Journey of a Feral Child in The Jungle Book

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Unseen journey of a feral child in Rudyard Kipling’s “The Jungle Book”

By – Jyoti Singh (introduction at the end of the paper), Issue.XXX, Vol.III, July 2017


The child is father of the man

                                                                                          : – William Wordsworth

In his famous line of his “ode to nature”, Wordsworth says that the child teaches to every person to appreciate him as a perfect person. It is necessary to think about the condition of the child in our country because country’s development depends on this factor that how we treat our children. They are the soul of country. At present children are struggling for their life and facing many major problems like malnutrition, abuse, violence, poverty, lack of access to education, child neglect, child labour, trafficking and slavery. A feral child is abandoned and neglect child who unfortunately abandoned by parents or other caregivers in jungle. Surviving in a jungle for little cub who is innocent, delicate and too small as depends for everything to other and also in the jungle he is only a flesh, is too difficult.

This paper tells of observations of a feral child “Mowgli” with special reference to Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book. Children are very important part of our country, we can’t grow if we left this part it is necessary to understand about those problems and find out its solution.

Key words: child neglect, malnutrition, abuse, trafficking, slavery, violence.

“The Jungle Book” is a collection of classic stories published by Macmillan on 1894. The jungle book has an illustrative as well as beautiful outer cover. The book consists of 368 pages. As Kipling’s themes in his poetry and stories directly related to the values of the Victorian era and the British Empire during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, his imperialistic view shows in his Jungle Book. Rudyard Kipling is mostly remembered for his children literature. Although considered a children’s novel, Kipling’s “The Jungle Book” is a mixture of myth, fantasy, magic, and adventure, depth of meaning and political commentary. “The Jungle Book” is a charming collection of seven stories, drawn from Rudyard Kipling travel throughout the world and particularly throughout the colonies of the British Empire. It consists seven chapters these are “Mowgli’s Brothers”, “Kaa’s Hunting”, “Tiger! Tiger!”, “The White Seal”, “Rikki-Tikki-Tavi”, “Toomai of the Elephants” and “Her Majesty’s Servants” respectively. Every story of The Jungle Book is start and end with a poem that is why this book by Rudyard Kipling consists mostly of interconnected short stories about the life of Mowgli, a man cub who as a baby was taken in the jungle and raised by a family of wolves in the Indian jungle. First three stories are about Mowgli’s (a man cub) life that how he came in the jungle and he rose between wolf pack with many physical and mental struggle. This man’s cub story in fiction by Kipling but in the real world we get plenty of this type of news that a little girl found in jungle was living with monkey having no manners but behaving like monkey neither she can talk like human being nor behave like them. Or other news is a child was captive in a room with dogs from birth behaving like animal. Orphan child or children having no parents are struggling for their life their future is in danger. One side we say children are the future of nation root of the nation but if we can’t give a bright future and better care to them we can’t save nation’s future or root.

Mowgli brothers: The First story of “The Jungle Book” is ‘Mowgli brothers’ starts with a warm evening in the Seeonee hills of India. Where a family of wolf, a father wolf and a mother wolf see a toddler man’s cub in jungle and adopt him as their child. They grew him throughout his adulthood with care and love. They save him from Sherekhan, a tiger and Tabaqui, a jackal wicked people of jungle. That boy named as Mowgli is taught by Bagheera, a Black Panther and Baloo, a bear. Mowgli think himself a wolf. Thereafter forest animals succour Mowgli and through he reaches adulthood. Wolves of jungle love Mowgli and keep him as their family. In the end of the story Mowgli came to know he was a man’s cub. He also came to know about fire which men used for cooking and saving them from animals, because animal were afraid from fire even they didn’t call fire by its name they called it by “Red Flower”. In the last assembly of Akela, leaders of wolves pack Sherekhan and Wolves of pack told Mowgli that he was not belong to pack he was a man, there was no place for him. They also tried to harm akela. Then Mowgli used fire to save Akela and said to all though i do not wish to leave jungle but i will go to men to learn their art. And next morning Mowgli went down the hillside alone to meet those mysterious things that are called men. Story ends with a poem”Hunting-Song of the Seeone Pack”.

Kaa’s Hunting: Second story of Rudyard Kipling’s “The Jungle Book” is “Kaa’s Hunting”. In this story kipling describe Mowgli’s journey of learning law of jungle and other tactics to survive in jungle by Ballo, a bear. In this story Mowgli got his third well-wisher and friend Kaa, a python, who protected Mowgli from Bandar log, a group of monkeys of jungle. Story starts with when Baloo was teaching Mowgli the law of jungle. He was the teacher of law taught Mowgli about wood and water law, how to tell a rotten branch, how to talk politly the wild bees and how to warn the water snakes in the pools before he splashed down among then etc. Later story shows Baloo and Bagheera were angry to Mowgli for talking to Bandar log. Because all people of jungle followed the law of jungle but not Bandar log. They were eaters of everything, they lied, they were out cast, they have no speech of their own but use the stolen words, and they have no remembrance and pretend that they are a great people. That was why Baloo was scolding Mowgli and said to him that the monkey people are forbidden to the jungle people. And here Bandar log had no leader. None of the beasts could reach them but on the other hand none of the beasts would notice them, and that was why they were so pleased when Mowgli came to play with them, and they heard how angry Baloo was. So they abducted the Mowgli while he slept between the panther and the bear for making him their leader and made them noticed for jungle. But Baloo and Bagheera were not enough power to protect him from Bandar log. So they took help to Kaa, the rock snake, he stole the young monkeys in the night. He is very old and very cunning python and only beast to whom Bandar log fear. He was not a poison snake his strength laid in his hug. With help of Kaa, a python Bagheera and Baloo protected Mowgli from wicked Bandar log. They made a plan for saving him and followed that strategy they brought Mowgli from grab of Monkey people. Story ends with a song “road song of the Bandar -log”.

Tiger! Tiger!: The third story of the Rudyard Kipling’s “The Jungle Book” is “Tiger! Tiger!”. In this story, Kipling describe Mowgli’s journey in the village after leaving jungle and killing of Sherekhan by Mowgli. Story starts with after Mowglileft his wolf pack; he visited a human village and was adopted by Messua and her husband, who both believed him their own son, previously stolen by a tiger. They teach him human customs and language and help him adjust to a new life. However, the wolf boy Mowgli hears from Grey Brother (a wolf) that trouble is afoot against him. Mowgli does not succeed in the human village, but makes enemies of a hunter Buldeo, a priest, and others because he denounces their unrealistic comments about the jungle and its animals. The tiger Sherekhan enters the village, while Mowgli takes half his cattle to one side of a ravine, and his wolf brothers take the rest to on the other side. Mowgli lures the tiger into the middle of the ravine and the cattle trample him to death. The envious hunter broadcast that the boy is a wizard or demon and Mowgli is exiled to wander the countryside. By these all thing Mowgli felt very upset and go back to the jungle to live with wolves again. Story ends with a song “Mowgli’s song”. That he sang at the council rock when he danced on Ssherekhan’s death.

 Mowgli story of Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book is not considered as true story as Rudyard Kipling, who never went any central forest that he would go on to immortalise in Jungle Book, wrote the book while living inthe USAA. Mowgli evokes a sense of wonder and curiosity among the readers, as well as those who have only known him through the 1967 Disney film the stunning Jon Favreau version, or closer home, through Doordarshan’s The Jungle Book (the hindi dubbed animation). It was the matter of debate some time for scholar that Kipling’s Mowgli story have been a fictionalised account of some real life incident or not. Kipling wrote this book in USA he said that to have derived inspiration for the book’s setting and animal characters primarily from the works of Robert Armitage Sterndale, a pioneee naturalist, sportsman, sportsman,artist, writer and among the earliest editorsof the JBNHS, specially from his little known book, seonee, or camp life on the satpura range. But we can’t say it is all fiction as many instance of feral children are found throughout the world after Kipling,s book. These are few:

  • Perhaps the most well known and widely published case was that Amala and kamala, sisters claimed to have been recovered from a wolf-den in 1920 in undivided Bengal’s Midnapore distrit, by a local orphanage priest Joseph Amrito lal Singh.
  • In central Awadh’s “Sultanpoor” province that the first “Mowgli” was caught: “There is now (Feb. 1850) at Sultanpoor, a boy who was found alive in a wolf’s den, near Chandour, 10 miles from Sultanpoor…A trooper… was passing along the bank of the river… when he saw a large female wolf leave her den, followed by three whelps and a little boy.
  • The Chupra wolf-boy was caught in similar circumstances when he was spotted with his wolf family along a stream bank near Chupra village, a few kilometres east of Sultanpur in 1849. He was later identified, based on his birthmark and a hot-water scald mark, as a cultivator’s son who had been lifted by a she-wolf from the village fields almost six years ago.
  • The case of the Bahraich wolf-boy, caught around 1845, was even more interesting. A few months after his capture in which two of his “wolf-brothers” had escaped.
  • The Indian Express

 Book opens with stories of the orphaned Mowgli. The story is about an abandoned ‘man cub’ named Mowgli who loses his parents in a tiger attack. The wolves took him away and took his responsibility. They adopted and raisde him as one of their own cubs along with the bear, Baloo and leopard, Bagheera. The animals raised him up according to the ‘Law of Jungle’. Although Mowgli is accepted as a wolf by other animals, but when he grown up, he begins to question about his own identity. Obliged to left the jungle as he no longer accepted by the most of the animals, he went to visit his own people, the human villagers. There, he was adopted by a women named Messua and her husband, whose son Nathoo was long-lost in the jungle, and who believed him to be their son. They adopted him and started to him ‘Human’ customs and language to helped him adjust to his new life. Nevertheless, he found difficulty to adjust in that life with exception of being allowed to herd buffaloas, as it is considered the most appropriate to his life in the jungle. Accordingly, that job makes him comfortable, as it is the most suitable for him.

 All through the time when Mowgli was living in the village, he tried to make a life with the human villagers, but unfortunately, this new life was full of problems. He found himself rejected by the villagers, as they forced him to leave the village, believing him to be a sorcerer who could make animals obey him. They threatened to burn his adoptive human parents, as they believed them to be witches. Messua was extremely terrified that she ran across to the herd to warn Mowgli to leave; otherwise, the villagers would kill them, but as the villagers did not want Messua to warn Mowgli, they started throwing stones on her. Watching this horrible scene, Mowgli was in rage as he could not believe the reaction of the villagers to his human mother. He gathered his jungle friends: his wolf brothers, Bagheera, and others to make war on the village and rescue his parents. “It is not well that they should live here anymore,” he says, “I hate them.”

Accordingly, he decided to return to the jungle, as he believes that animals should accept him for he lived all his childhood with them respecting the ‘Law of the Jungle.’ However, he is no longer a child now and the time has come to take revenge from the tiger Shere Khan. As Mowgli says, “So long as he is away do thou or one of the four brothers sit on that rock, so that I can see thee as I come out of the village. When he comes back wait for me in the ravine by the dhak tree in the center of the plain. We need not walk into Shere Khan’s mouth”. Successfully planned, with the help of Grey Brother, Akela and the buffaloes, Mowgli trampled Shere Khan to death.

It was the adventurous journey of mowgli. Mowgli was a feral child, an abandoned feral child. Myth, legend and fictional stories have depicted feral children raised by wild animal. Legendry and fictional feral children are depicted as growing up with relatively normal human intelligence and skill and sense of culture or civilization and a healthy dose of survival. Their survival seems easy in human society. These mythical children are depicted as having superior strength, morals and intelligence as compare to normal human.

A feral child is human child who has lived isolated from human contact from a very young age, and has no even little experience of human care, love and social behavior, and crucially of human language like Mowgli in The Jungle Book. Feral child may experience severe child abuse or trauma before being abandoned. In reality, feral child have no basic social skills that are normally learned in the process of socialization. For instance, they may be unable to learn to use a toilet, have trouble learning to walk upright, and display a complete lack of interest in the human activity around them. Most importantly they seem mentally impaired and have almost insuperable trouble learning human language. Like Mowgli faced trouble when Messua tried to teach him human language he was felt uneasy to live in a hut and slept outside of a house on grass. It was not easy to adjust there to Mowgli in human village. Mowgli was a human being therefore he was disliked by some animal and when he went to their community to human village he didn’t get belongingness to them. One can see his pain in the lines he said:

Again? Last time it was because I was a man. This time it is because I am a wolf. Let us go, Akela.

   – Kipling, Rudyard “The Jungle Book”

Buldeo, a villager misleads the villagers that Mowgli is a sorcerer and they cast out Mowgli. For an abandoned child who loss his family in very early age was not accepted for anyone. The pain and sadness of the child will be not normal. The character Mowgli in The Jungle Book is very popular an attractive to everyone. But in real it is not easy to live a child with isolation of society. All see only happy side of Mowgli but how he survives how he struggle again and again not only for his upbringing even for his survival in hidden for all.

It doesn’t matter how fascinating, scientifically interesting or even how romantic some of these stories seem, it isn’t much fun to be a feral child, as it is seemed of Mowgli character (wolf boy). It shouldn’t be forgotten that all these type of children have been abandoned, neglected or even cruelly abused: some of the stories are quite harrowing.



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Introduction to the Author:

Jyoti Singh is a research scholar at Rani Durgavati University, Jabalpur.

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