The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

The Jungle Book and The Second Jungle Book are collections of short stories. Each story begins with a few lines of poetry. Most of the best-known of these jungle stories involve the adventures of Mowgli the jungle boy, Kaa the python, Shere Khan the tiger, Baloo the bear, Hathi the elephant, and Bagheera the panther. The first three stories—“Mowgli’s Brothers,” “Kaa’s Hunting,” and “Tiger! Tiger!”—describe the exploits of Mowgli and his friends in a world seemingly as benign as it is in fact dangerous.

In “Mowgli’s Brothers,” the young jungle boy is hunted by the fearsome but lame tiger Shere Khan. The story recounts how Mowgli came to live with animals, how he was reared by wolves, and how he learned the laws of the jungle. In “Kaa’s Hunting,” Mowgli is kidnapped by monkeys and taken to Cold Lairs, a treasure-filled Indian temple lying in ruins. Kaa, Baloo, and Bagheera rescue Mowgli from playful monkeys who are more intent on folly than on work. Mowgli and friends flee the scene as the hungry Kaa descends upon the monkeys. In the last story of the Mowgli trilogy, “Tiger! Tiger!,” Mowgli and his wolf friends guard a herd of buffalo and stampede them into Shere Khan, killing the tiger. Messua, Mowgli’s mother, is introduced in this story.

The other stories tell of animal heroics. “The White Seal” deals with Kotick, a white seal who saves the year-old seals known as holluschickie from slaughter by humans. Kotick searches for and finds a new nesting ground where the seals will be safe from hunters. “Rikki-Tikki-Tavi” is the...

(The entire section is 657 words.)

Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


*India. Because the locations given for Mowgli’s world are vague, except for the reference to India’s Waingunga River, the forest in which Mowgli lives is chiefly symbolic of a world in which the laws of the jungle prevail, much as legal systems prevail in civilization. Mowgli’s jungle is made up of several settings, the first being the wolf cave in which he is sheltered as an infant and young boy by Father and Mother Wolf.

Several times Mowgli encounters human villages, usually as they relate to a woman named Messua who believes that Mowgli is her son who was taken from her years before. Through one season, Mowgli lives in the village and learns of the ways of humankind; however, he is run off when he unites the animals to trample Shere Khan the tiger. The villagers suspect that Mowgli is a demon possessed because he knows how to talk with the animals who helped raise him.

Later, Mowgli returns to this same village to rescue Messua and her husband, who are being prepared for execution because their son Mowgli lives as a brother to the animals. This time Mowgli enlists the help of his jungle friends to help his human parents escape and, especially with the help of the chief elephant Hathi and his three sons, destroys the village without killing the people. For many years, Mowgli is convinced that villages are more dangerous places to live than the jungle, where he understands the laws of the beasts. Later, when Mowgli is seventeen, he finds Messua in another village and goes to live with her as he comes to accept...

(The entire section is 642 words.)


(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

The first story opens in the jungle near a native village, a setting that evokes a timeless atmosphere, similar to the beast fables of Aesop...

(The entire section is 153 words.)

Literary Qualities

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

The stories of The Jungle Book have a lyrical quality characterized by concise descriptive passages and a simple, elegant storytelling...

(The entire section is 168 words.)

Social Sensitivity

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Like Aesop's Fables, the stories of The Jungle Book all seem to have a moral. Kipling shows how Mowgli, Toomai, and various...

(The entire section is 268 words.)

Topics for Discussion

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

1. Why are the wolves willing to adopt Mowgli as one of their own?

2. Mowgli lacks the fangs and claws of some of the other...

(The entire section is 149 words.)

Ideas for Reports and Papers

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

1. From ancient times, authors have used animals to reflect human traits. Discuss how Kipling uses animals in The Jungle Book to...

(The entire section is 164 words.)

Related Titles / Adaptations

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

In 1895 Kipling published The Second Jungle Book as a sequel to his popular collection of stories. In it, the reader follows the...

(The entire section is 110 words.)

For Further Reference

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Carrington, Charles C. Rudyard Kipling. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1955. This book is the standard biography of Kipling and...

(The entire section is 170 words.)