...The Jungle Book [is] one of the most thrilling and vivid fantasies ever written. Forget about the [...] Disney version, in which Kaa is the baddie, this stuff makes your hair stand on end, it's so alive to what it must feel like to be an animal. Mowgli's arrival at the wolves' cave, pursued by the evil tiger Shere Khan, his upbringing by the wolves, his adventures in the jungle and attempt to go back to living among men is full of savagery and beauty and excitement. Interleaved among the Mowgli stories are other great animal tales - about Rikki Tikki Tavi the mongoose who takes on two deadly cobras living in an Indian garden, and fights them to the death; and about a white seal who finds the one place where seals can be safe.
You do need a bit of patience in the beginning with Kipling, but he's worth it.
on 15 September 2009
Legends are made from legends. Rudyard Kipling dug deep into the tales of the jungle from his years living in India, and drew from them the kinds of stories that live forever.
"The Jungle Book" is more than how Mowgli, the man cub, learns to live and survive amongst enemies like Shere Khan. The intense mongoose vs cobra "Rikki-Tikki-Tavi," also well-known, is here, as are several lesser-known and unrelated adventures.
Richly written, with details and contexts unfamiliar to Western readers, "The Jungle Book" lifts imagination and language beautifully. Poetic, and written in a literary style, it shines above most modern prose.
This is the stuff of afternoon stories read to older boys and girls. Young teens will while away rainy evenings, unwilling to part until finished. Sometimes scary and always exciting, Kipling also uses the book to teach lessons much greater than a jungle in India.
When chapters were first read to me many years ago, I listened gawk-eyed, listening intently for as long as my mother would read. I read it with different eyes now, but no less a young boy as I worry how Baloo will handle the Bandar-Log monkeys.
It isn't perfect. A few scientific details are fudged (wolf pack breeding structure, for example), but nothing that matters in the big picture. Kipling will have you in the palm of his hand, even though it was first published over 100 years ago.
May "The Jungle Book" by Rudyard Kipling be as amazing to you as it has been to me.
on 19 December 2000
Having been of the target age when Disney's enterpritation of the stories of Mowgli game to the big screen I decided to track the source of the magical tale. This book doesn't just contain the stories that follow Mowgli's adventures in the jungle, and quite different to the Disney version they are, but many other exciting tales, everyone captivating for its entirety. Whether it is the moral issues that are raised throughout the stories, or simply the value of a great story that you are after, this book has truely stood the test of time with shining colours.
on 3 February 2011
I hadn't realised until now that The Jungle Book is actually a number of short stories and songs or verses. The most familiar is the first, Mowgli's brothers, about the man cub raised by wolves who has to take on his sworn enemy Shere Khan. The next one is The White Seal. In this story Kotick the seal dedicates himself to searching for a new home for his fellow seals, one where they aren't living with the threat of man. The third is Rikki Tikki Tavi, about a young mongoose of the same name who takes on cobras to protect his adopted human family. Next comes Toomai of the Elephants which relates the experience of a young boy from a long line of elephant handlers who has a unique bond and a one off experience with the elephant his father handles. Finally come Her Majesty's Servants, which recounts the overheard conversation of a group of Army animals.
The language in places is archaic, and elsewhere exotic, reflecting the settings of the stories and Kipling's background. Throughout the stories the animals are given human traits and the tales are moral stories, reflections on human society or both. I don't think they would be an easy read for a young person primarily because of the language used, particularly in Mowgli's Brothers, but they do make wonderful stories I fully plan on reading my little girl when she's bigger. There are parts that might make some people uncomfortable, such as Mowgli's killing of Shere Khan and the aftermath, so I'd urge caution if you are thinking of these stories for very young children.
I particularly enjoyed Rikki Tikki Tavi, as the mongoose hero is such a lovely, funny character, and the conversation between the Army animals, as they discuss their different fears and strengths is wonderful. I have no doubt I will be going back to The Jungle Book and dipping into the stories on their own rather than reading them all in one go, and no doubt I'll be looking to add more Kipling to my kindle. A note of warning though - the free version is very poorly formatted, with no clear breaks between the stories and verses which I found confusing when I didn't expect it to be more than one story, and will make navigating in future more difficult. If formatting is a bugbear for you I'd suggest getting another version.
on 20 June 2008
"The Second Jungle Book" is much more intense than its predecessor. Though maintaining its episodic format, each flanked by a verse epigraph and a verse epilogue, there is now a more discernible progression through the book. Whilst they constitute less than half of the content of "The Jungle Book" and are all presented end-to-end at the beginning, the Mowgli stories now dominate, making up the greater part of the book, and are spread out with non-Mowgli stories inserted in-between.
The stories are, at least, as good as those in "The Jungle Book". The most notable difference is that human features much more prominently in the second book. Indeed, two of these - "The Miracle of Purun Bhagat" and "Quiqern" - are stories of humans with animals in the background. Different human societies are portrayed in various circumstances and are painted in much more details, be it through the eyes of the Jungle People or the experience of a native Prime Minister of an Indian raj. Kipling's comprehensive familiarity of the India Empire was put to great use. Too good use for some perhaps, as the mild and occasional colonialist attitude present in "The Jungle Book" is now more audacious and prevalent. Albeit viewed from a distance, the English are represented as the bringer of order (instituting the law which can be brought against the 'babaric' villagers intent on burning people they foolishly and selfishly indict of witchcraft), wielder of might (only they can hope to foil the will of the Jungle, and overpower the godling crocodile) and the source of progressive civilization blessed with a bright future. This last they are seen to be sharing with India.
Nonetheless imperialist propaganda is the least of what this book is. It is first and foremost about Mowgli growing into adulthood. With profound imagination Kipling imbues the text with the most real images of the beauty and mysticism of the Jungle. Notwithstanding the distant way with which he engages with the characters, Kipling masterfully gave them a genuine pathos. However unhuman their ways, however sparsely they display flickers of human emotion and sentiment, the reader can always feel with the Jungle People. As Mowgli grows up and those that surrounded him in his earlier days age and die, he must come to term with his human side. However abhorrent and contemptuous he is of the evil ways of Man, who "do not kill the weaker for food, but for sport", he truly loves the woman who, we are made to belive, must be his blood-mother. Ever since his first venture into the world of Man, his disparity with the rest of the Jungle only seems to widen. His spell in the village awakened his cunning and resourcefulness, which he combines most efficaciously with the wisdom he gained growing up in the Jungle, whose Law, it is stated in the first sentence of the book, "is by far the oldest in the world" and "has arranged for almost any kind of accident that may befall the Jungle people, with a "code as perfect as time and custom can make it." Even though he vows never to return to Man after that, it is ironic that he has adopted the use of a knife, which marks him out for the rest of the book from the true Jungle People.
Reflecting this greater 'maturity' perhaps, J. Lockwood Kipling furnishes the book more scantily with his drawings, which are indeed referred to now as decorations rather illustrations on the title-page. This is just as well as decoration is restricted to head- and tail-pieces. Since this 1950 Library Edition went for sombre undecorated red boards and maroon dustcover design, this book is very well even less aimed at children than its companion "Jungle Book" in the same edition. (Although the first story, "How Fear Came", is very reminiscent of those in "Just So Stories".) Simply, "The Second Jungle Book" expands on "The Jungle Book", becoming a supposed journey of a human born and bred far removed from human society back to human society at last, even if it is one that dwells at the Jungle's doorstep that lives among nature happily and contentedly quite in accordance with India's age-old, pre-colonial wisdom. By the time of the beautiful denouement, Mowgli is "beautiful beyond all men". And no reader will deny that he has trodden a profound journey with the Jungle Books.
on 9 February 2006
Kipling has long since ceased to be a fashionable writer. Accused of being racist (for his time, class and background he was in fact highly liberal in his views) and jingoistic (he lived the days when loyalty to Queen and Country was still called patriotism), he has fallen out of favour with the literati. Despite decades of continual snubbing, his books live on and his poem, IF was recently voted by the British public as their favourite, unashamedly sentimental it may seem now but it still stands as some of the best advice a father could give to his son, which was how and why it came to be.
His books also have that ultimate mark of any classic, the ability to be enjoyed as much by grown-ups as by children. The jungle book is most probably familiar to the world now through the Disney cartoon, which bears all the relationship to the original book as Muppet Treasure Island does to Robert Louis Stevenson. The real book is much darker, much more dangerous, much more exciting and much, much more enjoyable. Kipling takes anthropomorphism to its artistic ultimate and, within the cadre of jungle animals reflects human characteristics both good and bad: the sagacity of Baloo, the wisdom of Bagheera, the nobility of Akela, the independence of Kaa, the rottenness of Shere Khan and the mindless brutality of the Dhole. Humans, by contrast, fare rather poorly being divorced from their surroundings and, unlike the jungle characters, are shallow and act with neither motivation beyond self-interest nor principle.
So impressed was Lord Baden Powell that he made this book the basis for the cub scouts (as he did with another of Kipling's masterpieces, Kim for the scouts themselves). The books may contain Victorian values, but these are the best of Victorian values and the ones that define a civilized society, even if they, like Kipling, have become unfashionable. Above all though, the Jungle Book is a ripping yarn, a page-turner, a plot-boiler and, uniquely amongst Kipling's prolific output, a spawner of sequels; something that Walt Disney obviously recognised. The only words of warning or discouragement that I would utter is that the book, as with all the Mowgli stories, can be quite sinister and not suitable for the same age range as the cartoon and, speaking of the cartoon, be prepared to despise its fluffy, trite Americanised bowdlerisms forever once you have read the original; so, if you adore Disney and want to go on loving it, perhaps you should stay away from the literature from which it stole its ideas.
This lovely edition of The Jungle Books produced here by Top Five Books is certainly something worth downloading. Although not showing in the menu there are actually active tables of contents here. You get an active one near the very beginning of this which will take you to the different sections, and if you go to either of the books there is an active table of contents for each one, so navigating yourself around this book is a doddle. As well as the two books you get a preface, a piece on the pronunciation of the character’s names (although this has been adapted for an American readership), and a biographical piece on Rudyard Kipling. On top of that this book also contains illustrations, some in colour and some in black and white. Some of the colour illustrations do show up a bit dark on a basic kindle e-reader, but if you are going to read this on a tablet device the colours really come through, and you have the option to enlarge the pictures if you so desire.
The Jungle Book was first published in 1894, and The Second Jungle Book in 1895, and amongst the pages we read of Mowgli, Baloo, Bagheera, Shere Khan and all the other characters that have become so well known. Not all the tales take place in this setting though as you have a tale about Inuits, a white seal, Rikki-Tikki the mongoose, other animals, and a boy who is taken to see the elephants dance.
I should think that most older people will have read these books before, but for those who are new to these then you may be surprised if you are only aware of the Disney movie. Some of these tales are more violent than portrayed in cartoons, so be prepared, remember Tennyson said ‘Tho’ Nature, red in tooth and claw’. Always enjoyable to read, these tales followed by verse for each one have been entertaining people for generations, and long may they carry on doing so.
on 2 February 2014
I bought this as a keepsake for my daughter after we had been to see a musical version of the story at the local theatre. She loves all books and i know she has enjoyed this, not having read it before. The illustrations are very well done, but anyone expecting Disney 'cuties' will be disappointed.
on 7 December 2007
"Man goes to man, in the end." Poignant, endearing, at times brutal, The Jungle Book pressed all my buttons.
As a young child who loved and adored all the Disney animated classics, particularly The Jungle Book, once I found out it had actually originated from a book, it was a must read, especially from such an esteemed writer. The book however is much more in depth and fulfilling than the animated cartoon. It charts Mowgli through his adventures in the jungle and his rise to friend and master of all in his domain. Along the way Kipling breaks off for exciting forays into other animal kingdoms and environments other than just the jungle, giving a real mixed bag of wonderful images resonating in the mind, from seal and Innuit, to a mongoose and elephant, there is plenty of variety that kept me entertained.
What particularly impressed me, was the way Kipling managed to muscle a meaningful short story into individual chapters, without leaving me with a sense I hadn't gotten to know the characters.
I really loved this book, and would definitely recommenend it.
on 12 March 2010
I bought this book years ago for my kids to read (or for me to read to my kids), and somehow neither they nor I ever got around to it. They won't read it now (it's all Harry Potter and Twilight...) so, as I'm ashamed to admit I've never actually read any Kipling, I decided to read it instead. I rather enjoyed it and I will certainly look out for some more.
Of course it's not like the cartoon - I didn't expect it to be - in fact it comes from a completely different viewpoint; there's nothing cosy and Disneyfied about this, but rather something primitive, a barely restrained savagery; Mowgli is still in very real danger from Shere Khan, but that danger runs very much in the opposite direction as well. `Feet that make no noise; eyes that can see in the dark; ears that can hear the wind in their lair, and sharp white teeth.'
The Mowgli stories are the best, `Rikki-tikki-tavi' is also pretty good but `Her Majesty's Servants' kind of lets the side down at the end. Still well worth a read.