The Jungle Books, Rudyard Kipling, 1894 and 1895
Uuuuuuuergh. I have struggled to find anything at all to say about imperialist scum-bag Kipling’s most famous works. Maybe if Disney stopped making movies about Mowgli, we could stop thinking about Kipling. I suppose it is ok to reclaim his characters for our own purposes. These books are not completely without merit, but they are hard to wrap the mind around. Quite paradoxical.
Kipling was born in India, then educated in England for about ten years, after which he returned to India and became a journalist, poet and novelist. He claimed to love India, but was a fervent Imperialist who harbored deep prejudice against the “Orientals,” as he called them. See his unspeakably atrocious poem “The White Man’s Burden” for more information.
Anyway, he wrote a book a young Indian boy, Mowgli, who is lost in the jungle when a tiger, Shere Khan, attacks his village. Mowgli is adopted by a family of wolves. It seems a bit patronizing for this particular author to choose to write this character. Of course, he couldn’t depict a white, English boy living among beasts. So, it’s already yucky. However, it is a very compelling story concept. The idea of the feral child easily captures the imagination. And animals as characters is great. Everybody likes animals. The found family of Baloo, Bagheera and Kaa is quite endearing. They are a bear, a panther and a snake respectively.
There are two Jungle Books. After the success of the first, Kipling published another a year later, called The Second Jungle Book. Both contain stories that jump between characters and through time, which was a bad call. If Kipling had thought to tell Mowgli’s story from beginning to end in one volume, that would make a much better read than these two volumes, which I plodded begrudgingly through. They’re boring, y’all. His prose is dry and lifeless.
For some reason, Kipling thought the animal society that Mowgli joins should have rigid rules, the Jungle Law, that Mowgli must memorize. He must show proper deference and courtesy to the various “people” of the jungle. The animals even speak in formal prose to cement the Arthurian nature of their world. What? Why even? The entire appeal of the jungle setting is wildness. *Tears hair out.* The feral child appeals, because he/she/they are surviving in a world without society. No rules to memorize. No caste. No school! Mowgli goes to jungle school. Really. Swing and a miss from Kipling. That is not the kind of learning required of boy raised by wolves. There are so many frustratingly poor artistic choices in these books.
Most of the non-Mowgli centered stories are very bad and painfully dull. Some are only slightly bad, perhaps even worth reading. “The White Seal” is about a seal who searches for a breeding ground that hunters cannot reach. It’s a bit charming and has a distinct environmental perspective, but you have to overlook some nastiness towards native Arctic people. Blergh. When I was a kid, I loved the story “Rikki-Tikki-Tavi” about a mongoose who defends a British family from two cobras. Mostly I just liked the wee mongoose’s name. He is quite brave and determined. But honestly, at 35, the story of an Indian mongoose bravely defending imperialists has lost some of its appeal.
Final Thoughts: Yup, we’re here already. I don’t have much to say about these books. They are under-stimulating. The plots of the Mowgli stories are dramatic and compelling. If only they had been better written. If only.
Final, Final Thoughts: Of course, I am not the kind of inconsiderate knitter who posts pictures of knitted items without telling you where the patterns came from.
Most of the patterns are by Anna Hrachovec, including the gator, the cat, the bat, the bear and the elephant. This is her ravelry page. You can also find her patterns on her website, Mochimochi Land. I used Tatyana Korobkova’s Small Tiger Doll pattern to make Mowgli wearing Shere Khan’s pelt, which is a thing that happens in the books, rather graphically. Akela the wolf is from Noel Margaret’s Wee Wandering Wolf pattern. I made the snake pattern up, but you could use this pattern from Just Be Crafty to make a very similar one.