How does the Rudyard Kipling's life inform events, characters and the message in the Jungle Book?

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andrewnightingale | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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Rudyard Kipling was born in Bombay, India, and spent the first six years of his life there. He found India wonderful and formed a deep love for the country, its traditions and culture. Kipling had a very close relationship with his mother - a lifelong affinity.

At age six, Kipling was sent to Southsea in England to commence his formal education. His mother wanted him to have a British education, therefore this decision. The move to England was a profound one for the young Kipling. He was literally wrenched from what he loved and he was placed in the care of foster parents, the Holloways. It was not uncommon at the time for English expatriates living in India to send their children to England in the care of relatives or foster parents to complete their formal education there.

The years with the Holloways were difficult for Kipling. Mrs Holloway treated him harshly and bullied him. Kipling found relief in reading books, but he never  confided in anyone about his circumstances. The only relief he had was when he went on holiday for a month each December, living with relatives in London. It was only when a visitor to the Holloways witnessed how distraught and anxious the young Kipling was and informed his mother, that he was removed from their care and placed in a new school in Devon. It was here that he discovered his talent for writing.

Kipling eventually returned to India because his parents lacked the finances to send him to college in England. He soon found employment with a local newspaper.

It was these events which informed the themes in Kipling's Jungle Book stories. The abandonment suffered by Mowgli is the same that he had suffered when he was sent to the Holloway's. Mowgli's adventures can be directly related to Kipling's experiences as a young boy in India. The stories are all fables which teach valuable moral lessons  - lessons Kipling was taught by his mother and which he learnt from his close association with Indian culture.

The stories therefore inform of Kipling's young life and the people he identified with. The true message is about overcoming adversity and fighting one's battles, assisted by those one has become familiar with and attached to, as Kipling had done when he was young. He had formed relationships with many individuals he had met in India - people with a different culture and values which Kipling had, for the most part, identified with.

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