Rudyard Kipling’s collection of stories “The Jungle Book,” published in 1894, is considered by some to be allegories for the politics and society of the time they were written in. Others look at the tales as a simple gift to the author’s daughter, who passed away at the age of 6.
Regardless of the stories’ purposes, “The Jungle Book” was originally released as a serial publication in a number of magazines before being collected as a book. A sequel would be published just a year later, furthering the tales of main character Mowgli, who was an unexpected hit in the first run of the series.
Unlike the Disney adaptation that focuses entirely on the story of Mowgli, “The Jungle Book” only dedicates a portion of the stories to the man-cub, who is raised by wolves in the Indian jungle. The first three of the seven stories in the collection tell Mowgli’s tale, as he learns the ways of the jungle, is abducted by monkeys and eventually attempts to live among men once more.
There are a number of other famous tales in the book. “Rikki-Tikki-Tavi” is frequently taught in schools, following the defense of a human family by a mongoose when two cobras attempt to attack. “Toomai of the Elephants” details a young boy’s exciting adventure with one of the elephants his father handles for a living.
Kipling utilizes anthropomorphism, or the giving of human characteristics to animals or non-living things, in every tale of “The Jungle Book,” creating a world of fantasy and adventure for young readers. Most adults hope a few of the moral lessons sprinkled in the stories get planted in children’s heads along the way.
Kipling bases his stories in the Indian jungle, although he wrote them while living in Vermont. The author had spent an extensive amount of his life in India, having been raised there as a child for six years, and returning again as an adult for another six years as part of employment.
The tales packed in “The Jungle Book” don’t translate to adults as well as some other childhood classics, however. While one can assume a book written with a childhood audience in mind would be heavily anchored in plot, many of the classics offer a bit more hidden between the lines for adult readers. “Peter Pan” hits adult’s nostalgia for childhood dead on, until we’re almost tearing up by the story’s end. “The Wizard of Oz” opens to us a land so vast, the author had to write 14 books to dig deep enough into the world.
“The Jungle Book,” on the other hand, doesn’t offer as much for most adult’s tastes. For those who love to get immersed in heavily detailed, alternate worlds, such as the “Harry Potter” or “Game of Thrones” series, “The Jungle Book” doesn’t provide as much depth. For those who prefer deeper meaning and subtext, such as Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland” or C.S. Lewis’ “The Chronicles of Narnia,” there’s not as much beneath the surface to dig into.
That’s not to say “The Jungle Book” isn’t fun, or worth a read — especially for younger audiences. After all, there’s a reason the book is still widely published well over 100 years after its first printing. The stories collected can be exciting, at times riveting, and full of potential danger and intense adventure. They’re great stories for children who are starting to make their way into the world of chapter books, or to read to young ones as a bedtime story.
Just don’t expect “The Jungle Book” to please your adult palette as much as say, the latest James Patterson novel.
Dean Goranites publishes weekly video book reviews at unleashthis.tumblr.com, and can be reached through Twitter at unleash_this.
• WHAT: "The Jungle Book"
• BY: Rudyard Kipling
• GRADE: C