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Rudyard Kipling wrote the Jungle Books in Vermont, where snow sometimes accumulated in drifts as high as the window sill. Usually classified as literature for children, the Jungle Books have many characteristics common to fiction written for children and young adults. The primary characters are children or animals, and the language, content, length of stories, and readability levels are suitable for young readers. All the stories show animals in an ordered existence, with a society, language, and law of their own. Humans often figure as authority and power figures, and within the animal world the larger and stronger animals dominate.

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Kipling’s work kept alive the magic and mystery that characterized the age of the British Empire. Critics estimate that Mowgli would have been born around 1860, and the stories take place from that time through the following seventeen years. The Jungle Books tell of a world full of grandiose events, deadly enemies, parents who are humans, and parent surrogates who are animals. Mowgli’s world is filled with father figures: Kaa the python, Bagheera the panther, Baloo the bear, Father Wolf, and Hathi the elephant. Women are relegated to the background and play less heroic roles.

Mowgli’s stories are by far the most popular tales of the Jungle Books. Mowgli reappears in the story “In the Rukh” published in 1896 and included in some later editions of the Jungle Books. In this story, Mowgli is a grown man and marries the daughter of Abdul Gafur. In the Jungle Books, the stories of Mowgli’s jungle adventures are complete: The first book begins with baby Mowgli being nursed by wolves, and the second ends with Mowgli leaving the jungle. “In the Rukh” brings the Mowgli story full circle by showing Mowgli’s son playing with wolves.

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Critical Evaluation