«Man always returns to man,» The Jungle Book.
The Jungle book isn’t one long story, but rather a collection of short stories about the animals that live in the Indian jungle. And sometimes there is a story about a wolfboy, whom had his parents killed by a tiger and was saved and raised by wolves. His name is Mowgli, the frog. I read a collection about his life from a small boy until he is 17 years old.
This was a delightful surprise. These are children’s stories and I can imagine they be enjoyed by children whom like adventure like Zorro, Robin Hood and Tarzan (Okay, I’ve never read Tarzan, but I assume it fits here. Those books are about an apeboy after all). They are filled with action and a compelling protagonist of the ‘why are everyone making a fuss’-school.
But what really struck me was the way Kipling talk about nature. He spent a lot of time in India, being born to British white citizens living in India. The way both nature is described, but also the way he creates the anthropomorphic animals shows an intimacy with what he is describing. While the short stories are talked about as moral-stories I felt like there was more to it. The animals talked a lot about the law of the jungle and the rules that the different
animals had to abide by. Therefore I would say that the book could be seen as an allegory for racism, but then again I didn’t really read it like that. To me it read more as a political-social description about the laws and rules in a society. One group of animals wasn’t seen as more disenfranchised than other groups, though they did talk about certain animals as bas because they didn’t live by the law of the jungle like all the other animals. There was also a surprising pragmatic tone to the fact that the animals eat one anohter and this was judge not on being wrong in itself, but rather if they hunted and eat according to jungle law. Due to how India worked at the time Kipling grew up there I assume you really can’t separate politics and race, but what I read into it was more focused on societal norms. Almost all of the stories talk about how the different animals are educating Mowgli in one way or another and how important that is. Not as individual morals, but regarding the society as a whole.
The book also touches on being from two different world and not really belonging to either one. This could be a reflection of Kiplings own experience as a white man in India, yet when he was in England he was a man from India, not an Englishman.
Most of all I read this stories as stories of identity. Growing up as a human in the jungle and trying to figure out where you belong and what you can and can’t do.
“Thou art of the Jungle and not of the Jungle. And I am only a black panther. But I love thee, Little Brother.” – The Jungle book.
It’s also surprisingly well written. The short story Letting in the Jungle was haunting and throughout the other stories you have literary gems.
Kaa: “The branches are not what they were when I was young. Rotten twigs and dry boughs are they all.”
“Maybe thy great weight has something to do with the matter,” said Baloo.
“I am a fair length—a fair length,” said Kaa, with a little pride. “But for all that, it is the fault of this new-grown timber.” – The Jungel Book