JUNGLE BOOK by Rudyard Kipling
The stories of Jungle Book are stories told in the third person by a narrator, as one might tell bedtime stories to children. Only in "The White Seal" and "Servants of the Queen," is the narrator actually mentioned, and then he is not identified. The reader gets the sense of a wise older narrator, one who is intimately familiar with Colonial Indian and the jungle therein, but not of it, as a British colonial officer would be. The narrator, for the most part, is impartial and allows the stories' characters to tell the story. Only occasionally does he interject, such as at the end of "Tiger, Tiger," when he tells us that the rest of Mowgli's story is a story for ...view middle of the document...
While they are written as fanciful stories about talking wolves, bears and panthers, similar characters and actions are easily found in the human community, in our own time as well as Kipling's. The simple elegance of his stories is timeless.
Kipling frequently uses the idiom of 19th century British colonial India. For instance, in "Servants of the Queen," when he calls the oxen, "bullocks." Kipling's English is somewhat formal, and although his narrators are friendly and even compassion towards the characters in the stories, they do not become too familiar. They keep a certain, respectful distance. Kipling also uses the Victorian pronouns "thee" and "thine," popular in 19th century England, throughout the book.
Kipling creates somewhat childlike phrases and words in the stories; such as, "Jungle People" to describe the ordered denizens of the jungle, "Gidur-log" to describe the jackals, and "Bandar-log" to describe the wild monkeys. These names have their roots in the Hindu language, and even Kaa's name is drawn from the Hindu word for snake.
That Kipling loved to travel and loved learning about new peoples comes out clearly in his writing. In Jungle Book, he creates a magical world in which animals talk and reason. In "Mowgli's Brothers," he tells the tale of a young human baby, Mowgli, found in the wilderness by a family of wolves and raised as one of their own. "Kaa's Hunting" follows Mowgli as he grows and learns the lessons of the jungle, sometimes the hard way. In "Tiger, Tiger," Kipling continues the story of Mowgli as he grows up and is cast out of the wolf pack by jealous and competitive rivals. He tries to make a life with the human villagers, but his new life is wrought with problems.
"The White Seal" takes the reader to the Bering Sea and introduces him to a colony of seals. One particularly brave and notable seal, an unusual white seal, questions the seals' lifestyle and looks for ways to improve it. As he grows up, he travels the globe looking for the ideal home for the seals. He shares the knowledge he gains on his travels with the other seals and the reader. In "Rikki-Tikki-Tavi," the setting returns to India and relates the story of a loyal mongoose, considered good luck in India, and how he protects his family from the deadly bite and the cunning of the resident cobras.
"Toomai of the Elephants" is another tale of India centering around a trusted elephant, his handler, and the myth of the elusive elephant dance. It tells the tale of one boy's magical night with the elephants. "Servants of the Queen" takes the reader to western India, in present day Pakistan, and lets us eavesdrop as the camp animals discuss their lives.
Each story is followed by a lyrical poem or song, supposedly sung or spoken by the main character, summarizing the story. Kipling's tales are outwardly for children, but their themes apply to larger adult situations as well. His characters may be children and animals, but they are often recognizable in...