September 23, 2021

#08-139: The Jungle Book

Mowgli made leader of the Bandar-log (Monkeys)

Note: Rudyard Kipling's Jungle Book stories explore the boundaries between law and freedom, nature and civilization. And they're darned good reading!

Get Ready: Who do you think has an easier life: humans in a town or city, or animals in the wild? Why do you think so?

You may have heard of Mowgli, the main character in several movies called The Jungle Book. These are based on nine short stories by the Indian-born English author Rudyard Kipling.

Mowgli was raised by wolves after seemingly losing his parents during a tiger attack on their village. His "mother," named Raksha, and her mate bring him up with their other wolf cubs. They call him a "man-cub," and name him Mowgli, meaning "frog," because he is hairless--and is constantly jumping around.

He brings his own skills to the pack. He has the power to stare down any wolf, and he can remove thorns from his brothers' paws. A black panther named Bagheera, who once lived in a cage made by humans, becomes his mentor.

Mowgli's other teacher is the bear Baloo, who teaches him "The Law of the Jungle." It is very complex, but can be summarized in one line: "the strength of the Pack is the Wolf, and the strength of the Wolf is the Pack." (This is similar to the Three Musketeers' "All for one and one for all!") Other key concepts include obedience, and a stern prohibition on killing humans.

Now, the tiger that attacked the village is an especially bad one--named Shere Khan--who believes that the escaped boy rightly belongs to him. He keeps trying to catch the boy, but the wolves insist that the boy is theirs. Finally, Mowgli discovers the one thing the tiger, like all animals, fears, "the Red Flower": fire.

Mowgli returns to the human village, and is adopted by a couple whose own son was taken by a tiger. It is possible, though never proven, that Mowgli is their lost son. The woman, Messua, likes to believe so.

While Mowgli is herding the village's buffalo, he learns that the tiger is still after him. He and two of his wolf friends drive the tiger into a ravine, where the buffalo trample him. Mowgli keeps his skin, but the villagers suspect him of witchcraft, and he goes once again to live with the wolves.

In later stories Mowgli and his animal allies save Messua and her husband, who are about to be attacked for harboring "the witch." He also leads the wolves in a war against wild dogs. In the end, he goes to work for the British government's forestry service and takes a wife--who goes with him, along with their son, when once again he goes to live in the forest.


Read more:

Practice: Match the term to its definition below:

  1. constantly
  2. cubs
  3. harboring
  4. mentor
  5. prohibition
  6. ravine
  7. stern
  8. thorns
  9. trample
  10. witchcraft

  1. hiding; giving shelter to
  2. serious
  3. without stopping
  4. step heavily on something
  5. baby wolves, bears, tigers, etc.
  6. black magic
  7. pointy parts of plants
  8. a rule against something
  9. a teacher and guide
  10. a narrow valley formed by water

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for September 23, 2021

1 comment:

  1. Answers to the Practice: 1. c; 2. e; 3. a; 4. i; 5. h; 6. j; 7. b; 8. g; 9. d; 10. f