The Graveyard Book

by Neil Gaiman

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What similarities are there between the Jungle Book and Gaiman's Graveyard Book?

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The Graveyard Bookby Neil Gaiman, and The Jungle Book, by Rudyard Kipling, are quite similar in their themes and character choices. Though one takes place in a graveyard (presumably the very one in Sussex which inspired Gaiman) and the other in the jungles of South Asia. In fact, Gaiman deliberately mirrored the title and content of Kipling's work because it is a story he enjoyed and wanted to transform in his characteristic spooky style.

Both stories feature boys who are orphaned in early life but adopted into a surrogate family. For Mowgli, of The Jungle Book, his new family is more a pack of animals, including wolves, a bear, and a panther. For Bod, of The Graveyard Book, his surrogate family are the ghosts who dwell in the graveyard. In both stories, the boys are cared for and learn special skills from their new families. Though they do not live in human society, they learn to get on well enough. Both Bod and Mowgli do have some encounters with other humans and are apparently able to socialize in an appropriate way. 

The nature of the antagonist in both stories is very similar-- the fear that the one who orphaned the boys will return. Mowgli and his animal family are constantly evading the tiger Shere Khan, who is believed to have killed Mowgli's human family. For Bod, "the man Jack" has returned to hunt him down. In both, the protagonist overcomes their would-be killer. 

In the end, both Bod and Mowgli decide that they cannot live among their strange, surrogate families for ever. Bod's experiences at human school and brief friendships with other human children, as well as Mowgli's brief adoption into a human village, has shown them that there is more to life waiting for them. Even if it means giving up their supernatural or animal powers, both boys decide that their place is among other humans like them.

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