TITLE: The Jungle Books
AUTHOR: Rudyard Kipling
SERIES: The Jungle Books (#1 & #2)
PUBLISHER: Barnes & Noble Classics
GENRE: Children's, Classic, Adventure, Short Stories
RATING: 3.5/5 Stars
Rudyard Kipling pours fuel on childhood fantasies with his tales of Mowgli, lost in the jungles of India as a child and adopted into a family of wolves. Mowgli is brought up on a diet of Jungle Law, loyalty, and fresh meat from the kill. Regular adventures with his friends and enemies among the Jungle-People--cobras, panthers, bears, and tigers--hone this man-cub's strength and cleverness and whet every reader's imagination.
Mowgli's story is interspersed with other tales of the jungle, such as "Rikki-Tikki-Tavi," lending depth and diversity to our understanding of Kipling's India. In much the same way Mowgli is carried away by the Bandar-log monkeys, young readers will be caught up by the stories, swinging from page to page, breathless, thrilled, and terrified.
What I Liked:
- The idea behind this book is extraordinarily clever and Kipling paints a very interesting picture of both India, and his time period through the eyes of the animals he encounters. It is clear that he was interested in them and knew a lot about their behaviours, and I liked that he came up with such creative ideas as to what the animals themselves thought of humans. Favourite stories for this included 'Her Majesty's Servants' in which a young soldier who understands animal speech eavesdrops on the animals in camp, and 'How Fear Came' in which Hathi the elephant tells Mowgli how man was created and Shere Khan's ancestral history.
- Comparing the differences between film adaptations that I've seen of the story, and these books. Characters such as Baloo and Kaa change, the first being old and wise rather than comical, and the second actually being a very good friend of Mowgli's. Other characters such as King Louis are nowhere to be seen, as the monkeys are a total law unto themselves. The book is also a lot more violent than the films which is as it should be, because the Jungle is a very dangerous place. There is blood and gore and animals behaving like...well...animals.
- I enjoyed that not all of the stories focused on Mowgli's adventures my favourite being 'Rikki-Tikki-Tavi', about a mongoose who protects a human family from snakes that wish him harm and another that I liked was 'The Undertakers' which told of three hated river-dwellers: the Mugger Crocodile, the Jackal and the Adjutant Stork who have a conversation about man. In fact, not all of them even focused on the Jungle either, as 'The White Seal' is from the perspective of a Northern-furred seal and 'Quiquern' follows an Inuit family! All very interesting, well-researched and at times funny to read.
What I Disliked:
- Not all of the characters were as loveable or strong as in adaptations I've seen. Mowgli actually irritated me throughout this book quite a lot, and I didn't really root for him at all. I miss his naive, young innocence which Kipling actually wrote to be a boyish arrogance. Shere Khan is also not the great villain that used to terrify me and poses as not much more than a minor annoyance who turns out to be easily outsmarted in the end. A real shame as there were so many great things about this book otherwise!
- Kipling's writing style is a bit of a trawl to get through, and this is mostly due to it's set time period. Some conversations have to be reread more than once in order to fully understand the gist of them, and I often found myself skimming parts of this book because the text became confusing or laborious to read. This is probably the biggest reason that I didn't end up giving this book a glowing five-star review!
This was a really fun read with some great stories and I'm so glad I got to read both books in one rather than just one set of the stories without finishing Mowgli's journey off. Kipling researched both setting and animals well and he had clearly studied their behaviours and then wrote the laws of the jungle and various animal observations around that. Kipling was true to the nature of animals too and 'The Jungle Books' are violent and bloody at times, despite being children's books. At times the writing style was difficult and that brought down it's overall rating by quite a bit. Nevertheless, I am so pleased by this read and hope to delve into Kipling's work at some point in the future.