“A brave heart and a courteous tongue…”

The next story in Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book is “Kaa’s Hunting”.  As I’ve mentioned previously, I have difficulty separating the stories from the Disney movie in my imagination.  I don’t know whether this should be considered good or bad, but either way, I’m not sure I can do anything about it!  So even before reading the story, I knew that Kaa was a snake.

The movie doesn’t stray very far from the story, surprisingly.  This time, though warned by his friends Bagheera and Baloo, Mowgli fraternizes with the Monkey-People and gets captured by them.  The description of Mowgli’s capture and his subsequent “swing” through the upper echelons of the jungle (literally) made for a great section of the story and could very well be the next ride at Disney World.  As in the movie, the Monkey-People want Mowgli for his “man” abilities such as building huts.  They take him to a ruined city where they proceed to party into the wee hours of the night, something they tend to do every night – and day.  Their attention span doesn’t really lend itself to building huts.

Bagheera and Baloo, not being able to fight the Monkey-People by themselves, call on the services of one of the few members of the Jungle feared by the Monkey-People, Kaa, the Python:

Generations of monkeys had been scared into good behaviour by the stories their elders told them of Kaa, the night-thief, who could slip along the branches as quietly as moss grows, and steal away the strongest monkey that ever lived.

The Law of the Jungle allowed Bagheer and Baloo to join forces with Kaa and rescue Mowgli from the monkeys.  After Mowgli’s friends battle the monkeys and Kaa puts them in a trance with his “Dance of Hunger”, Kaa and Mowgli exchange pleasantries with Kaa telling the “manling” that he has “a brave heart and a courteous tongue”.  And while they part ways as friends of sorts, the reader gets the idea that Mowgli might be wise not to keep his back turned on Kaa for very long.

What I find interesting about these stories is the relationships between the various creatures of the jungle.  The alliances and enmities do not always keep with those of the natural world.  They also can change on a moment’s notice- possibly, more like humanity than the animal kingdom.


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