I love adult stories; of grown men and women, of love and marriage and blah blah blah. However Rudyard, the lawyer that he was, decreed that the story of Mowgli’s life as a man and as a married man is a story for grown-ups and the Jungle Books falling in the children’s literature genre could not be home to adult stories.
The most acclaimed story from the Jungle Books is that of Mowgli. He is a man cub raised in an Indian Jungle by the Seeonee Pack of wolves and his human nature makes him vulnerable and yet terrifying to the wild folk. His trusted friends besides the Pack are Big Old Baloo the Bear and Bagheera the Panther. We know at the end of the story that he is terribly handsome, he is seventeen years old and that he will eventually marry.
Each of the characters in the book is memorable; Kaa the Snake, Tabaqui the Jackal, Hathi the Elephant, even Mang the Bat who is only sang about. The story of Mowgli is so much loved that it has become synonymous with the title ‘Jungle Book’ making all the other stories in the Collection almost invisible.The complete and unabridged book has NINE other stories.
If you are a lover of Irony, Sarcasm, Humor, if you love Tales more than Sights…then this story was written for you to read.
Reading The Jungle Books wholesomely was exciting only because I now have fireplace stories to tell my children before bedtime. For the most part, the reading was slow and labourious, what with the small font size and meager spacing that Penguin decided to use. Also Mowgli’s story is spread out generously in different chapters. While the story itself is a page turner, the actual reading of it is a back and forth unchronological exciting mess that enjoys breaks and interventions from other equally amazing stories.
Mowgli’s story has been adapted into movies several times the most recent being Jon Favreau’s The Jungle Book to which I will refer to answer the question: Book or Movie?
If all that intrigues you is the story of a boy who survives the jungle, I recommend the Movie. If you are a lover of Irony, Sarcasm, Humor, if you love Tales more than Sights, if you want to know how handsome Mowgli was when he was seventeen, then this story was written for you to read.
There were grave distortions of the original story that I did not appreciate about the movie version. The fight between the boy and Sheer Khan is much more thrilling in the Book. The epic moment where Mowgli, driven by god like rage lets in the jungle onto the man village is completely left out. The fight between the Pack under Mowgli’s commander-ship and the many many Dhole, is another one I hope will be captured in the Warner Bros live action version due for release on 19th October, 2018. A fable that you never hear in the movie that I wish for all of you to read is the story about how the tiger got its stripes. In The Jungle Books it is titled, “How Fear Came“.
…tales of old told to us by the Help when Grand Pas and Grand Mas were no more and Papa and Mama were very, very busy.
Reading The Jungle Books was a course in creative writing. My tea breaks between classes were the poems. Rudyard Kipling could not be boxed in the title ‘Poet Laureate’ (he turned down the civil honour) and may be he was justified because his poetry is a wild fire. Each chapter in the book opens and ends with poetry. I sang the Seal Lullaby over and over and marveled at how lyrical the rhyme and rhythm were. Some say a poem has no end but I found it in the completeness of the narrative,”Shiv and the Grasshopper“.
The other stories in The Jungle Books are much like the tales of old told to us by the Help when Grand Pas and Grand Mas were no more and Papa and Mama were very, very busy. Rikki-Tiiki-Tavi, a mongoose saves a family from poisonous cobras, Kotik the white seal finds his kind a safe beach away from preying humans, little Toomai witnesses the elephant dance and becomes Toomai of the Elephants and not to forget the magical realism in “Servants of the Queen” where a lucky man is privy to a conversation between service camels, horses and bullocks.
Rudyard has been called a Fabulist because most of his stories are fables with a moral lesson to pick. Bravery and saviours are a common factor and you can not speak of a savior without going religious. In “The Miracle of Purun Bhagat” we meet the politician turned holyman who saves an entire village from a mudslide. I found this story boring and surprisingly heroic as most stories about politicians and holymen are. In “The undertakers” a crocodile describes its culinary delights savouring humans. I laughed at the ironic twist when the boy it spared is the very human who takes its life at the end of the story.
As I said, the reading was exhausting and I was in a panic to get done with the Book while I read “Quiquern”, something about dogs and ice, lots of ice and the non existent Quiquern. I did not miss the end however, which if the story was being read out loud, would have been received with an applause followed by a standing ovation.
Nang’ awo wenalabila.