I read Rudyard Kipling’s short story “Mowgli’s Brothers” last night – it’s a part of Kipling’s The Jungle Book. I confess that in reading this story I can’t help but picture the Disney animated movie that I’ve grown up with. The real story is a little less tame than Disney’s, but I think Walt Disney and his associates must have at least read the Kipling stories to create the characters in the movie. One note of interest (at least to me) is that Disney’s movie version was the last movie that Walt Disney worked on, himself.
The story is the opposite of the novel I just read, Jack London’s White Fang. In that novel, a wolf goes to live with “man”. In this story, Mowgli, a child, goes to live in the jungle with wolves. Bagheera, the panther, while ferocious to the rest of the jungle displays a firm gentleness in protecting and befriending Mowgli. Baloo, the bear, teaches Mowgli all about how to find food – without a lot of effort.
When the wolves are at their council to determine whether Mowgli should stay, Bagheera offers a dead bull to the pack. Because the council needs two members to speak up for Mowgli (other than his wolf parents), Baloo offers his affirmation of Mowgli. Therefore, Mowgli is allowed to stay with the pack “for the price of a bull and on Baloo’s good word.”
As Akela, the wolf leader, grows old, the question comes up again as to whether Mowgli can stay. Sheera Khan, the tiger that originally chased Mowgli into the jungle as a child, continues to hold a grudge against him. As he has planted seeds of doubt into the minds of many of Mowgli’s “brothers”, they try to hand him over to the tiger. Mowgli uses “Red Flower” (fire) that he’s stolen from the man-village to ward off his attackers on the council and then decides it is his time to return to his village, though it’s not without much grief and tears.
The animals in Kipling’s stories are more anthropomorphic ( I like using that word) than in London’s novels. While there is still talk of the “Law of the Jungle”, it’s a law that is made up by Kipling himself for his stories; whereas, London’s “law” seems to be based more on nature in “real life”.