o this isn’t your Disneyland version of The Jungle Book.
It starts a couple of degrees off. In the film, young Mowgli is orphaned in what looks like a high-speed canoe crash. Bagheera the panther takes pity on the young creature and dumps him with a wolf pack. And that’s what makes him a wild boy.
In the book, Shere Khan (who doesn’t show up until the final reel in the flick) is a lame tiger who is not urbanely deadly, but rather a limping posturing loser. When he attacks Mowgli’s woodcutter parents, he accidently leaps into the fire. The parents run one way, the boy wobbles the other, and the tiger apparently has to put the flames out before he decides to pick off the man-cub. By then, the boy has wandered into a wolf den into which Shere Khan cannot fit. Yet we still get a splendid scene of the mother wolf planting herself before the man-cub and the frustrated tiger, shielding him with every fiber in her being. It was a neat scene, made even better by the period illustrations that came with the kindle version.
And so while the Disney version does have its merits, the entire quest to return the boy to a man-village, the book runs down a significantly darker trail, with Mowgli pretty much putting it out on the jungle news-vine that he’s willing to face Shere Khan man-to-tiger. And the conclusion of this struggle is quite graphic and deadly, with Mowgli coming across as a powerful force, man and nature, able to defeat huge cats and a dangerous man with a rifle, all without really breaking into a sweat. It was a great tale and I can see why it’s carried all these years. Good stuff there.
Interestingly, Kaa the snake comes out in the book as an ally. That threw me. And his whole trust in meeee hypnotic singing (while creepy and perhaps, it is said, somewhat erotic) really takes on a whole new meaning when he uses it in the book. Trust me, this comes down as a gallon of nightmare fuel when the action plays its course and the world is shorter by fifty or so monkies. Ugh. I’m still thinking about that bit.
But it’s good, worth a read, and short – I got it hammered down in two train commutes and a lunch break. And, as always, I can give this one to you free. HERE’S THE LINK. And it comes with a number of other great stories, besides!