|The Jungle Book character|
Kaa (left), as illustrated in the 1895 edition of The Two Jungle Books
|First appearance||"Kaa's Hunting"|
|Last appearance||"The Spring Running"|
|Created by||Rudyard Kipling|
Kaa is a fictional character from the Mowgli stories written by Rudyard Kipling. Kipling describes him as an exceptionally long, yellowish Indian rock python. Kaa is one of Mowgli's mentors and friends. He, Baloo and Bagheera sing for Mowgli "The Outsong" of the jungle. First introduced in the story "Kaa's Hunting" in The Jungle Book, Kaa is a huge and powerful snake, more than a hundred years old and still in his prime. Despite his polite, unhurried demeanor, animals seem to have a fearful respect for Kaa. Bagheera and Baloo enlist Kaa's help to rescue Mowgli when the man-cub is captured by the Bandar-log (monkeys) and taken to an abandoned human city. Kaa breaks down the wall of the building in which Mowgli is imprisoned and uses his serpentine hypnosis to draw the monkeys toward his waiting jaws. Bagheera and Baloo are also hypnotized, but Mowgli is immune because he is human, and breaks the spell on his friends.
In The Second Jungle Book Kaa appears in the first half of the story "The King's Ankus". After he and Mowgli spend some time relaxing, bathing and wrestling, Kaa persuades Mowgli to visit a treasure chamber guarded by an old cobra beneath an ancient city. The cobra tries to kill Mowgli but its poison has dried up. Mowgli takes a jeweled item away as a souvenir, not realizing the trouble it will cause in the second half of the story, and Kaa departs.
In "Red Dog" Mowgli asks Kaa for help when his wolf pack is threatened by rampaging dholes (the red dogs of the title). Kaa goes into a trance so that he can search his century-long memory for a stratagem to defeat the dogs:
|“||For a long hour Mowgli lay back among the coils, while Kaa, his head motionless on the ground, thought of all that he had seen and known since the day he came from the egg.
The light seemed to go out of his eyes and leave them like stale opals, and now and again he made little stiff passes with his head, right and left, as though he were hunting in his sleep. Mowgli dozed quietly, for he knew that there is nothing like sleep before hunting, and he was trained to take it at any hour of the day or night. Then he felt Kaa’s back grow bigger and broader below him as the huge python puffed himself out, hissing with the noise of a sword drawn from a steel scabbard;
“I have seen all the dead seasons,” Kaa said at last, “and the great trees and the old elephants, and the rocks that were bare and sharp-pointed ere the moss grew. Art thou still alive, Manling?”
With Kaa's help Mowgli tricks the dholes into attacking prematurely. Kaa takes no part in the resulting battle (obliquely citing his loyalty to the boy rather than to the wolves, who often caused Mowgli grief) but Mowgli and the wolves finally kill all the dholes, though not without grievous losses. Kaa makes his last appearance in "The Spring Running," as the teenage Mowgli reluctantly prepares to leave the jungle for the last time. "It is hard to cast the skin," he tells Mowgli, but Mowgli knows he must cast the skin of his old life in order to grow a new one.
The Jungle Book (1967)
In the 1967 Disney animation The Jungle Book, Kaa, voiced by Sterling Holloway is markedly different from his original counterpart. Rather than being a mentor, he serves as comic relief who twice attempts to trap Mowgli in his coils in order to devour him throughout the film. He does this through the use of hypnotic eyes as opposed to the original version, in which he uses a serpentine dance to control his prey. His attempts to eat Mowgli always end in a comical failure. He is also quite cowardly, attempting to curry favor with Shere Khan whenever he is around.
Kaa makes his first appearance near the beginning of the film when Bagheera and Mowgli stop to sleep for the night in a huge jungle tree. Bagheera, exhausted from their journey, quickly begins to fall asleep. Mowgli, on the other hand, is still awake, sleepy and frustrated that he is being forced to leave the jungle where he lives. Just as Mowgli insists he can 'look after himself', Kaa, a long python with luminous eyes slithers down from the foliage towards the young boy. The snake clearly thinks Mowgli will make a tasty meal, smacking his lips and calling him a 'delicious mancub'. Mowgli tries to avoid his gaze before pushing the snake away, telling him to "go away and leave me alone!" Bagheera hears this and assumes the boy is addressing him. He tells Mowgli to go to sleep. Hearing this, Kaa seems inspired as he nods his head and slithers back over to the mancub, his eyes filling with multi-coloured spirals as he whispers "Yesss mancub, pleassse go to sssleep." Mowgli foolishly stares into the serpent's eyes, still angry at the snake, and finds his own eyes becoming captivated. They fill with spirals as he is pulled forward, his mouth falling ajar as he attempts to get closer to the hypnotic eyes. Kaa continues his lullaby, swaying and revolving his head so as to confuse Mowgli further. Mowgli's arms fall limp by his sides and his legs drop either side of the branch as his eyes follow the snake's, dragging his tired body with them.
Soon, Kaa's tail comes from behind the trunk and slides over Mowgli's lap, curling around his waist and binding his arms to his side before spiraling slowly up the boy's skinny frame. Meanwhile, Mowgli is having a mental battle, struggling between the temptation of sleep and the need to keep staring into Kaa's eyes. As a result, his eyelids droop and reopen constantly, his head lolling. Deep in the recesses of his hypnosis-addled mind he realises he needs to alert his chaperone. At first he merely yawns but manages to stammer out Bagheera's name sleepily before Kaa silences him with his tail wrapped tightly around the boy's neck, making him gulp loudly. Mowgli is now engulfed from the waist to the neck in coils. His eyes spin at an incredibbly fast rate and a wide grin forms on his face.
Bagheera, having heard Mowgli's cry for help, tells him "No more talk til morning." Only for Kaa, in his arrogance, to reply "He won't be here in the morning." This alerts Bagheera to the danger and he leaps up, seeing Mowgli dangling in Kaa's coils, only his sleeping head and bare feet protruding. He smacks the snake hard in the jaw, making him drop Mowgli. Angered, Kaa turns on Bagheera and hypnotizes him. While Kaa is absorbed in his prey, a confused but awake Mowgli clambers out of his limp coils and shoves them off the branch with his feet. Kaa is dragged from the tree at great speed, landing in a pile of his own coils. He slithers into the undergrowth, only stopping momentarily as his tail gets stuck in some bamboo.
Kaa reappears later on in the film when Mowgli runs away from Baloo, who is trying to return the boy to his own kind. Mowgli comes to rest at the base of a large tree before a long dark tail comes down and pulls him up into the canopy. Up on a branch, Mowgli manages to release himself from Kaa's coils. Kaa twice attempts to hypnotize Mowgli again. Although almost captivated, Mowgli pulls away. Now aware that his prey knows what he is doing, Kaa then uses a different approach. Wrapping his tail around Mowgli's wrist and ankle to stop him from leaving, Kaa pretends to help him stay in the jungle to lower his defenses. Tempted at first, Mowgli rejects and begins walking off down the branch but is stopped by Kaa, fastening a coil over his eyes. Mowgli, bewildered, tries to pry the coil off. He succeeds only to be met with Kaa's spinning hypnotic eyes. Mowgli quickly falls under his spell again as Kaa begins to sing "Trust in Me", inducing Mowgli into a soothing trance, sleepwalking down his body (which take the shape of a flight of stairs) with a big smiling grin on his face, before coming to rest on a hammock of Kaa's coils. Soon, Kaa throws Mowgli up into the air, balancing the boy upside down on the tip of his tail. Mowgli's body goes rigid and he begins to snore. Kaa berates the mancub before sliding him into his thick, brown coils, yet again with only his bare feet and head poking out. This attempt to eat Mowgli is also foiled, ironically by Shere Khan, who is not convinced by Kaa's bluff, even after searching Kaa's coils and not feeling Mowgli inside. After Khan leaves, Kaa's shaking his coils in anger allows Mowgli to regain consciousness and escape, but not before pushing Kaa's coils off the branch again.
This particular version of the character also inspired Bollywood superstar, Shahrukh Khan in his performance as the title character in Don 2. Khan cited the villainous sensuality of the character as an inspiration.
The Jungle Book 2 (2003)
In The Jungle Book 2, Kaa (voiced by Jim Cummings), re-appears in a smaller role. This time around he shifts his interests to Shanti (appeared in Disney's original Jungle Book as "The Girl". Portrayed slightly different here e.g. Ponytail as opposed to pigtails, slightly exposed midriff, and voiced by Mae Whitman), who is a young girl, lost in the jungle. First scaring her into looking into his eyes, she is quickly enticed and her eyes begin to mirror his. Viewers of this scene realize Shanti loses control of her own mind as she starts to smile and drops the torch she is holding. Her mouth hangs open as Kaa brushes back her hair and slides around her neck, continually subduing her with hypnosis. He asks if she is lost, he makes her nod, then whether she is hungry, because he is starved. The young girl cannot look away and is guided on to a small rock. As Kaa hangs above her, she shuffles her bare feet around and stands on tiptoe in an effort to get closer to the python's eyes. He attempts to eat her whole. But, as he attempts to swallow her, Ranjan, Mowgli's stepbrother, knocks her out of the trance, causing Kaa to swallow a boulder and getting a severe beating from Ranjan.
The Second Jungle Book: Mowgli and Baloo (1997)
Kaa serves as a help and a hindrance for Mowgli (Jamie Williams) in this film. When Mowgli is being chased through the jungle, he eventually comes to rest on a high branch of a tree. The tired boy soon falls into a deep sleep, his dirty feet dangling from the branch. Then, Kaa the python, sent by Mowgli's pursuers, slides down from the branch above. The snake cascades down the boy's shoulders and wraps around his torso like a blanket. Mowgli, having grown up in the jungle, was a deep sleeper and was, if anything, soothed by the snake's caress rather than awoken. However, as the dark brown scales tighten around his belly, the Man-Cub regains consciousness and, drowsily realizing his predicament, screams loudly. Ignoring this, the snake easily manipulates the boy's gangly frame by twisting him round to hang from the branch. As the thick coils slide over Mowgli's bare soles, the snake lets go, dropping Mowgli down to the forest floor. Later, when Mowgli is trapped in a pit in the temple, the python is lowered down towards him. Mowgli seems quite friendly towards his saviour and grabs on to its neck. The snake is pulled upwards like a rope with Mowgli hanging on tightly.
Kaa also appeared in the short-lived TV series Jungle Cubs, this time seen as a friend of the other animals when they were cubs. Although he still uses hypnosis on occasion, his skills at this age are far less efficient than when used as an adult, with him failing to hypnotize a sleeping Baloo and only hypnotizing a couple of vultures by accident. He was also seen having far a less malevolent personality as a cub than as adult, once going to great lengths to save Baloo after he believes that he has endangered his friend with his hypnotic abilities, but he still has his sneaky ways in which he often attempts to (unsuccessfully) hypnotize the other cubs, partly threatening on one occasion. He was also seen in the prologue to the series on the Disney Video version, where he again happens to be in the tree under which Mowgli is sleeping. Strangely, he does not seem to recognize Mowgli as he slithers to observe his prey. Then, he wakes Mowgli up only to hypnotize him again, and makes him rise towards him. Before Mowgli falls completely into a trance, Baloo thwarts Kaa away. His voice was done by Jim Cummings, who reprised this role in Jungle Cubs, The Jungle Book 2 and Disney's House of Mouse. Kaa appeared briefly in the feature film "Mickey's House of Villains" where he sang again during the main villain musical number. A snake like character resembling Kaa made a cameo during the final scene of Who Framed Roger Rabbit.
Ubisoft and Disney Interactive Studios released The Jungle Book Groove Party for the PlayStation and PlayStation 2 video game consoles. The game featured Kaa as a character and also featured Kaa singing "A Mood for Food".
A far more menacing incarnation of the character appeared in the 1994 live-action adaptation. He was brought to life using an anaconda but the bulk of his appearances were made using a mixture of CGI and animatronics. He seemed to serve King Louie, killing any intruders to the city when the orangutan clapped his hands to summon him. He tackled Mowgli into a moat inside the capital and attempted to drown him but Mowgli wounded him with a bejeweled dagger, the python fleeing in a cloud of its blood. By the time Mowgli returns to the city with Capatin William Boone (the main villain of the film) and Kitty, Kaa has fully healed from their prior confrontation. Mowgli flees with Kitty when he hears Louie summoning the snake who then scares the injured Boone into the moat, where the heavy load of treasure he was carrying weighs him straight to the bottom in a cloud of his own blood. Desperately trying to struggle free, Boone sees the skeletal remains of Kaa's past victims, just seconds before the villain finally meets his death by the snake.
In the Japanese anime series Jungle Book Shōnen Mowgli, Kaa's personality is closer to the books than the Disney series.
In The Jungle Book (TV series), Kaa is given a more ferocious personality than in the books, but at the same time he is friends and allies with Mowgli, Bagheera, and Baloo.
A female version of Kaa will be voiced by Scarlett Johansson in the upcoming Disney's live-action adaption of the animated film directed by Jon Favreau and by Cate Blanchett in the Jungle Book: Origins directed by Andy Serkis.