It’s time to rejoice, because after a stint of duds, I finally found a great novel in Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book. Granted, it was written in 1894 by an actual Nobel laureate and is considered one of the greatest children’s classics of all time, but alas, it lived up to its name and I left a happy reader (can you leave a book? In this situation, let’s say you can).
A collection of short stories, The Jungle Book mostly focuses on the adventures and exploits of the jungle-child, Mowgli, who was born and raised by a pack of wolfs, but it also focuses on the lives of the mongoose, Rikki-Tikki-Tavi, the white seal and Toomai of the Elephants. As with all excellent children’s classics, they each come with a lesson and certain morals to live by.
So what makes The Jungle Book so great? Personally, I just loved the stories, and the simple, yet imaginative writing, that Kipling uses to deliver them. So what if they’re for kids? Descriptions of Mowgli’s adventures in the jungle provided a lush backdrop for which my imagination was able to frolic with ease, and Toomai of the Elephants made me want to move alongside the great pack of elephants and watch them dance through the night.
Although they were short stories, which often fail to hold my interest (why get attached to a character that’s only 20 pages long after all?) I was still enthralled by the characters and their problems, as well as their brave conquests to save the day. Kipling was able to set up a story, introduce the main character and establish their battles all within a few page, so that by the time the story had been completed, I felt that I knew their personalities, their flaws and most of all, what they were capable of.
Of course, while I was reading The Jungle Book I was constantly reminded of the Disney classic that I watched when I was a child, and a quick search revealed to me that the cartoon version really is a classic…it was released in 1967! Seriously, does that surprise anyone else? Of course, as with most film adaptations, the cartoon bypasses a great deal of the points that Kipling makes in his book, changes characters’ personalities and motivations, and condescends it all into a shiny, watchable package. So in saying that, even if you weren’t a fan of the cartoon (too busy watching The Little Mermaid perhaps? Completely understand), The Jungle Book is still worth a read.
Have you read The Jungle Book? Do you remember watching the cartoon as a kid? Let me know!