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|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|
|Species||Indian rock python|
Kipling's Mowgli Stories
First introduced in the story "Kaa's Hunting" in The Jungle Book, Kaa is a huge and powerful snake, more than 100 years old and still in his prime. Kipling describes him as an exceptionally long, yellowish Indian rock python. Despite his polite, unhurried demeanor, animals seem to have a fearful respect for Kaa.
In "Kaa's Hunting", 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 in 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 them, 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.
In "The Spring Running", as the teenage Mowgli reluctantly prepares to leave the jungle for the last time, Kaa tells Mowgli that "it is hard to cast the skin," but Mowgli knows he must cast the skin of his old life in order to grow a new one. Kaa, Baloo and Bagheera sing for Mowgli in "The Outsong", a poem and the ending of "The Spring Running".
Disney animated films
In the 1967 Disney film, Kaa is markedly different from the Kipling character. Rather than being a mentor, he appears as a slightly ridiculous predator who twice manages to trap Mowgli in his coils in order to eat him. 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 preys. Both of his attempts to eat Mowgli end in comical failure because he is interrupted right before he can swallow his prey. He is also quite cowardly, attempting to curry favor with Shere Khan whenever he is around.
This particular version of the character drew inspiration from previous Disney characters that followed a similar trope, such as Tick-Tock the crocodile from "Peter Pan" and the wolf from "The Sword in the Stone." Both are fixated on a specific character (Captain Hook; Wart) as food and comically attempt to eat them throughout the film, without success.
In The Jungle Book 2, Kaa now voiced by Jim Cummings re-appears in a smaller role. He first appears as Baloo and Mowgli sing a reprise of "The Bare Necessities", attempting to eat Mowgli, but being thwarted every time, eventually gives up, swearing he'll "never again associate with man-cubs". He then comes across Shanti, who is lost in the jungle searching for Mowgli. He successfully hypnotizes her and attempts to eat her as well before being thwarted by Ranjan. He is last seen being interrogated by Shere Khan about Mowgli's whereabouts.
In both animated films, Kaa appears as an Indian Rock Python (true to the original stories) with the exception of his head, which is flatter & more triangular than a python's and bears a closer resemblance to the head of a puff adder or a rattlesnake.
1994 live-action film
A far more menacing incarnation of the character appeared in the 1994 live-action adaptation. He was brought to life using an actual anaconda, but the bulk of his appearances were made using a mixture of CGI and animatronics. In the film, Kaa seems to serve King Louie, killing any intruders to the city when Louie summons him. Kaa attacks Mowgli inside the monkey city by tackling him into the moat and attempting to drown him, but Mowgli wounds him with a bejewelled dagger, forcing the python to flee in a pool of his own blood.
By the time Mowgli returns to the city with Captain William Boone (the main villain of the film) and Kitty, Kaa has fully healed from their prior confrontation. After defeating Boone, Mowgli flees with Kitty when he hears King Louie summoning the python. Boone starts gathering as much treasure as he can, but notices that the monkeys have gone silent; Kaa suddenly appears, then scares the injured Boone into the moat, where the heavy load of treasure he is carrying weighs him straight to the bottom. 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 python.
2016 live-action film
Kaa appeared in Walt Disney Pictures' live-action adaptation of the animated film, directed by Jon Favreau. This version of Kaa is female and is voiced by Scarlett Johansson. This film's Kaa (like the previous Disney incarnations voiced by Sterling Holloway, Hal Smith, and Jim Cummings) desires to eat Mowgli. Luring him in by promising to keep him safe, she hypnotizes him and reveals that the boy came to live in the jungle when Shere Khan killed his father as they were travelling between villages and Bagheera found him. She also reveals to him the power of the "Red Flower" (fire) and its dangers in her vision. During her storytelling, she attempts to devour him, but Baloo spots and rescues Mowgli, denying her of her meal. She is not seen again for the rest of the film, though during the end credits, she is heard singing "Trust in Me".
In an interview, Johansson elaborated on Kaa, saying that she uses both her voice and hypnotic gaze to entrance Mowgli so that he cannot resist her embrace. She also says Kaa uses her story-telling to seduce and entrap Mowgli and describes Kaa as a "window into Mowgli's past". She notes that the way Kaa moves is "very alluring", describing it as "almost coquettish". Johansson also sings the song "Trust in Me" in the film; she described her thoughts on the song: "It's a strange melody. We wanted it to be a lullaby, but it has a very mysterious sound."
- In the 1967 Adventures of Mowgli Soviet cartoons, Kaa was voiced by Vladimir Ushakov. This version of the serpent, like the cartoons in general, is faithful to the original books.
- In the 1989 Japanese anime series Jungle Book Shōnen Mowgli, Kaa's personality is closer to the books than the Disney series.
- Kaa appeared in the short-lived 1996 animated TV series Jungle Cubs, this time seen as a friend of the other animals when they were cubs. He was voiced by Jim Cummings, who reprised this role in episodes of the animated television series Disney's House of Mouse, the 2002 direct-to-video animated film Mickey's House of Villains, and The Jungle Book 2.
- Kaa also made an appearance as the snake charmer Karait's pet python in the 1997 live-action film The Second Jungle Book: Mowgli & Baloo.
- Ubisoft and Disney Interactive Studios released the 2000 video game 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".
- In the 2010 cgi animated television 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 mentor-like and heroic version will be voiced by Cate Blanchett in the upcoming live-action film, Jungle Book, directed by Andy Serkis.
- Sherman, Robert B. The Jungle Book audio commentary. The Jungle Book - Platinum Edition
- Annika Harris (March 21, 2016). "First Look: Lupita Nyong'o, Idris Elba & Others In 'The Jungle Book'". UPTOWN Magazine.
- "Kaa the Wily Python". The Philadelphia Inquirer. April 3, 2016.
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