Book Review: The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling

Jean-Paul’s rating: 4/5 stars

How many of you knew that “The Jungle Book” is more than a story about Mowgli a la Disney?  I didn’t.  I had heard of Rikki-Tikki-Tavi in relation to “The Jungle Book” before, but I always assumed that he was just a character from the Mowgli tale that was left out of the Disney version.

That said, “The Jungle Book” is a series of short stories, only the first two of which tells the tale of Mowgli.  Everyone of a certain age knows the tale of Mowgli thanks to Disney.  It should come as no surprise that the version in the book is much more enjoyable and much darker.  It focuses much more on the enmity between Sher Khan and Mowgli.  It also focuses much more on the Laws of the Jungle which were all about honoring and caring for others and how to behave with other species.

Another of the tales well worth mentioning is the aforementioned and very delightful Rikki-Tikki-Tavi which is about a young mongoose that protects a British family from some cobras.  I don’t know if I read into the story what I know about mongooses or if Kipling just writes well, but the whole story exudes the playfulness that a mongoose seems to have.

There are also stories about a white fur seal that leads his people to the promised land, a bunch of war animals and the roles they play in war, and a group of elephants that decide to break free and dance for a night.  As with many children’s books, they all tell a moral.  Besides being a bit more PG-13ish than most parents would feel comfortable with, they’re all worth reading to your kids.  “The Jungle Book” is one of those rare books that can appeal to the adults as well as the kids.  Even some of the poetry/songs interspersed throughout is fun.

I got the feeling when reading this book that Rudyard Kipling doesn’t think much of humans.  There are also some undercurrents of racism with the White Man being portrayed as noble while the Indians being portrayed in a less flattering light.  This can be forgiven because of the times in which it was written and it’s really quite subtle.  I suspect most wouldn’t even recognize it as racist unless it was pointed out to them.

3 thoughts on “Book Review: The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling

  1. Chris Studt

    I remember reading this in 1st or 2nd grade and my mom teaching me to sing Rikki-Tikki-Tavi before I even understood what it was really about. A solid recommendation for all children, young or old.

  2. Jaime

    Rikki-Tikki-Tavi was turned into a made for TV cartoon by the always Great Chuck Jones. I remember his Whisker-wiggling as part of his character, but overall the plot escapes me at 35+ yrs since last viewing.

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