 comments:

Hamlette said...

I really love The Jungle Book and its sequel. Bagheera, especially. He's so slyly funny, and wise, and always cat-like.

Hannah said...

I agree! Bagheera has always been my favourite character from the Disney film (even though almost everyone seems to like Baloo best) and I loved him in the book as well :)