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For other uses, see Mowgli (disambiguation).
The Jungle Book character
Mowgli by John Lockwood Kipling (father of Rudyard Kipling). An illustration from The Second Jungle Book (1895)
First appearance "In the Rukh" (1893)
Last appearance "The Second Jungle Book" (1895)
Created by Rudyard Kipling
Nickname(s) Man-cub, Frog
Species Human
Gender Male
Family Raksha and Father Wolf (foster parents); Messua (foster mother); Wife (the daughter of Abdul Gafur); and unnamed son.

Mowgli /ˈmɡli/ is a fictional character and the protagonist of Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book stories. He is a feral child from the Pench area in Central India who originally appeared in Kipling's short story "In the Rukh" (collected in Many Inventions, 1893) and then went on to become the most prominent and memorable character in his novels The Jungle Book and The Second Jungle Book (1894–1895), which also featured stories about other characters.[1]

Kipling's Mowgli stories[edit]

The Mowgli stories, including In the Rukh, "Getting cold in London" and "Chakalita in Panama" were first collected in chronological order in one volume as The Works of Rudyard Kipling Volume VII: The Jungle Book (1907) (Volume VIII of this series contained the non-Mowgli stories from the Jungle Books), and subsequently in All the Mowgli Stories (1933).

In the Rukh describes how Gisborne, an English forest ranger in the Pench area in Central India at the time of the British Raj, discovers a young man named Mowgli, who has extraordinary skill at hunting, tracking, and driving wild animals (with the help of his wolf brothers). He asks him to join the forestry service. Mueller (the head of all Woods and Forests of India, i.e. Gisborn's boss), meets Mowgli, checks his elbows and knees noting the callouses and scars, and figures him out, that Mowgli is not using magic or demons, having seen a similar case in 30 years of service. Muller also offers Mowgli to join the service, to which Mowgli agrees. Later Gisborne learns the reason for Mowgli's almost superhuman talents; he was raised by a pack of wolves in the jungle (explaining the scars on his elbows and knees from going on all fours). Mowgli takes for wife the daughter of Gisborne's butler. By the end of the story, Mowgli has a son, and Mowgli's wolf brothers are friendly with Gisborne.

Kipling then proceeded to write the stories of Mowgli's childhood in detail. Lost by his parents as a baby in the Indian jungle during a tiger attack, he is adopted by the Wolf Mother (Raksha) and Father Wolf, who call him Mowgli (the frog) because of his lack of fur and his refusal to sit still. Shere Khan the tiger demands that they give him the baby but the wolves refuse. Mowgli grows up with the pack, hunting with his brother wolves. In the pack, Mowgli learned he was able to stare down any wolf, but his unique ability to remove the painful thorns from the paws of his brothers was deeply appreciated as well.

Bagheera, the black panther, befriends Mowgli because both he and Mowgli have parallel childhood experiences; as Bagheera often mentions, he was "raised in the King's cages at Oodeypore" from a cub, and thus knows the ways of man. Baloo the bear, teacher of wolves, has the thankless task of educating Mowgli in "The Law of the Jungle".

Shere Khan continues to regard Mowgli as fair game, but eventually Mowgli finds a weapon he can use against the tiger — fire. After driving off Shere Khan, Mowgli goes to a human village where he is adopted by Messua and her husband whose own son Nathoo was also taken by a tiger. We never find out for certain if Mowgli is the returned Nathoo, although a hint that he might be is provided in the Jungle Book story "Tiger! Tiger!" where we learn that the tiger who carried off Messua's son was lame, just as Shere Khan is lame. On the other hand, while Messua would like to believe that her son has returned, she herself realises that this is unlikely.

While herding buffalo for the village, Mowgli learns that the tiger is still planning to kill him, so with the aid of two wolves he traps Shere Khan in a ravine where the buffalo trample him. The tiger dies and Mowgli sets to skin him. Seeing this, Buldeo, a jealous hunter, goads the villagers into persecuting Mowgli and his adopted parents as sorcerers. Mowgli runs back to the jungle with Shere Khan's hide but soon learns that Buldeo and the villagers are planning to kill Messua and her husband, so he rescues them and sends elephants, water buffaloes, and other animals to trample the village and its fields to the ground.

In later stories in The Second Jungle Book Mowgli finds and then discards an ancient treasure (The King's Ankus), not realising that men will kill to own it. With the aid of Kaa the python, he leads the wolves in a war against the Dhole (Red Dog).

Finally, Mowgli stumbles across the village where his adopted human mother (Messua), is now living, which forces him to come to terms with his humanity and decide whether to rejoin his fellow humans.

Play adaptations[edit]

Rudyard Kipling adapted the Mowgli stories for The Jungle Play in 1899, but the play was never produced on stage and the manuscript was lost for almost a century. It was finally published in book form in 2000.[2]

Influences upon other works[edit]

Only six years after the first publication of The Jungle Book, E. Nesbit's The Wouldbegoods (1899) included a passage in which some children act out a scene from the book.[1] p. 204.

Mowgli has been cited as a major influence on Edgar Rice Burroughs' character Tarzan. Mowgli was also an influence for a number of other "wild boy" characters; see Feral Children in Mythology and Fiction.

Poul Anderson and Gordon R. Dickson used the Mowgli stories as the basis for their humorous 1957 science fiction short story "Full Pack (Hokas Wild)". This is one of a series featuring a teddy bear-like race called Hokas who enjoy human literature but cannot quite grasp the distinction between fact and fiction. In this story, a group of Hokas get hold of a copy of The Jungle Book and begin to act it out, enlisting the help of a human boy to play Mowgli. The boy's mother, who is a little bemused to see teddy bears trying to act like wolves, tags along to try to keep him (and the Hokas) out of trouble. The situation is complicated by the arrival of three alien diplomats who just happen to resemble a monkey, a tiger and a snake. This story appears in the collection Hokas Pokas! (1998) (ISBN 0-671-57858-8), and is also available online: Prologue and Story

The Jungle Book and Cub Scouting[edit]

Baden-Powell, the founder of Scouting, based Cub Scouting on a story in Rudyard Kipling's Jungle Book called "Mowgli's Brothers". Cub Scouts know it as "The Story of Akela and Mowgli". The terms "Law of the Pack," "Akela," "Wolf Cub" "Grand Howl", "den," and "pack" all come from the Jungle Book.

In American Scouting, parts of the story are found in the Wolf Cub Scout Book, the Bear Cub Scout Book, and the Cub Scout Leader Book.

The name "Mowgli"[edit]

In the stories, the name Mowgli is said to mean "frog". Kipling made up the name, and it "does not mean 'frog' in any language other than the language of the forest."

Kipling stated that the first syllable of "Mowgli" should rhyme with "cow" and is pronounced this way in Britain, while in the United States and India it is almost always pronounced to rhyme with "go".

Mowgli stories by other writers[edit]

The Third Jungle Book (1992) by Pamela Jekel (ISBN 1-879373-22-X) is a collection of new Mowgli stories in a fairly accurate pastiche of Kipling's style.

Hunting Mowgli (2001) by Maxim Antinori (ISBN 1-931319-49-9) is a very short novel which describes a fateful meeting between Mowgli and a human hunter. Although marketed as a children's book it is really a dark psychological drama, and ends with the violent death of a major character.

Movies, television and radio[edit]

Heroes of the Soviet animation film on a postal stamp of Russia
  • Of all the various adaptations, Chuck Jones's 1977 animated TV short Mowgli's Brothers, adapting the first story in The Jungle Book, may be the one that adheres most closely to the original plot and dialogue.[citation needed]
  • There was also a BBC radio adaptation in 1994, starring actress Nisha K. Nayar as Mowgli, Freddie Jones as Baloo and Eartha Kitt as Kaa. It originally aired on BBC Radio 5 (before it became BBC Radio 5 Live and dropped its children's programming). Subsequently it has been released on audio cassette and has been re-run a number of times on digital radio channel BBC 7 (now BBC Radio 4 Extra).
  • Between 1953 and 1955 Dell Comics featured adaptations of six Mowgli stories in three issues (#487,[3] #582 [4] and #620 [5]).
  • Some issues of Marvel Fanfare feature adaptations of the Mowgli stories by Gil Kane. These were later collected as an omnibus volume.

Actors who played the character[edit]

Mowgli has been played by many male actors. In the 1942 film adaptation, Mowgli was played Sabu Dastagir. In the 1994 film adaptation he was played by Sean Naegeli as a kid and later throughout the film he was played by Jason Scott Lee. In The Second Jungle Book: Mowgli and Baloo he was played by Jamie Williams. In The Jungle Book: Mowgli's Story he was played by Brandon Baker. Mowgli will be played by Neel Sethi in the new Disney Live action reboot of The Jungle Book (2016 film) which will be released in 3D on April 15, 2016. Mowgli will played by Rohan Chand in the Warner Bros. film Jungle Book: Origins which will come out in 2017.

See also[edit]

Other meanings[edit]

'Mowgli' and similar can also mean:


  1. ^ a b "Kipling's Boy's" in Roger Sale, Fairy Tales and After: from Snow White to E.B. White" Harvard Univ. Press, 1978. ISBN 0-674-29157-3
  2. ^ The Jungle Play: UK paperback edition: ISBN 0-14-118292-X
  3. ^ "Image: jbcomic1-big.jpg, (722 × 1014 px)". Retrieved 2015-09-04. 
  4. ^ "Image: jbcomic2-big.jpg, (785 × 1110 px)". Retrieved 2015-09-04. 
  5. ^ "Image: jbcomic3-big.jpg, (783 × 1100 px)". Retrieved 2015-09-04. 

External links[edit]

  • In the Rukh: Mowgli's first appearance from Kipling's Many Inventions
  • The Jungle Book Collection and Wiki: a website demonstrating the variety of merchandise related to the book and film versions of The Jungle Books, now accompanied by a Wiki on the Jungle Books and related subjects