“Mowgli’s Brothers” was first published in May of 1894 as one of seven stories included in Rudyard Kipling’s collection The Jungle Book. Several years after first outlining the traits and personality of his character Mowgli, Kipling published The Jungle Book, which was considered “the literary event” of 1894. Kipling is known for his colorful depictions of characters, both human and animal, and for setting, most often the jungles of India, and his predilection for delivering a moral or lesson. “Mowgli’s Brothers” is no exception. It is the story of the orphaned boy, Mowgli, who is adopted by a pack of wolves and must learn how to live in the jungle with the pack. The tale is rich in self-exploration and the search for personal identity.
The story exemplifies the struggle between Mowgli’s learned traits as a wolf and his innate traits as a man. The two mutually exclusive identities create great difficulty for Mowgli as he attempts to be both what he is by birth and what he has become in the jungle. Through his attention to the Law of the Jungle, Mowgli is proven a worthy member of the pack. Yet, through his innate human faculties, he possesses a power that is enviable among the jungle creatures. In the polar characteristics of Mowgli’s complex identity as wolf and man, Kipling constructs a didactic framework from which he delivers lessons and morals.
The story opens with the presentation of Mother and Father Wolf and the family’s necessity for food. Father Wolf is readying himself to begin hunting to feed his mate and cubs when the jackal, Tabaqui, enters their den looking for scraps. Tabaqui finds a bone and is satisfied. After eating the bone, the devious jackal compliments the wolves’ children to their faces, which is considered unlucky. Both Mother and Father Wolf are uncomfortable, and Tabaqui revels in his mischief. Amidst the tension, Tabaqui delivers the news that the lame tiger, Shere Kahn, plans to shift his hunting patterns to the wolves’ hills. This news angers Father Wolf who knows that the tiger will disrupt the patterns of local game, making his hunt increasingly difficult. The exchange so frustrates Father Wolf that he throws Tabaqui out of his den.
After sending Tabaqui out of their cave, Mother and Father Wolf hear the tiger below in the brush. Father Wolf is angered because the tiger’s noise will surely scare away his family’s dinner. Mother Wolf realizes that Shere Kahn is not hunting game, but man. The wolves are anxious as they listen to the tiger because the Law of the Jungle forbids killing man, except under certain circumstances. They hear the tiger spring to attack, but none of the villagers is caught. The tiger lands in the fire, burning his paws and scaring the villagers away. The wolves are pleased, but they hear something coming towards their den. Father Wolf poises himself for attack, and just as the creature is about to arrive, Father Wolf leaps to attack. Checking mid-jump, Father Wolf realizes the creature is a small “man-cub.” Father brings the boy into the den and the boy pushes his way in between the wolf cubs looking for warmth. Next, Shere Kahn and Tabaqui arrive, blocking the entrance to the wolves’ cave and demanding the man-cub. Father Wolf does not comply, and the tiger roars with anger. Mother Wolf leaps forward, threatening and insulting the lame tiger. Shere Kahn, although filled with fury, leaves the den, proclaiming that eventually he will get the man-cub. Shere Kahn knows that tall cubs, man or beast, must be presented to the pack at Council Rock. The tiger believes the pack will reject the man-cub, and he will be able to finally eat the boy.
The wolves decide they must keep the man-cub, and Mother Wolf names him Mowgli the Frog because he is small and hairless. After...
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