|The Jungle Book character|
|First appearance||"Mowgli's Brothers"|
|Last appearance||"How Fear Came"|
|Created by||Rudyard Kipling|
|Nickname(s)||The Lame One|
Shere Khan (IPA: [ʃɪə(r) kɑːn]) is a fictional tiger who appears in two of Rudyard Kipling's Jungle Book stories featuring Mowgli and their adaptations. The word Shere (or "shir") translates as "tiger" or "lion" in Persian, Hindi, and Punjabi, and Khan translates as "sovereign," "king", or "military leader" and so forth in a number of languages influenced by the Mongols, including Pashto.
The original Jungle Book stories
Despite being born with a crippled leg and derisively nicknamed Lungri (The Lame One) by his own mother, Shere Khan is arrogant and regards himself as the rightful lord of the jungle. It seems, however, that the only creature who looks up to him is Tabaqui, the cowardly, despised golden jackal.
In "Mowgli's Brothers", Shere Khan's failed attempt to hunt humans causes a human "cub" to stray from his parents. By the time Shere Khan catches up with the infant it has already been adopted by the Indian wolves Raksha and Father Wolf, who have named the child Mowgli. Despite Shere Khan's bluster, Mowgli is accepted into Akela's wolf pack and protected by Bagheera and Baloo. Furious at losing his kill, the tiger swears that the boy will be his some day.
Over the next decade, while Mowgli is growing up, Shere Khan infiltrates the wolf pack by promising the younger wolves rich rewards once Akela is deposed. His plan comes to a head when the young wolves maneuver Akela into missing his kill, and the pack council meets to expel him.
At the meeting Shere Khan threatens that if the wolves do not give him Mowgli he will take over their hunting territory. Having been warned by Bagheera, however, Mowgli attacks Shere Khan and his allies with a burning branch and drives them away. Akela leaves the pack to become a lone hunter. Mowgli returns to the human village, but swears that he will return one day with Shere Khan's skin.
In "Tiger! Tiger!" Mowgli is adopted by Messua and her husband and learns human ways. He also learns that the villagers have heard of the lame tiger, which has a price on its head, but believe it is lame because it is the reincarnation of a money-lender who was lamed in a riot. When Mowgli scoffs at these fanciful tales the villagers decide to put him to work herding buffalo to keep him out of trouble.
While he is doing so he meets his wolf friend Grey Brother, who tells him that Shere Khan is still planning to kill him. Grey Brother forces Tabaqui to tell him where and when Shere Khan is planning to strike, and then kills the jackal. With the help of Akela, Grey Brother and Mowgli trap Shere Khan in a narrow canyon and incite the buffalo to stampede him to death.
Mowgli then sets out to fulfil his promise by skinning Shere Khan, but while he is doing so he is interrupted by the village's elderly chief hunter Buldeo who wants the tiger's hide for the reward. Mowgli calls Akela, who pins Buldeo down while Mowgli finishes removing the hide.
Mowgli assumes that this will be an end of the matter, since in the jungle quarrels are usually settled quickly, but when he returns to the village with the hide and the buffalo the villagers drive him away, accusing him of witchcraft. Furious at being driven out of not one but two 'packs', Mowgli leaves. That night he fulfils his pledge by laying Shere Khan's hide upon the wolf pack's council rock, and then dances upon the hide singing of his anger and confusion.
Thus Shere Khan's story comes to an end, but the consequences of Mowgli's actions in defeating him continue to affect Mowgli and his adoptive parents. In the story "Letting In the Jungle" in The Second Jungle Book Mowgli discovers that the villagers are preparing to burn to death Messua and her husband for harbouring a witch-boy so Mowgli prepares to rescue them and take revenge on Buldeo and the villagers.
Shere Khan also appears in the story "How Fear Came," which is set between the first and second halves of "Mowgli's Brothers," and probably some time after "Kaa's Hunting". In this story the tiger comes to drink from the river just after having killed a human purely for sport, prompting Hathi the Elephant to tell the story of why tigers, alone of all the animals in the jungle, are allowed to hunt humans for pleasure at certain times. This story, in which Mowgli appears mainly as an observer, may be seen as a direct ancestor of Kipling's Just So Stories.
Shere Khan as he appears in the Disney film
|First appearance||The Jungle Book|
|Created by||Rudyard Kipling|
|Voiced by||George Sanders (The Jungle Book)
Tony Jay (1990-2006)
Jason Marsden (young)
Sherman Howard (Jungle Book: Mowgli's Story)
Corey Burton (2006-present)
Idris Elba (2015 adaption)
The Jungle Book
In Disney's 1967 animated adaptation of The Jungle Book, Shere Khan enters the story about two-thirds of the way through the film. His voice was performed by George Sanders, while his singing voice was provided by Bill Lee. He was designed and animated by animator Milt Kahl. The inhabitants of the jungle fear him. His presence in the jungle compels the wolf pack to send Mowgli away, since Shere Khan will kill him because he is human. Man's gun and Man's fire are the only things Khan fears. Despite being a major character, he does not appear until 2/3rds through the film, where he eavesdrops on Bagheera and Colonel Hathi chatting about Mowgli lost in the jungle, and sets out to find and kill the boy. He later encounters Kaa, and avoids falling victim to the snake's hypnotic powers, though it is unclear why.
In the climactic battle of the movie, Shere Khan finds Mowgli, who refuses to run off and instead stands up against Khan, saying that he's not afraid. Impressed by the boy standing up to him, Shere Khan, for his own amusement, gives him a ten second head start to run away, but Mowgli still refuses to run off. Growing impatient, it is when Shere Khan reaches ten and charges for the boy where Mowgli jumps in fear, finally understanding the true danger of the powerful beast before him. Just as Shere Khan is about to reach Mowgli, Baloo grabs his tail and holds him back. Shere Khan chases the now terrified Mowgli, who is being carried away by the vultures, while dragging Baloo behind him. Baloo proves such an impediment to Khan decides to battle the bear, nearly killing him, until the vultures arrive and distract him, having been inspired by Mowgli's earlier bravery and his current display of courage. Mowgli finds a burning branch from a lightning-struck tree and ties it to Khan's tail. Khan flees in panic from the fire.
The Jungle Book 2
Shere Khan returned in The Jungle Book 2, despite being tied to a burning branch from the original film. He is sworn to kill Mowgli, this time as revenge. During the conclusion of the final battle in an ancient temple surrounded by lava, Shere Khan falls into a pit of molten lava but lands on a stone slab, trapped underneath the head of a tiger statue. He is not killed, and is last seen being teased by Lucky (voiced by Phil Collins), the new member of the Vultures who had been teasing him throughout the whole movie. It remains unknown what happens to him after that. In The Jungle Book 2, Khan was voiced by Tony Jay, who reprised his role from the Disney Afternoon series TaleSpin.
Shere Khan was included in the cast of characters in the Disney Afternoon series TaleSpin, being cast as the richest mogul of a company called Khan Industries in the harbor town of Cape Suzette. He was a nominal villain who occasionally takes enjoyment in driving small companies out of business to expand his own enterprise, but sometimes allied with the heroes when it suited him—such as when he allowed Baloo to fly his plane to lead the attack against the Air Pirates after destroying the robotic pilot he had been using previously, as the pilot's A.I. lacked the ability to cope with unexpected occurrences during the flight. He was voiced by Tony Jay.
1994 live-action film
In the 1994 live-action film Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book, Shere Khan is presented as a more sympathetic character. Khan appears rarely and instead serves as an anti-hero of the film while an arrogant British captain named William Boone (who is played by Cary Elwes) serves as the villain of the film. Unlike Boone, Khan does not kill for sport, and his sole goal is to protect the jungle from those who break "the laws of the jungle", including humans who trespass with guns and kill animals for fun instead of food. At the beginning of the movie, he sees two British guards and a hunter named Buldeo (who would later become one of Boone's henchmen) shooting animals for fun, and becomes enraged at this. That night, he attacks the humans' camp in revenge for the animals' death, and kills Mowgli's father, who was defending Buldeo, in the process. Other than killing Mowgli's father, Khan also kills a guard and a British sergeant named Claiborne, both of whom were responsible for the jungle law being broken alongside Buldeo. This event is what led Mowgli to be separated from civilization and living in the jungle to survive for all these years. Khan is not seen again until the second half of the movie, when he kills Lt. Wilkins, a henchman of Captain Boone. After the climactic battle between Mowgli and Boone ended with Boone being killed by Kaa, Khan and Mowgli meet face to face for the first time. Khan is obviously distrusting of Mowgli (and all humans in general), and attempts to scare him away by roaring in his face, but Mowgli stubbornly roars back and stares Khan down. Seeing Mowgli's courage, Khan develops a newfound respect for him, and begins to see him as a fellow "creature of the jungle". Because of this, Shere Khan spares Mowgli and allows him and his friend Katherine Brydon to leave peacefully.
Shere Khan also appeared as a main character in the Disney animated series Jungle Cubs, where he was portrayed as a tiger cub, more a bully than a predator, but nonetheless friends with the other characters. In this show, Shere Khan is voiced by Jason Marsden. The producers originally wanted Khan to keep his British accent for the show, but later changed their mind and Shere Khan ended up with an American accent, completely different from that of his adult version. The adult version of himself appears in the Jungle Cubs: Born to be Wild video (again voiced by Tony Jay), and in these cut scenes, he attempts to kill Mowgli when he (Mowgli), Baloo and Bagheera walk into his part of the jungle. Baloo and Bagheera try to reason with Khan by recounting the Red Dogs story, in which they and the other animals saved Khan's life, but Khan refuses to listen and himself saying to them that "the past is the past". Baloo then throws a stone at a beehive and grabs Khan by the head, letting go only when the beehive falls on his head. Khan, with the beehive still on his head, runs away from the angry bees.
The Jungle Book: Mowgli's Story
- "Kipling's list of names in the stories", excerpted from volume XII of The Complete Works, Sussex edition, 1936.
- In Hindi lungri is the adjective's female form. The corresponding male form would be lungra, लंगड़ा. See  or 
- Sale, Roger (1978), "Kipling's Boy's", Fairy Tales and After: from Snow White to E.B. White, Harvard University Press, ISBN 0-674-29157-3.