So I read the Jungle Book a while ago, but I’ve been thinking about it recently and I kind of wanted to talk about some of the things I loved from the book that most people don’t really know (especially if they were only familiar with the Disney Movie from 1964.)
1) Baloo was the keeper of the Law of the Jungle. He was allowed to go anywhere, and was accepted by any of the animals because he knew ALL of their laws. If there was a dispute among animals Baloo was called in to arbitrate because what was against the laws for one animal might be permitted for others.
2) One of Baloo’s jobs was to teach all of the young the Laws of the Jungle, he always started with the Laws of their kind, then taught those who wanted to learn the other Laws those laws. Most animals would wander off because they only wanted/needed to learn their own laws. Mowgli stayed after learning the Laws of the Wolves because his “natural human curiosity” compelled him to learn as much of the Laws of the Jungle as he could retain, this is the reason why Baloo loved him so dearly.
3) Bagheera was an honorary wolf. When Mowgli was found by the wolves they were split as to what to do whether to keep him or turn him over the Sher-Khan. Bagheera offered to reveal the location of a stranded bull to the wolf-pack if they would allow him to voice a vote to keep Mowgli alive, the wolves accepted and so the Akela declared Mowgli and Bagheera to be wolves with all the rights, responsibilities and priveleges therein.
4) Since Bagheera bought the vote that saved Mowgli with a bull the law of the Jungle stated that Mowgli was never allowed to harm or eat cattle of any kind. Some modern analysts believe that this was put in in order to make the character more likeable to the Hindi population while giving the European readers a better reason for him not touching beef besides “it’s set in India and cows are sacred to the people there.” But I think there was a more important reason behind it, which I will get to later.
5) Mowgli’s extensive knowledge of the laws of the Jungle saved his life multiple times. While he was not as known or respected as Baloo when he was in danger he knew which sacred laws to invoke to allow him safe passage, or what deals to make to get messages to his friends.
6) There was actually a very brief (and subtle) discussion about racial/class privilege (with a more direct version later) where Mowgli had found that if he stared any creature in the eyes long enough they would get scared and look away. Bagheera explained to him that this was because he had the eyes of man, and that he needed to not do that because while it was a game to him it was painful, frightening, and angered the animals he did it to.
7) In fact that staring was part of the reasons used by Sher-khan to turn the wolf pack against Mowgli. Not all the pack turned against him though, his siblings from his adoptive mother were still loyal to him and actually helped him to eventually defeat Sher-khan.
8) The Monkeys in the ruins wanted Mowgli to be like them, rather than to become men. The snake Kaa was fetched to rescue Mowgli, the monkeys were considered dangerous and hated by Baloo and the others because they did not follow any laws, not even their own. Mowgli was the only person immune to Kaa’s eyes and voice as opposed to the Disney version where he was susceptible to it.
9) When Mowgli went to live among man his mother recognized him, but believed he just looked similar to her child who was eaten by the man-eating-tiger (Sher-khan) as a baby. Mowgli never made the connection and she never really knew that he was her son before he was thrown out of the village for witchcraft (More on that below.)
10) The British government had placed a bounty on Sher-khan. When Mowgli killed him a hunter tried to take the corpse from him and one of Mowgli’s brothers pinned the hunter. Mowgli told his brothers not to harm him, and to keep him still until he had finished skinning Sher-khan, this was the “witchcraft” that got him kicked out of the village.
11) When Mowgli was living in the village a donkey belonging to an untouchable fell into a hole. Mowgli lifted the donkey out with one hand and was promptly chastised by the village priest for aiding the man because the only thing lower than an untouchable was his donkey. Mowgli reminded the priest that he just lifted a donkey out of a hole with one arm, and that if the priest ever told him he was not allowed to help someone in need again then he would drop him down the hole and tell people they weren’t allowed to help him out. This contributed towards the accusations of witchcraft mentioned previously.
12) The Jungle Book was actually a collection of stories.
13) According to the Jungle Book, writing was invented by a little girl who was trying to tell a man who did not speak her language to go to her village and get her father’s spear so he can fish. Hilarity ensues when the man thinks she is telling him to go to her village to find warriors because their chief is being attacked, and they think the drawing is a taunt because he has killed the girl’s father. When the truth is revealed everyone laughs and celebrates the girl’s cleverness at using pictures to send ideas without words, although all agree that there must be a better system.
14) The invention of the alphabet (in a later story) was invented by the same girl, who created the Latin Alphabet to try and convey the ideas of sounds either by the shape of the mouth when you make the sound (A, O) or something she associated with the initial sound. The story ends by saying that other cultures changed the forms and rearranged the letters to reflect their own languages and sounds but things eventually returned “to their proper place” this is literally the most Eurocentric the book gets.
15) Rikki Tikki Tavi was in this book. I don’t think I need to say more.
So what is the point of this exceptionally long post? Well quite frankly, the running theme of this story is that culture differs between groups, that the ways of one culture may not be best, and that those who are most successful are those who are willing to learn, and change beyond the world into which they are born. This as opposed to other books about children of man being raised by creatures *cough* TARZAN *cough* where the hero succeeds because of his superior intellect of being human and therefore inherently civilized, Mowgli succeeds because his inherent curiosity allowed him to be raised to understand that others followed different laws than himself, and that that was okay. In the incident with the priest and the untouchable Mowgli didn’t tell the priest that he HAD to change his ways, just that he should not expect Mowgli to change his ways. His invocation of the Laws of the other creatures was always done with respect, barring the mistakes he made when he was young associating with the baboons and abusing his powers as a man.
In the tales of the little girl who invented writing, her motivation for inventing was to reach out and communicate with a stranger who did not speak her tongue. Later it was to prevent the mistakes that had led to her new friend almost getting killed by her town.
In Rikki Tikki Tavi the whole point was that the Europeans in India thought that with their knowledge and technology that they could tame India, but there were always dangers that they could not anticipate that would surprise them (Nag and Nagini) and that they should listen and cooperate with the Natives who knew the land better than them, rather than trying to make them “civilized” and more “European.”
Wherever Tiki was, she was most likely asleep. Robin always had a hard time trying to find her, but this time, it wasn’t hard. He found her sleeping in the field where he was found. He smiled, kissed her, and laid down next to her. He put her head on his chest so she would have a cushion. Robin then began to read a book. After a while, Tiki had finally woken up. She looked at Robin and smiled herself. It had been a little while since they got to sleep next to each other.
Recently acquired from V-Male Detroit Vintage… “The Tiki Reviver” designed by Moritz and paying tribute to the recent 10th Anniversary of Tiki’s most significant publication ever …Sven Kirsten’s The Book of Tiki!