Shere Khan, the tiger, pursues a small Indian boy who strays from his native village, but Shere Khan is lame and misses his leap upon the child. When Father Wolf takes the boy home with him to show to Mother Wolf, Shere Khan follows and demands the child as his quarry. Mother Wolf refuses. The tiger retires in anger. Mowgli, the frog, for such he is named, is reared by Mother Wolf along with her own cubs.
Father Wolf takes Mowgli to the Council Rock to be recognized by the wolves. Bagheera, the panther, and Baloo, the bear, speak for Mowgli’s acceptance into the Seeonee wolf pack. Therefore, Mowgli becomes a wolf. Baloo becomes Mowgli’s teacher and instructs him in the lore of the jungle. Mowgli learns to speak the languages of all the jungle people. Throughout his early life, the threat of Shere Khan hangs over him, but Mowgli is certain of his place in the pack and of his friends’ protection; someday when Akela, the leader of the wolves, misses his kill, the pack will turn on him and Mowgli. Bagheera tells Mowgli to get the Red Flower, or fire, from the village to protect himself. When Akela misses his quarry one night and is about to be deposed and killed, Mowgli attacks all of the mutual enemies with his fire sticks and threatens to destroy anyone who molests Akela. That night, Mowgli realizes that the jungle is no place for him, and that someday he will go to live with men. That time, however, is still far off.
One day, Mowgli climbs a tree and makes friends with the Bandar-Log, the monkey tribe, who because of their stupidity and vanity are despised by the other jungle people. When the Bandar-Log carries off Mowgli, Bagheera and Baloo go in pursuit, taking along Kaa, the rock python, who loves to eat monkeys. Mowgli is rescued at the old ruined city of the Cold Lairs by the three pursuers, and Kaa feasts royally upon monkey meat.
One year during a severe drought in the jungle, Hathi the elephant proclaims the water truce; all animals are allowed to drink at the water hole unmolested. Shere Khan announces to the animals gathered there one day that he killed a man, not for food but from choice. The other animals are shocked. Hathi allows the tiger to drink and then tells him to be off. Then Hathi tells the story of how fear came to the jungle and why the tiger is striped. It is the tiger who first kills man and earns the human tribe’s unrelenting enmity; for his deed, the tiger is condemned to wear stripes. For one day a year, the tiger is not afraid of man and can kill him. This day is called, among jungle people, the Night of the Tiger.
One day, Mowgli wanders close to a native village, where he is adopted by Messua, a woman who lost her son some years before. Mowgli becomes a watcher of the village herds; from time to time, he meets Gray Wolf, his brother, and hears the news of the jungle....
(The entire section is 1166 words.)