Shere Khan

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For other uses, see Shere Khan (disambiguation).
Not to be confused with Sharekhan.
Shere Khan
The Jungle Book character
Mowgli attacking Shere Khan (right) with a burning branch while Bagheera the panther looks on; detail of a rare clay bas-relief by John Lockwood Kipling, father of Rudyard, The Works of Rudyard Kipling Vol. VII: The Jungle Book, 1907.
First appearance "Mowgli's Brothers"
Created by Rudyard Kipling
Nickname(s) The Lame One
Species Bengal Tiger
Gender Male

Shere Khan /ˈʃɪər ˈkɑːn/[1] (Hindi: शेर खान) 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, Urdu, and Punjabi, and Khan translates as "sovereign," "king", or "military leader", in a number of languages influenced by the Mongols, including Pashto.

The original Jungle Book stories[edit]

Despite being born with a crippled leg and derisively nicknamed Lungri (The Lame One) by his mother, Shere Khan is arrogant and regards himself as the rightful lord of the jungle. The only creature who looks up to him is Tabaqui, the cowardly, despised golden jackal.[2]

In "Mowgli's Brothers", Shere Khan's failed attempt to hunt humans causes a human "cub" to stray from his parents. When Shere Khan discovers the infant, it has been adopted by Indian wolves, Raksha and Father Wolf, who have named the child Mowgli. However, Mowgli is accepted into Akela's wolf pack and is protected by Bagheera and Baloo. Furious at losing his kill, the tiger swears that the boy will be his some day. While Mowgli is growing up, Shere Khan infiltrates the wolf pack, by promising the younger wolves rich rewards, once Akela is deposed. When the young wolves manoeuvre Akela into missing his kill, the pack council meets to expel him. Shere Khan threatens to take over their hunting territory if the wolves do not give him Mowgli. Having been warned by Bagheera, 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 injured in a riot. When Mowgli scoffs at these fanciful tales the villagers decide to put him to work herding buffalo. He then 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 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 believes this will end 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 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. 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.[3]

In film, television, radio and theatre[edit]

Shere Khan
Shere Khan Disney Jungle Book.jpg
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)
Scott McNeil (Adventures of Mowgli)
Roddy McDowall (Mowgli's Brothers)
David Hemblen (Jungle Book Shōnen Mowgli)
Tony Jay (Disney appearances: 1990–2006)
Jason Marsden (Jungle Cubs)
Sherman Howard (The Jungle Book: Mowgli's Story)
Corey Burton (Disney appearances: 2006–present)
David Holt (Jungle Book TV series)
Idris Elba (2016 film)
Benedict Cumberbatch (2017 film)

Disney versions[edit]

The Jungle Book[edit]

In Disney's 1967 animated adaptation of The Jungle Book, Shere Khan's 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 greatly; mere news of his being in the vicinity compels the wolf pack to send Mowgli away. Fire and Man are the only things Shere Khan fears, and he therefore kills Man at every opportunity. Shere Khan first appears about two-thirds of the way through the film, where he eavesdrops on Bagheera and Colonel Hathi chatting about Mowgli being lost, and sets out to find and kill the boy. He later encounters Kaa just as he has successfully hypnotised Mowgli, but the snake denies any knowledge of the man-cub. Doubting Kaa's honesty, Shere Khan threatens him into showing his middle by loosening his coils, inadvertently allowing Mowgli to escape after the tiger resumes his search.

In the climax, Shere Khan finds Mowgli, who refuses to run and instead stands up against Shere Khan, saying that he is not afraid. Impressed, Shere Khan, for his own amusement, gives him a ten-second head start to run away, but Mowgli still refuses. When Shere Khan charges, Mowgli jumps in fear, finally understanding the true danger of the powerful beast. 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 vultures, while dragging Baloo behind him. Baloo proves such an impediment to Shere Khan that he decides to savage the bear, nearly killing him, until the vultures arrive and distract him. Inspired by his friend's courage, Mowgli finds a burning branch from a lightning-struck tree and ties it to Shere Khan's tail. Shere Khan flees in panic from the fire.

The Jungle Book 2[edit]

Shere Khan returned in The Jungle Book 2, despite being defeated by having his tail tied to a burning branch in the original film. He has 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 pestering him throughout the whole movie. In The Jungle Book 2, Shere Khan was voiced by Tony Jay, who reprised his role from the Disney Afternoon series TaleSpin.


Shere Khan's character was included in the Disney Afternoon series TaleSpin, cast as the richest mogul of a company called Khan Industries in the harbor city of Cape Suzette. He was a nominal villain who occasionally took 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 allowing Baloo to fly his plane to lead an attack against the Air Pirates after destroying the robotic pilot Khan 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[edit]

In the 1994 live-action film The Jungle Book, Shere Khan is presented as a more sympathetic character. Shere Khan does not kill for sport, and his sole goal is to protect the jungle from those who break "the laws of the jungle" (the most basic of which are killing to eat or to keep from being eaten), 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 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. Shere 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 to live in the jungle to survive for all these years. Shere 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, Shere Khan and Mowgli meet face to face for the first time. Shere Khan is obviously distrusting of Mowgli and humans. He attempts to scare Mowgli away by roaring in his face, but Mowgli stubbornly roars back and stares Shere Khan down. Seeing Mowgli's courage, Shere Khan develops a new found 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.

Jungle Cubs[edit]

Shere Khan also appears in the Disney animated series Jungle Cubs, where he is a tiger cub. He is more a bully than a predator, but is friends with the other characters. Shere Khan is voiced by Jason Marsden. The producers originally wanted Shere 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 Shere Khan by recounting the Red Dogs story, in which they and the other animals saved Shere Khan's life, but Shere Khan refuses to listen and says to them, "The past is the past." Baloo then throws a stone at a beehive and grabs Shere Khan by the head, letting go only when the beehive falls on his head. Shere Khan, with the beehive still on his head, runs away from the angry bees.

The Jungle Book: Mowgli's Story[edit]

Shere Khan appears once again as a villain in the 1998 film The Jungle Book: Mowgli's Story, where he is voiced by Sherman Howard and accompanied by his sidekick Tabaqui, who in this version is a spotted hyena.

2016 live-action film[edit]

Idris Elba will be voicing Shere Khan in the 2016 live-action film The Jungle Book.[4]

Other appearances[edit]


  1. ^ "Kipling's list of names in the stories", excerpted from volume XII of The Complete Works, Sussex edition, 1936.
  2. ^ In Hindi lungri is the adjective's female form. The corresponding male form would be lungra, लंगड़ा. See [1] or [2]
  3. ^ 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 .
  4. ^ Denham, Jess (7 March 2014). "Idris Elba to voice tiger villain Shere Khan in Disney's Jungle Book remake". The Independent. 
  5. ^ Kit, Borys (August 19, 2014). "Benedict Cumberbatch Joins 'Jungle Book' for Warner Bros.". The Hollywood Reporter.