Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Shere Khan, the tiger, pursues a small Indian boy who strays from his native village, but Shere Khan is lame and misses his leap upon the child. When Father Wolf takes the boy home with him to show to Mother Wolf, Shere Khan follows and demands the child as his quarry. Mother Wolf refuses. The tiger retires in anger. Mowgli, the frog, for such he is named, is reared by Mother Wolf along with her own cubs.
Father Wolf takes Mowgli to the Council Rock to be recognized by the wolves. Bagheera, the panther, and Baloo, the bear, speak for Mowgli’s acceptance into the Seeonee wolf pack. Therefore, Mowgli becomes a wolf. Baloo becomes Mowgli’s teacher and instructs him in the lore of the jungle. Mowgli learns to speak the languages of all the jungle people. Throughout his early life, the threat of Shere Khan hangs over him, but Mowgli is certain of his place in the pack and of his friends’ protection; someday when Akela, the leader of the wolves, misses his kill, the pack will turn on him and Mowgli. Bagheera tells Mowgli to get the Red Flower, or fire, from the village to protect himself. When Akela misses his quarry one night and is about to be deposed and killed, Mowgli attacks all of the mutual enemies with his fire sticks and threatens to destroy anyone who molests Akela. That night, Mowgli realizes that the jungle is no place for him, and that someday he will go to live with men. That time, however, is still far off.
One day, Mowgli climbs a tree and makes friends with the Bandar-Log, the monkey tribe, who because of their stupidity and vanity are despised by the other jungle people. When the Bandar-Log carries off Mowgli, Bagheera and Baloo go in pursuit, taking along Kaa, the rock python, who loves to eat monkeys. Mowgli is rescued at the old ruined city of the Cold Lairs by the three pursuers, and Kaa feasts royally upon monkey meat.
One year during a severe drought in the jungle, Hathi the elephant proclaims the water truce; all animals are allowed to drink at the water hole unmolested. Shere Khan announces to the animals gathered there one day that he killed a man, not for food but from choice. The other animals are shocked. Hathi allows the tiger to drink and then tells him to be off. Then Hathi tells the story of how fear came to the jungle and why the tiger is striped. It is the tiger who first kills man and earns the human tribe’s unrelenting enmity; for his deed, the tiger is condemned to wear stripes. For one day a year, the tiger is not afraid of man and can kill him. This day is called, among jungle people, the Night of the Tiger.
One day, Mowgli wanders close to a native village, where he is adopted by Messua, a woman who lost her son some years before. Mowgli becomes a watcher of the village herds; from time to time, he meets Gray Wolf, his brother, and hears the news of the jungle....
(The entire section is 1166 words.)
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Shere Khan the tiger has hunted a man cub, but the wolves have adopted him as their own and named him Mowgli (the frog). As Mowgli grows up, he is guided by Baloo the bear and Bagheera the panther, who supported Mowgli’s wolf parents in their desire to raise Mowgli. Bagheera, who had been raised by man, teaches Mowgli how to retain his humanity and warns him that some day he must go back to the village. When Akela misses a kill, Shere Khan and the young wolves he has flattered demand that Mowgli be given to him. Mowgli threatens the tiger with the Red Flower (fire), his one fear. Shere Khan backs down, but Mowgli knows that he must leave the jungle and return to the world of men.
The Bander-log (monkey tribe) kidnap Mowgli, carry him far into the jungle, and hold him prisoner. Bagheera and Baloo fear that they are not strong enough to fight the entire Bander-log, so they appeal to Kaa the serpent. Kaa agrees reluctantly, and the three follow the directions of Mang the Bat. They find the tribe and attack, though it is Kaa who causes the monkeys to fear and flee. In gratitude, Mowgli promises to drive goats toward Kaa should the serpent ever be hungry.
Mowgli leaves the wolf pack and returns to the village. He is met with suspicion but is adopted by Messua and her husband, who think Mowgli is Nathoo, the child they lost to Shere Kahn. Messua examines Mowgli carefully and realizes that it is unlikely that he is Nathoo, but she is determined to raise him as her own anyway. Mowgli has trouble adjusting to life in the village. The hunter Buldeo is especially antagonistic to him and sets him herding cattle. Mowgli’s brother wolf, Grey Cub, tells Mowgli that Shere Khan is nearby in a ravine. Mowgli herds the cattle into the ravine, trapping the tiger. The cattle trample Shere Khan to death, and Mowgli skins him. Buldeo arrives and tries to claim the skin. Mowgli orders Grey Cub to attack Buldeo, who returns to the village claiming that Mowgli is a sorcerer. Mowgli is driven out of the village and returns to the wolf pack, bringing Shere Khan’s skin with him.
The White Seal
Kotick is a white fur seal born on an island in the Bering Sea. The island is crowded year after year when the seals come to mate before heading south for the winter. Kotick discovers that hunters round up hundreds of seals each year. He wishes to find someplace where there are no men. He travels the seas until he finds a Sea Cow who tells him of a prophecy that a white seal would come out of the north and lead the seals to a safe haven. He leads him to a place than can be reached only by an underwater tunnel. Kotick believes he has found his haven, and he returns to his home and tries to convince the others to follow him. He meets resistance and engages in many fights. At last some of the older seals and the young “bachelor” seals agree to follow him. They swim to their new home of peace and safety, with Kotick the White Seal as their leader.
Rikki-tikki-tavi, a mongoose in India, is washed out of his burrow and rescued by an English family. His curiosity keeps him constantly busy, and he discovers a cobra, Nag, and his wife, Nagaina. Rikki kills another snake named Karait, who is equally as poisonous as a cobra. Rikki mocks the cobras, so the snakes plan to kill the humans so that Rikki will leave when the house is empty. Rikki overhears their plans and kills Nag in the bathroom. Rikki learns that the cobras’ eggs will soon hatch, so he destroys them and goes after the grieving Nagaina on her way to kill the boy Teddy in revenge. After a fierce struggle, Rikki kills Nagaina, securing the safety of the home for the grateful humans.
Toomai of the Elephants
Little Toomai follows his father, Big Toomai, as he serves the English elephant hunter, Petersen Sahib. As the elephants are put into the keddah (corral), Little Toomai sees that one of the other elephant tenders has dropped his lead rope. Little Toomai jumps down from his elephant, grabs the rope, and returns it to the tender. Big Toomai is furious with his son for endangering himself among the elephants. Petersen Sahib, however, rewards him for his courage but tells him that he will not be able to go into the keddah until he has seen the elephants dance (an Indian metaphor for “never”). One night, Little Toomai follows his elephant, Kala Nag, into the jungle. They reach a clearing where many elephants are marching—“dancing”—around the space to make it bigger. Little Toomai returns to the camp and tells what he has seen. Petersen Sahib examines the place and realizes that the boy is telling the truth. Little Toomai is celebrated by man and elephant alike, being proclaimed a future elephant hunter, “Toomai of the Elephants.”
Servants of the Queen
The human narrator is traveling with the British army in Afghanistan when he is driven from his tent by a camel stampede and finds shelter under a gun. He is joined by several animals: a troop horse, a mule, two gun bullocks, and a camel. The camel explains that he started the stampede due to bad dreams. This leads to a conversation among the animals of their differing roles in the military; each claims to possess some special skill that makes him indispensible. They are interrupted by an elephant chained nearby who explains that he is afraid of things like the big guns near the battle as well as the narrator’s little dog. From this, the animals discuss their fears. The next morning after the rain, the troops and animals go on parade, with the narrator standing with the viceroy of India and the Amir of...
(The entire section is 2370 words.)