Kipling Did It Best: The Original Jungle Book

March 8, 2014
The Jungle Book
Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book is a different beast from the Disney version that most people know about. Having just reread and enjoyed it immensely, I thought I’d share some ways the book is different (or more interesting) than the movie.


Mowgli, the protagonist of The Jungle Book, is a one-year-old boy adopted by wolves in the jungles of India after a tiger murders his parents. He gets his name, which means “frog,” because he seems cute, naked and fearless to his wolf parents. And no, he doesn’t wear a pair of red underpants in the book.


In the books, Baloo the bear is a stern teacher who instructs Mowgli in the customs and languages of the animals in the jungle. Although he’s very fond of Mowgli, he isn’t afraid to hit his pupil when he makes a mistake. And, if, like me, you always wondered why he didn’t just fight Shere Khan the tiger, you’re probably thinking of a 8-foot tall, 900-pound Grizzly. As an Indian sloth bear, Baloo would be half the size and one fourth the weight of a large male tiger, hardly a fair match.

Kaa the Python

Kaa the Python
Kaa the python on the other hand, is much more impressive from the clownish, mincing villain that appears in the movie. He is cold and rational, but also is one of Mowgli’s greatest and deadliest allies. Think of Mycroft from the recent Sherlock series, if Sherlock’s brother could smash through stone walls with his head. Kaa, Bagheera the panther and Baloo battle a city full of monkeys to rescue Mowgli, and Kaa kills hundreds of them by himself.

Shere Khan, the whiny tiger

Shere Khan, the whiny tiger
Kipling got an interesting biological fact right with Shere Khan, the tiger and main (non-human) villain of the story. In the book, Khan is quite powerful, but his moans and whimpers sound throughout the jungle whenever he is hurt. In the animal kingdom, top predators are most likely to limp or yelp when they’re hurt, simply because they have nothing to fear. Herbivores and animals that are hunted, on the other hand, instinctively hide their pain, because any sign of weakness can make them a target.

Female Characters

Although most of the characters are male, Kipling has several strong female characters. Mowgli’s adopted mother gets the nickname of “demon” among her tribe for being the fiercest member of her pack. She stares down and even frightens Shere Khan when he first comes for a baby Mowgli. Other stories also feature strong female characters (typically the wife of a married couple is both smarter and braver than the husband).

Other Stories

Other Stories
Many of the stories in The Jungle Book have nothing to do with the jungle. Rikki Tikki Tavi (made into a pretty good animated story by Bugs Bunny animator Chuck Jones) follows a battle between a mongoose adopted by a white family and a pair of cobras, is at least set in India, but “The White Seal,” about an arctic seal that searches for a land free from hunters, is about as far from the jungle as it’s possible to get.

Her Majesty’s Servants

Her Majesty's Servants
The most unusual story follows a discussion among different animals employed in the Royal Indian Army, each of whom thinks it is the bravest. A cavalry horse talks about charging into battle with its rider. A mule talks about carrying smaller artillery into the mountains, and a pair of oxen talk about pulling large cannons. Though the debate is never settled, the winner may be an elephant, that while it runs away, is just smart enough to imagine what getting killed might be like.

Other Books

Other Books
Kipling wrote a second Jungle Book, but it’s not quite as good as the first, at least to my taste. For a similar story in a very different setting, check out Neil Gaiman’s Graveyard Book, which also follows an orphaned boy raised from a baby in an unusual environment–only this time it’s a graveyard instead of a jungle, with vampires, ghosts and wights instead of panthers, bears and tigers.



I hope you enjoy. Here’s a picture of me reading to my favorite person. Thanks for reading!

From the Archives: Possible Star Wars Sequel, circa 1983

December 9, 2011

I came across this sample of my old writing, probably from around the time of Return of the Jedi, or possibly a little earlier, at a recent visit to my parents’ house.

I still think a shot-for-shot adaptation of this story would make a better movie than any of the Star Wars prequels.

I’ve got another entry of Awesome Music From Around the World coming soon, with entries from Hawaii, Turkey, Algeria and other countries. Stay tuned.

Full Text: “Han Solo Blasted a bad guy & Ran away when he came to a lake and Swam and he got out and Hopped in his ship and burped. One day I talked and skiped.”

The Tale of the Korean Farting Tiger

August 26, 2009

A good friend of mine is a Korean student currently studying at UNC. After a recent visit home, he brought my wife and I several books as a gift. One of them, Folk Tales with English, was a childen’s book of Korean stories presented in English and Korean. The very first story in this book, “A Piping Tiger,” was so weird that I had to share it with the world.

“Ppilili ~, Ppilili ~ Ppilili ~”
One day, a young man was walking along the street playing his pipe.
“Oh, I am getting sleepy. I’d better take a nap.”
The young man slept snoring under a tree.

Then something happened!
A tiger was sprinkling water with his tail on the sleeping man’s face.
“Oh my god! What a disaster! What should I do?”
Pretending to be asleep, the young man thought what to do.

dripping tail

“Oh I got it! What a good idea!”
The young man stuck his pipe in the tiger’s rear end.
The startled tiger let out a fart.

flute attack

“Ppilili Bbung~ Ppilili Bung~”
The tiger, more startled by the piping sound,
began to run off like a wind.
“Ppilili Bbung~ Ppilili Bung~”
But as the tiger ran faster, the piping sound
with the fart became louder and louder.

Farting tiger 2

All the animals in the forest laughed out loudly.
“HaHaHa, a pipe in the tiger’s rear end!”
“HoHoHo, a fart with a pipe sound.”
So, the tiger became embarrassed and ran off deep into the forest.

Laughing animals

I think that I would have taken another route than the boy. When you’ve got a tiger sitting next to you, any action has at least a 95% chance of resulting in the boy getting mauled, but that action probably has a 99.9% or greater chance. It would be pretty embarrassing to explain to Saint Peter (or my ancestors, Allah, or whomever) that my last act in the mortal world was sodomizing a tiger with a musical instrument (especially if that instrument had been an heirloom passed down by said ancestors, who probably wouldn’t be amused).

When encountering new stories, it’s always interesting to try to figure out where it came from and what values it’s trying to impart. “Hansel and Gretel” is a pretty disturbing story today, but in medieval times when there wasn’t enough food to go around and there wasn’t the possibility of more food to come,  some families living alone did just abandon their children. And in an era when the biggest cause of death for women was childbirth, a lot of kids probably dealt with stepmothers who may have been less than thrilled with the idea of taking care of someone else’s kids.

But with this story, maybe there isn’t any real message behind the events. The tone is very light, and the story is obviously aimed at a very young audience. The tiger is really more of a mischief maker than anything else.

I imagine the story is intentionally funnier in Korean–the original language probably has some fart/music puns (we’ve got “Beans, beans, the musical fruit”). The shoving itself is surprising to American audiences, but we’re the culture that came up with Captain Underpants.

There’s a CD with audio recordings of the story in English and Korean, but I’m afraid to listen to it.


January 11, 2009
(c) Elliot Moore

(c) Elliot Moore. No, this is NOT the farting tiger.


Welcome to my new blog, “Stetch Your Mind,” which I’ll be using to share my thoughts on how people perceive and interact with this crazy, wonderful world. Some of my coming entries may have an educational purpose, as in my forthcoming series about how to learn Spanish or another foreign language on your own for free.

Sometimes I’ll provide literary observations on anything from The Iliad to video games, and sometimes I’ll just post things that amuse me, as in the case of my coming reposting of the Korean fairy tale about the flautist and the farting tiger. Please visit often and add your own comments and observations.

Here I am wandering along the Isle of Skye in Scotland on my honeymoon. If you look closely, you can see the Isle of Eigg in the background.

Here I am wandering along the Isle of Skye in Scotland on my honeymoon. If you look closely, you can see the Isle of Eigg in the background.

About me

My name is Will, and this is my blog. I’m a writer, editor, and adventurer, and I live in Chapel Hill with my wife, Jessica, and dog, Clara.  I’ve done a few interesting things in my life.

My brother and I have been surrounded by a herd of wild buffalo. I spend the night in a junkyard in Oxford, swam in an Icelandic spring and snuck into an empty monastary in Moscow; I’ve also been cheated out of $1,000 by the Embassy of Kazakhstan.