A major theme in the book is abandonment followed by fostering, as in the life of Mowgli, echoing Kipling's own childhood. The theme is echoed in the triumph of protagonists including Rikki-Tikki-Tavi and The White Seal over their enemies, as well as Mowgli's. Another important theme is of law and freedom; the stories are not about animal behaviour, still less about the Darwinian struggle for survival, but about human archetypes in animal form. They teach respect for authority, obedience, and knowing one's place in society with "the law of the jungle", but the stories also illustrate the freedom to move between different worlds, such as when Mowgli moves between the jungle and the village. Critics have also noted the essential wildness and lawless energies in the stories, reflecting the irresponsible side of human nature.
The tales in the book (as well as those in The Second Jungle Book, which followed in 1895 and includes eight further stories, including five about Mowgli) are fables, using animals in an anthropomorphic manner to teach moral lessons. The verses of "The Law of the Jungle", for example, lay down rules for the safety of individuals, families, and communities. Kipling put in them nearly everything he knew or "heard or dreamed about the Indian jungle". Other readers have interpreted the work as allegories of the politics and society of the time.
The novelist Marghanita Laski argued that the purpose of the stories was not to teach about animals but to create human archetypes through the animal characters, with lessons of respect for authority. She noted that Kipling was a friend of the founder of the Scout Movement, Robert Baden-Powell, who based the junior scout "Wolf Cubs" on the stories, and that Kipling admired the movement. Ricketts wrote that Kipling was obsessed by rules, a theme running throughout the stories and named explicitly as "the law of the jungle". Part of this, Ricketts supposed, was Mrs Holloway's evangelicalism, suitably transformed. The rules required obedience and "knowing your place", but also provided social relationships and "freedom to move between different worlds". Sandra Kemp observed that the law may be highly codified, but that the energies are also lawless, embodying the part of human nature which is "floating, irresponsible and self-absorbed". There is a duality between the two worlds of the village and the jungle, but Mowgli, like Mang the bat, can travel between the two.
The academic Jan Montefiore commented on the book's balance of law and freedom that "You don't need to invoke Jacqueline Rose on the adult's dream of the child's innocence or Perry Nodelman's theory of children's literature colonising its readers' minds with a double fantasy of the child as both noble savage and embryo good citizen, to see that the Jungle Books .. give their readers a vicarious experience of adventure both as freedom and as service to a just State".
The academic Jopi Nyman argued in 2001 that the book formed part of the construction of "colonial English national identity" within Kipling's "imperial project". In Nyman's view, nation, race and class are mapped out in the stories, contributing to "an imagining of Englishness as a site of power and racial superiority." Nyman suggested that The Jungle Book's monkeys and snakes represent "colonial animals" and "racialized Others" within the Indian jungle, whereas the White Seal promotes "'truly English' identities in the nationalist allegory" of that story.
Read this warm tale of camaraderie and affection set in the wild and beautiful Savannah in our free illustrated kid's book. Ginger the giraffe uses her long neck to save the other animals from the blazing forest fire. Follow them in their jungle paths as they all meet with yet another adventure.
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The Jungle Book is returning to theatres in a Disney remake that will hit theatres in April. Until then, Disney has released free Jungle Book activity pages for kids (and parents) to enjoy. They are completely FREE and you can download them below by clicking on each link to access the PDF file. 2b1af7f3a8