Monday, July 23, 2012

Thoughts: The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling

I've always viewed Rudyard Kipling with a somewhat suspicious eye, mainly because of The White Man's Burden and partly because I hated The Jungle Book when I first saw it as a kid.

So, I dived into The Jungle Book with little or no expectations at all, and I was pleasantly surprised. As soon as I started reading about Mowgli and the wolves, I forgot about Rudyard Kipling and the literary baggage that he came with. It was just me, The Jungle Book, and the wonderful characters inside it.

Mowgli's stories were funny and kind of sad at the same time. His adventures with Baloo and Bagheera were hilarious, but there was always an undercurrent of something rotten beneath the surface. When Mowgli finally has to live in an actual, human village, we see the all-too human struggle to fit in, to belong somewhere. Mowgli didn't fit in with the wolves because he was too human, and he didn't fit in with humans because he was too much of a wolf. In the end, he ends up a nomad, stuck between the two worlds.

There were other stories too, like The White Seal (about an almost mythical white seal who leads other seals to safety), Rikki-Tikki-Tavi (about a mongoose who has to fight a cobra couple--I'm not kidding), and Toomai of the Elephants (about a boy who is allowed entrance into the elephants' ballroom).

I didn't like these stories as much as Mowgli's, but, through them, I saw how Rudyard Kipling loved and understood animals. I'm not saying that all his portrayals of animals were accurate, but you get the impression that he knows a thing or two about the heart of the jungle and how it beats.

This reading experience taught me that, sometimes, not knowing anything about a writer can help you enjoy his work more. I avoided reading anything by Rudyard Kipling for so long because of his beliefs that I almost missed out on something as amazing as The Jungle Book.


Sam (Tiny Library) said...

When I read this, I remember being surprised at the inclusion of other stories in the book. And I couldn't get the Disney songs out of my head!

Zibilee said...

When I was in grade school, we watched a cartoon movie about Rikki-Tikki-Tavi, and it is one that I will never forget. If you get the chance, you might like to watch it and see how faithful it is to the book. I have never read this one, but it sounds like a book that I have been missing out on, and would enjoy!

Fanda said...

I have only read Kim from Kipling (not quite impressed), but already possessed The Jungle Book. I heard that Just So Stories is as good (or even better) than Jungle Book!

readplaydream said...

Ah, The Jungle Book. One of the classics on my TBR list. I remember seeing it in animation as a kid.

This post actually reminded me of one of the things that made me appreciate reading- the underlying messages that the author wants to deliver and the creativity with which it was delivered: masked through the setting, characters, and the flow of the story. Sure, maybe it's about a jungle boy and a bunch of talking animals, but it also speaks about society, fitting in, stuff like that. The supposedly children's book, The Little Prince, is the ultimate example of this.


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