The Jungle Book Summary
The Jungle Book is a collection of seven short stories by Rudyard Kipling. Much of the book focuses on Mowgli, a boy who grows up in the jungle.
- In “Mowgli’s Brothers,” Mowgli is raised by the Wolf Pack and learns the Law of the Jungle. He eventually leaves the wolves but vows to return when he has defeated the tiger Shere Khan.
- In “Kaa’s Hunting,” Mowgli is taken to the Cold Lairs by the Monkey People and rescued by Baloo the bear, Bagheera the panther, and Kaa the python.
- In “Tiger! Tiger!,” Mowgli defeats Shere Khan and decides to become a lone hunter.
Last Updated on June 8, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1265
Shere Khan, the tiger, is pursuing a child barely old enough to walk when the boy is found by a Father and Mother Wolf, who raise him alongside their cubs. The child, Mowgli, becomes a member of the Wolf Pack and is taught the Law of the Jungle by Baloo the bear. Bagheera the panther also looks after him, and one day, ten or eleven years after Mowgli joins the pack, Bagheera tells him that he is in danger. Akela, the leader of the pack and Mowgli’s protector, is becoming old and weak. Many of the younger wolves have fallen under the influence of Shere Khan. To protect himself, Bagheera suggests, Mowgli must steal the Red Flower, fire, from the village nearby.
Mowgli steals the fire, tends it with sticks, and takes his fire-pot to the Council Rock, where the wolves meet. Akela is too weak to lead the wolves, and Shere Khan demands they give Mowgli to him. Mowgli starts a fire and beats Shere Khan with a flaming branch, burning his coat. He leaves the Wolf Pack but vows to return when he has killed Shere Khan and to spread the tiger’s skin over the Council Rock.
This story takes place while Mowgli is still a member of the Wolf Pack. Baloo the bear is teaching him the Law of the Jungle, and Mowgli, despite being an apt pupil, is bored and fractious. He starts talking to the Monkey People, who follow no law and are despised by the other Jungle People.
One day, the Monkey People carry Mowgli away while he is sleeping. They take him to a ruined city, where they sing and dance and imitate the men who used to live there. Mowgli wants to leave, but they will not allow him to do so. Meanwhile, Bagheera and Baloo seek help from Kaa, the python. The three of them rescue Mowgli, and Kaa hypnotizes the Monkey People. Bagheera and Baloo narrowly escape being hypnotized as well, and Bagheera beats Mowgli soundly for causing so much trouble.
This story takes place immediately after the events of “Mowgli’s Brothers.” Having left the wolves, Mowgli goes to the nearby village, where he is taken in by a woman named Messua, who lost her son to Shere Khan. Mowgli works hard to learn the ways of men and is soon given the responsibility of herding the village cattle. One day, he learns that Shere Khan intends to attack him that evening and is now sleeping in a nearby ravine. Mowgli drives the cattle to the ravine, then starts a stampede, which kills Shere Khan. He returns to the village, but one of the hunters he has insulted has turned the people against him, persuading them that the boy is a demon. Mowgli returns to the wolves’ Council Rock with Shere Khan’s skin, fulfilling the vow he made at the end of the first story. The wolves ask him to be their leader, but Mowgli says that he has been cast out by both wolves and men, and now prefers to hunt alone.
The White Seal
Kotick is a fur seal who is born with a unique white skin. When he is a year old, he notices two men driving his fellow young fur seals, known as “holluschickie,” away from the beach. He follows the men as they drive the seals to the killing grounds, where they club and skin the other holluschickie.
Kotick is horrified by what he has seen, but the other seals, who have never witnessed the slaughter, do not seem to care much. Kotick spends the next five years seeking an uninhabited beach, until he is finally led to one by a herd of sea cows. When he tells the other seals, they laugh at him, but he fights with his detractors so ferociously that he finally gains the respect of all the seals, who allow him to lead them to safety.
A storm sweeps Rikki-tikki-tavi, the mongoose, into the garden of a bungalow, where he is revived and adopted by an English family. Rikki regards it as his mission to protect the son of the family, Teddy, and soon learns that there are two cobras in the garden, Nag and Nagaina, who want nothing more than for the family and the mongoose to leave. One night, Nag hides in the bathroom, planning to bite the father of the family in the morning. Rikki leaps on Nag, and as they fight, the father, wakened by the noise, shoots the cobra.
The next day, Rikki finds Nagaina’s eggs in the melon bed. As he is smashing them, a bird tells him that Nagaina is threatening Teddy. Rikki rushes to the scene, clutching the last egg. When Nagaina sees the egg, she forgets about Teddy, seizes the egg, and rushes into her lair. Even though it is very dangerous for a mongoose to follow a snake underground, Rikki does so, and he emerges victorious.
Toomai of the Elephants
The old elephant Kala Nag has had three mahouts called Toomai in his lifetime and will have a fourth. Little Toomai, the son of Kala Nag’s current mahout, is a fearless boy who has grown up around elephants. One day, in the stockade where the elephants in government service train the recently captured wild elephants, the end of a rope halter falls to the ground. Toomai jumps into the stockade to retrieve it, an act of reckless courage bordering on folly. This brings him to the notice of Petersen Sahib, the government officer in charge of catching elephants. Petersen is impressed by the boy’s bravery but tells him not to go down into the stockade again until he has seen elephants dance, a proverbial phrase meaning “never.”
That night, Kala Nag takes Toomai to a clearing far from the camp, where many elephants are gathered. They stamp on the ground until it is as flat as a dance floor. When Toomai returns to the camp, he tells Petersen Sahib what he has seen. Petersen Sahib finds the clearing and realizes that Toomai has seen what no man before him has ever witnessed: the dance of the elephants. From this time onward, the boy is no longer known as Little Toomai, but as Toomai of the Elephants.
Her Majesty’s Servants
The narrator of the story has been woken by a camel stampede in his camp, where the troops are preparing for a parade to be reviewed by the Viceroy of India and the Amir of Afghanistan. As he tries to go back to sleep, he hears a group of animals talking. The party consists of mules, horses, bullocks, a camel, and, eventually, an elephant. The animals discuss their training and their experiences of battle. They discover that they all exhibit courage in different ways and are frightened of different things. However, they all obey orders, though they have no idea from where these orders ultimately come.
After the parade, the narrator hears a native officer talking to an Afghan chief. The chief expresses astonishment at the discipline of the animals, and the officer explains that there is a chain of command that runs from the animal and its driver all the way up to the Empress. The chief says that this is not the way things work in Afghanistan, where people do what they want, and the officer replies that this is why the Amir of Afghanistan has to come here to take orders from the Viceroy of India.