Mowgli by John Lockwood Kipling (father of Rudyard Kipling). An illustration from The Second Jungle Book (1895)
"In the Rukh" (1893)
Mowgli was lost by his parents in the Indian jungle during a tiger attack, he was adopted by the wolves Mother (Raksha) and Father Wolf, who called him Mowgli the Frog because of his furlessness. Shere Khan the tiger demanded that they give him the baby but, the wolves refused. Mowgli grew up with the pack, hunting with his brother wolves.
Bagheera, the black panther, befriended Mowgli, partly because Mowgli, being a human, had the power of dominion over beasts: Bagheera could not withstand Mowgli's gaze. Also, as Bagheera often mentioned, he was "raised in the King's cages at Oodeypore" from a cub, and thus knew the ways of man. Baloo the bear, teacher of wolves, had the thankless task of educating Mowgli in The Law of the Jungle.
Shere Khan continued to regard Mowgli as fair game but, eventually Mowgli found a weapon he could use against the tiger — fire. After driving off Shere Khan, Mowgli went to a human village where he was adopted by Messua and her husband whose own son, Nathoo, was also taken by a tiger. It is uncertain if Mowgli was in reality the returned Nathoo or not. while Messua would like to believe that her son has returned, she herself realised that this was unlikely.
While herding buffalo for the village, Mowgli learnt that the tiger was still planning to kill him, so with the aid of two wolves he trapped Shere Khan in a ravine, where the buffalo trampled him. The tiger died and Mowgli sets to skin him. Seeing this, a jealous hunter goaded the villagers into persecuting Mowgli and his adopted parents as witches. Mowgli ran back to the jungle with Shere Khan's hide but, soon learns that the villagers were planning to kill Messua and her husband, so he rescued them and sent elephants, buffalo and other animals to trample the village and its fields to the ground.
In later years, Mowgli found and then discarded an ancient treasure, not realising that men would kill to own it; and with the aid of Kaa, the python, he lead the wolves in a war against the red dogs.
Finally, Mowgli stumbled across the village where his adopted human mother (Messua), was living, which forced him to come to terms with his humanity and decide whether to rejoin his fellow humans.
Public Domain Appearances
- In the Rukh
- Mowgli's Brothers
- Kaa's Hunting
- Tiger! Tiger!
- Letting In the Jungle
- The King's Ankus
- Red Dog
- The Spring Running
- The name "Mowgli" is said to mean "frog" in the language of the jungle creatures, but was actually invented by Kipling.
- Kipling's stage adaptation, The Jungle Play (written 1899 but, unpublished until 2000), states explicitly that Mowgli is not Nathoo. In this version of the story, Messua has only recently lost her son and is under the delusion that Mowgli's changed appearance and behaviour are the result of amnesia from having lived wild in the jungle. Mowgli has seen the real Nathoo's body in the jungle but, spares Messua the truth.
- The first two Mowgli: Jungle Book comics published by Dell Four-Color (#487, 1953, and #582, 1954) are in the public domain due to non-renewal of copyright, and can be found online. The third (and final) issue, however, (#620, 1955) is not.
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