The Jungle Book Questions and Answers
by Rudyard Kipling

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What's the main idea of The Jungle Book?

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Most people find it somewhat surprising that The Jungle Book is seven short stories. Most of them are unrelated to each other, and some of them are not even in the jungle. Most people assume that The Jungle Book is the story of Mowgli and his adventures with jaguars, monkeys, snakes, etc. For the purpose of this answer, I'm going to take the book as a whole. I don't believe all readers will agree that there is a single main idea. Different readers are going to find certain themes more central than other themes. For me, there has always been a large focus on the theme of family. Mowgli might not be a wolf, but that doesn't change the sense of family and belonging that he experienced with them for many years. The wolves themselves are representative of a family unit as well. They are a pack animal. Rikki-Tikki feels a sense of belonging with the family that rescued him, and he fights to protect them. That leads to another strong theme present throughout the stories: the theme of courage. Mowgli bravely faces the unknown as well as Shere Khan himself, and Rikki-Tikki places himself in grave danger when he goes down the snake hole.

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garyind | Student

The Jungle Book is actually a collection of many stories by Rudyard Kipling; they include The White Seal and Rikki-Tikki-Tavi. Most recognizable to many people is the story of Mowgli, a young Indian boy who is almost eaten by a tiger named Shere Khan as a baby. Mowgli is protected and raised by wolves, and instructed in the Law of the Jungle by Bagheera, a black panther, and a bear named Baloo. This may be the story you associate with the title The Jungle Book.

While there are many ideas that are central to the story, one of the major themes is that of personal identity. Each character is clearly defined as having a place in the society that makes up the jungle. Mother Wolf, for example, is a fierce protector of young lives including Mowgli's. Her confrontation with Shere Khan clearly establishes this, as does the name Kipling gives to her - Raksha, meaning demon. However, among all these established characters is Mowgli, a man living among wolves. His journey to understand himself and create his own identity is central to the story.