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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 learns 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 dhole (red dogs).
Finally, Mowgli stumbled across the village where his adopted human mother (Messua), was living, which made him realize that he must come to terms with his humanity and decide whether to rejoin his fellow humans.
The Name Mowgli
The name Mowgli is said to mean "frog" in the language of the jungle creatures.
According to Kipling. the first syllable of "Mowgli" is supposed to rhyme with "cow" and is pronounced this way in Britain. In the USA it is almost always inaccurately pronounced and rhymes with "go"
- In the Ruhk
- Mowgli's Brothers
- Kaa's Hunting
- Letting In the Jungle
- The King's Ankus
- Red Dog
- The Spring Running
Kipling adapted the Mowgli stories for The Jungle Play in 1899, but the play was never produced on stage and the manuscript was lost for almost a century. It was finally published in book form in 2000.
Influences upon other works Edit
Only five years after the first publication of The Jungle Book, Edith Nesbit|E. Nesbit's The Wouldbegoods (1899) included a passage in which some children act out a scene from the book.
Mowgli has been cited as a major influence on Edgar Rice Burroughs' character Tarzan. Mowgli was also an influence of a number of other "wild boy" characters.
Poul Anderson and Gordon R. Dickson used the Mowgli stories as the basis for their humorous 1957 science fiction short story "Full Pack (Hokas Wild)". This is one of a series featuring a teddy bear-like race called Hokas who enjoy human literature but cannot quite grasp the distinction between fact and fiction. In this story a group of Hokas get hold of a copy of The Jungle Book and begin to act it out, enlisting the help of a human boy to play Mowgli. The boy's mother, who is a little bemused to see teddy bears trying to act like wolves, tags along to try to keep him (and the Hokas) out of trouble. The situation is then complicated by the arrival of three alien diplomats who just happen to resemble a monkey, a tiger and a snake. This story appears in the collection Hokas Pokas! (1998) (ISBN 0-671-57858-8), and is also available online: Prologue and Story
The Jungle Book and Cub ScoutingEdit
Baden-Powell, the founder of Scouting, based Cub Scouting on a story in Rudyard Kipling's Jungle Book called "Mowgli's Brothers". Cub Scouts know it as "The Story of Akela and Mowgli". The words "Law of the Pack," "Akela," "Wolf Cub," "Grand Howl," "den," and "pack" all come from the Jungle Book.
In American Scouting, parts of the story are found in the Wolf Cub Scout Book, the Bear Cub Scout Book, and the Cub Scout Leader Book.
Mowgli stories by other writers Edit
The story of Hayy Ibn Yaqzan by Ibn Tufail (before 1185) is similar to the story of Mowgli in that a baby is abandoned in a deserted tropical island where he is take care of and fed by a mother wolf. There is no account of the tiger shere-khan in the story as it is intended to be a philosophical reflection on life and divine existence.
Hunting Mowgli (2001) by Maxim Antinori (ISBN 1-931319-49-9) is a very short novel which describes a fateful meeting between Mowgli and a human hunter. Although marketed as a children's book it is really a dark psychological drama, and ends with the violent death of a major character.
Film, television and radioEdit
Because of taboos against the depiction of juvenile nudity, film, television and comic book adaptations of the story almost always depict Mowgli wearing a loincloth, a pair of briefs or other one-piece garment, or might have various objects obscuring his genitalia.
Mowgli has been portrayed on film by several actors:
- Sabu in Alexander Korda's The Jungle Book (1942)
- Jason Scott Lee in Disney's live-action The Jungle Book (1994)
- Jamie Williams in The Second Jungle Book: Mowgli & Baloo (1997)
- Brandon Baker in Disney's The Jungle Book: Mowgli's Story (1998), which is apparently not a sequel to either the 1967 (see below) or 1994 Disney versions.
- Neel Sethi in Disney's The Jungle Book (2016)
The best known of all portrayals of Mowgli is the musical version in Disney's The Jungle Book (1967), where he is voiced by Bruce Reitherman, son of the film's director Wolfgang Reitherman, and The Jungle Book II (2003) in which Mowgli is voiced by Haley Joel Osment. I Disney's brightly-lit child-friendly jungle is a whole world away from the dark, dangerous and often violent jungle inhabited by Kipling's noble savage. Disney's Mowgli is depicted as rather naïve and stubborn boy who is determined to stay in the jungle rather than embracing his humanity. Nevertheless, he does share some traits with his book counterpart such as kindness and courage. He sometimes appears at the Walt Disney Parks and Resorts as a meetable character, but very rarely.
Around the same time – from 1967 to 1971 – five Russian short animated films were made by Soyuzmultfilm, collectively known as Adventures of Mowgli. Chuck Jones's 1977 animated TV short Mowgli's Brothers, adapting the first story in The Jungle Book, is the adaptation that sticks most closely to the original plot and dialogue.
There was also a BBC radio adaptation in 1994, starring actress Nisha K. Nayar as Mowgli, Freddie Jones as Baloo and Eartha Kitt as Kaa. This has been released on audio cassette and has been re-run a number of times on digital radio channel BBC 7's Little Toe Show. Vince Noir (a character in The Mighty Boosh played by Noel Fielding) describes himself as Mowgli in flares.
Comic books Edit
(Not counting the numerous comics based on the Disney version)
- Classics Illustrated #83 (1951) contains an adaptation of three Mowgli stories.
- Reprinted in 1997 in a digest size edition with new coloring, accompanied by notes on the original stories, as a Classics Illustrated Study Guide.
- Between 1953 and 1955 Dell Comics featured adaptations of six Mowgli stories in three issues (#487, #582 and #620).
- Some issues of Marvel Fanfare feature adaptations of the Mowgli stories by Gil Kane. These were later collected as an omnibus volume.
- P. Craig Russell's Jungle Book Stories (1997) collects three stories, actually adapted from The Second Jungle Book, which originally appeared between 1985 and 1996.
- Fables features an adult Mowgli. He is one of the "Tourists", a group of three Fables monitoring Fables who do not live in Fabletown. He first appears in Fables #39, where he meets up with Baloo and Bagheera, and discusses old times with them. In Fables #48 & 49, Mowgli is the protagonist of a two-part story arc in which he tracks down Bigby Wolf.
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