|This article does not cite any references or sources. (December 2007)|
|The Jungle Book character|
Bagheera and Mowgli, as shown in the 1895 edition of The Two Jungle Books
|First appearance||"Mowgli's Brothers"|
|Last appearance||"Letting in the Jungle"?|
|Created by||Rudyard Kipling|
|Species||Panther (Indian Leopard)|
Bagheera is a black panther (black Indian leopard) who is a fictional character in Rudyard Kipling's Mowgli stories in The Jungle Book (coll. 1894) and The Second Jungle Book (coll. 1895). The word Bagh (बाघ) means tiger in Hindi.
Everybody knew Bagheera, and nobody dared to cross his path; for he was as cunning as Tabaqui, as bold as the wild buffalo, and as reckless as the wounded elephant. But he had a voice as soft as wild honey dripping from a tree, and a skin softer than down.
Born in captivity in the menagerie of the Rajah of Oodeypore, India, Bagheera begins to plan for his freedom after his mother dies. Once he is mature and strong enough he breaks the lock on his cage and escapes into the jungle, where his ferocity and cunning win him the respect of all its other inhabitants, except Shere Khan the tiger (likely out of his arrogance). Bagheera reveals all this to Mowgli later. None but Mowgli ever learn that Bagheera once wore a collar and chain, explaining the cat's special insight concerning Men.
When Father Wolf and Mother Wolf of the Seeonee (Seoni) wolf pack adopt the human "cub" Mowgli and the pack demands that the new cub should be spoken for, Bagheera buys Mowgli's life with a freshly killed bull and helps to raise him as one of the pack. Because his life has been bought by a bull, Mowgli is forbidden to eat cattle (coincidentally, just as the Hindu villagers of the region are also forbidden).
Bagheera shares in many of Mowgli's adventures as he grows, but eventually the time comes when the man-cub becomes a man and has to return to human society. Bagheera frees Mowgli of his debt to the wolf pack by killing another bull, and Mowgli returns to his adopted human mother Messua.
In the animated Soviet version Adventures of Mowgli Bagheera is portrayed as female. This may be related to the fact that the Russian word for "panther" is a feminine noun, and a name ending with 'a' is considered to be a female name in the Russian language (a male panther would have been named Bagheer). An episode shows she has three cubs, one black and two yellow with rosette patterns. Bagheera is portrayed as friendly, loyal, trustworthy, protective, and cunning, yet somewhat tricky.
In Disney's adaptation, Bagheera the panther was, as in the book, male, and voiced by Sebastian Cabot in English. The Panther was portrayed as a clever, serious and responsible character, quite similar to the Bagheera in the novel, except that in the novel Bagheera spoiled Mowgli more. In the film, it is Bagheera and not the wolves who first finds Mowgli, a young village child and he is the one who takes him back to the village. During the movie, Bagheera often argues with Baloo, for he knows that as long as Shere Khan is in the jungle, the jungle is not safe for Mowgli despite all Baloo's attempts to protect him. Bagheera is also the narrator of the movie's story.
Bagheera is also one of the major characters left out of the TaleSpin series which used several Jungle Book characters. However, many of Shere Khan's employees and military personnel are black panthers very similar in style to Bagheera.
In the prequel cartoon series, he was the youngest member, and is often made fun of by his friends, especially the bully Shere Khan. He was also called "Baggy". Like Shere Khan, he too had British accent in the 1967 film, but ended up having American accent in this series.
In the second film, he reappears as the serious Bagheera. He, with the help of Colonel Hathi's troops tries to prevent Baloo from reaching the man village. When the villagers try to find Mowgli, he suspects that Baloo has brought him back (he was right). Baloo hides Mowgli from him, making Bagheera believe that he was not with him. After Shere Khan was trapped, Mowgli meets him again. Near the end of the film, Ranjan was shown playing with Baggy's tail. At first Bagheera was scared, but later enjoyed playing with him, while Mowgli and Baloo sing the reprise of The Bare Necessities.
In some Disney comics drawn in Italy, Bagheera is depicted as a female non-anthropomorphic animal movie star, loosely based on her animated movie appearance. Originally all black, she has white body parts. She enjoys signing autographs to her fans and eating pistachio-flavored pet food, being vegetarian.
In the song "Bagheera" by Blues Traveler, he is depicted with blood stained fur drinking at the bar, counseling a young man-cub about his choice to live as man or as a free creature. He remembers when he was in the midst of his decision to live with the world of Man or to return to the jungle and be free. The line says "some say if you could have seen him then, you would have noticed a tear fall from his majestic eye."
In the comic book series Fables, Bagheera appears as one of the characters living in exile on the Farm in upstate New York. He participates in the farm uprising and, along with the other "Kipling" fables, he assists Goldilocks in tracking down Reynard the Fox. Bagheera actually succeeds in tracking down Reynard, though the Fox manages to escape from him. It is implied Bagheera's primary motivation for capturing the Fox was to show up Shere Khan after Khan arrogantly rejects Bagheera's offer of help. After the uprising is defeated, a remorseful Bagheera agrees to imprisonment rather than forced labor. However, as he reveals to Mowgli, he has the memory of urinating on the deceased Shere Khan's grave to amuse himself.
Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book
In the 1994 live-action movie, Bagheera serves a jungle animal friend to Mowgli and his pet wolf, Grey Brother. After Mowgli and Grey Brother were separated from civilization, Bagheera found them the next day. Hearing Shere Khan's roar from a distance, Bagheera signaled with his tail to Mowgli to grab on to it so as to lead him out of harm's way; realizing he meant no harm to the boy or cub. It took a bit of a while until Bagheera finally brought Mowgli and Grey Brother to a pack of Grey Indian wolves. Seeing as to how the child was young, friendly, helpless, harmless, and kind to a cub of their species, the wolves accepted them as members of the pack; much to Bagheera's delight.
Years later, Bagheera is seen most of the time spending time on a tree not doing much and sometimes running with a fully-grown Mowgli, Grey Brother, a new friend named Baloo the brown bear; who was saved as a cub by Mowgli on the day Mowgli was accepted into the pack, and the wolf pack. After Mowgli has been reunited with his childhood sweetheart; Katherine "Kitty" Brydon, antagonized a British officer named Captain William Boone (the main villain of the film), pushed two other officers into a river as with Boone before, and is close to being shot by one of Boone's men, Lt. John Wilkins, Bagheera and Baloo are seen roaring at the soldiers, thus, scaring them off as a means of protecting Mowgli. Nevertheless, due to Wilkins' shock, he instead accidentally shoots Mowgli on the right arm.
A few days later, after Mowgli has learned the ways of men and re-entered civilization thanks to Kitty and Dr. Julius Plumford, he is seen being caressed and introduced to Kitty by Mowgli along with all the rest of Mowgli's jungle animal friends. Bagheera and the other animals watch as Kitty teaches Mowgli some dancing lessons; much to their amusement.
In a later tussle against soldiers working for Captain Boone, Baloo is shot and left for dead. Bagheera is then seen running with Mowgli and the wolf pack to locate Dr. Julius Plumford to save Baloo's life; only to find that the doctor had already left with Kitty and her father, Colonel Geoffrey Brydon, to bring Katherine to the ship to England. So, Mowgli goes out and follows them with the wolves and Bagheera behind. After saving Dr. Plumford from death by an Indian bandit named Buldeo, Bagheera is seen charging along with the wolf pack against the Indian bandits. Dr. Plumford is then taken by Mowgli to save Baloo's life.
After Mowgli (who had no choice: either the treasure the villains are after, or Kitty and her father's death) is captured by the evil British soldiers: Boone, Lt. Wilkins, and Sergeant Harley and the remaining Indian bandits: Buldeo and Tabaqui, Bagheera can be seen with the wolves keeping an eye on Mowgli, his friends, and enemies while staring at Boone and Wilkins mostly. When Wilkins asks himself why Bagheera is staring at them, Mowgli replies, "Because to him, you are food." A reply is hinted afterwards when Bagheera sticks out his tongue to show his hunger for them. The next morning, Bagheera is seen biting through the ropes tying Mowgli to a tree, thus, allowing him to escape, and then later on, to rescue the left-out injured Colonel Brydon from death.
In the final scene, after Boone's defeat, Bagheera is seen crossing a bridge with Kitty and a triumphant Mowgli while reuniting with the British Army sent out by Colonel Brydon, who was successfully cured from his injuries by Dr. Plumford (who also managed to cure Baloo too), to find them.
Voices of Bagheera
- Sebastian Cabot (The Jungle Book)
- Dana Delany (Adventures of Mowgli)
- Arthur Grosser (Jungle Book Shōnen Mowgli)
- Bob Joles (The Jungle Book 2, The Jungle Book Groove Party)
- Jim Cummings (The Jungle Cubs: Born to Be Wild, singing voice in The Jungle Book Groove Party)
- Elizabeth Daily and Dee Bradley Baker (Jungle Cubs)
- Eartha Kitt (The Jungle Book: Mowgli's Story)
- Media related to Bagheera at Wikimedia Commons