The Jungle Book

The Jungle Book Quotes and Analysis

"Who speaks for this cub?" asked Akela. "Among the Free People who speaks?" There was no answer, and Mother Wolf got ready for what she knew would be her last fight, if things came to fighting.

Narrator, "Mowgli's Brothers" (10)

Although Mowgli has not been with her family for long, Mother Wolf is already extremely protective of him and demonstrates the deep family loyalty that is a continuing theme throughout the novel. She is prepared to fight until the death for his acceptance into the Pack. This quote also illustrates the strict adherence to Jungle Law within the community of jungle dwellers, and not even something as unusual as having a human cub in the home alters or overrides the rules in any way. It is only due to the benevolence of Baloo and the quick thinking of Bagheera that Mowgli is accepted at all and his loyalty then extends to both of these characters as well despite the fact that they are not members of his pack.

To do Buldeo justice, if he had been ten years younger he would have taken his chances with Akela had he met the wolf in the woods, but a wolf who obeyed the orders of this boy who had private wars with man-eating tigers was not a common animal.

Narrator, "Tiger Tiger!" (63)

Buldeo is the wizened village hunter who has taken issue with Mowgli over the herding of his buffalo in order to trap Shere Khan. He also knows that there is a price on the head of the tiger and wants to steal the skin from Mowgli in order to claim it. Mowgli is aware of this and asks Akela to guard Buldeo; the fact that he does as Mowgli asks him convinces Buldeo that Mowgli is not a mere boy but a sorcerer who can metamorphize into jungle animals. This idea builds in his head until he has the entire village hunting Mowgli. This is an important incident in the book as the killing of Shere Khan and the restoration of power to Akela allows Mowgli to return to the jungle and also brings stability and order back to the pack just as he had promised.

A month later, the place was a dimpled mound, covered with soft, green young stuff; and by the end of the rains there was the roaring jungle in full blast on the spot that had been under plow not six months before.

Narrator, "Letting In The Jungle" (211)

The Jungle Book emphasizes the weakness of man and the superiority of the jungle dwellers. For example, one of the Laws of the Jungle is that man is not to be hunted, a law in place because the animals consider man to be so much weaker and to have so many disadvantages that it is not even a fair sport. In this chapter, the land that man has taken from the jungle and turned into fields is reclaimed by the animals (a continuing subject in the book that is contrary to the usual story of man rampaging through the jungle dwellers' habitat, and showing the animals taking back what originally belonged to the jungle). This quote highlights man's insignificance in the scheme of things as the jungle was there before man, and so easily grows over what took man years to accomplish. It is as if he had never been there.

Now in the man pack, at this hour, as I remember, they laid them down upon hard pieces of wood in the inside of a mud trap, and having carefully shut out all the clean winds, drew foul cloth over their heavy heads, and made evil songs through their Moses. It is better in the jungle.

Mowgli, "The King's Ankus" (239)

Mowgli's perception of human bedtime and the sleeping arrangements of man is just like that of a jungle animal simply because he has been raised as one. He does not understand beds, linens, or houses. When he was living with man, he chose to sleep outside, partly for familiarity and comfort, and partly so that his wolf brothers could come to him at night. This is a minor example but a useful one to illustrate why the transition to living with the human pack is so difficult for Mowgli.

"It is hard to cast the skin," said Kaa, as Mowgi sobbed and sobbed with his head on the blind bear's side and his arms round his neck, while Baloo tried feebly to lick his feet.

Narrator, "The Spring Running" (327)

Kaa sheds his skin every season but his observation is a metaphor for the shedding of Mowgli's adolescence. Although he knows he must indeed move on to the next phase in his life, Mowgli is devastated to leave the family that he loves and would obviously love to not feel the need to move on. It is hard for those he leaves behind to let him go, which is in line with the theme of coming of age.

Well, you've certainly had your revenge on the chief of the clan... This was worth sitting up all night for, wasn't it?

An Englishman, "The Undertakers" (235)

The story of the Mugger isn't just a simple tale of a monstrous animal and his exploits; rather, it is nearly an allegory for colonialism itself. The Mugger represents the native in all of his ignorance, lack of civilization, violent and prideful tendencies, and old-fashioned beliefs. The English have been infiltrating his land for some time now, but he has proved rather vexing to them. Now, though, the noble Englishman whom the Mugger tried to kill while a mere child is back to settle the score and ultimately demonstrate the triumph of his race and nation over the grotesque native crocodile. This idea is supplemented by the echos of the Mutiny of 1857 in which natives rebelled against the English but were brutally put down.

"Said I not that men kill for idleness?"

"Indeed, they killed for the sake of red and blue stones," Bagheera answered.

Mowgli and the Narrator, "The King's Ankus" (252)

Bagheera's words are ironic not because of verbal irony (i.e., he is legitimately perplexed as to why these stones are valuable) but because of dramatic irony. He and Mowgli do not understand why simple rocks and stones are worth dying for, whereas the reader is intimately aware of the value of such things and would no doubt clamor to possess even one of the items from the Cold Lairs. Indeed, even though Mowgli and Bagheera think the men who end up dying are foolish, readers grudgingly admit that they keenly understand the impulse to possess such things. Kipling's skill is in getting the reader to pause, if only for a moment, and consider how silly it is that assign value to such arbitrary things.

I found it under some rubbish in a house at Colombo, and have translated it from one end to another.

Narrator, "Quiquern" (277)

This is a rather abrupt and fascinating end to "Quiquern," and it thus behooves us to look at what Kipling may have intended with such an ending. On the one hand, "Quiquern" is a glorious, compelling, and suspenseful tale about a native boy and girl looking to save their people from starvation. This is a tale that should be heard and promulgated, but instead it lies mute and forgotten until Kipling's narrator finds it. Perhaps he is ruing the fact that these stories are not more commonly heard, and that the native way of life and their adventures and accomplishments ought to be celebrated. On the other hand, it leaves a funny taste in the mouth that after reading the story of Kotuku, it is essentially discarded and not of wider interest. The English believed the Inuits are not exactly civilized like Western Europeans so their way of life as well as their strange beliefs - the tornaq - perhaps belong in the past.

He is a dog - and the pup of a dog - red, yellow-bellied, lairless, and haired between every toe!

Mowgli, "Red Dog" (286)

It seems a little ironic that Mowgli evinces such disdain for the red dogs because he was raised by wolves, very clearly part of the same family. However, the fact that Kipling makes this distinction isn't an authorial oversight; he is demonstrating that even within the same family of species there can be difference and inherent superiority/inferiority. The red dogs are akin to the "bad" natives of the colonized lands. They are dirty and dumb and motivated by base desires. The wolves, by contrast, are the "good" natives. They are referred to as the Free People, follow laws assiduously, and behave in noble, moral, and intelligent ways. Through distinguishing between these types of dogs, Kipling implies that there are similar differences between Indians.

Don't touch him, Patalamon. There has never been a white seal since - since before I was born.

Kerick, "The White Seal" (77)

As with Herman Melville's Moby Dick, whiteness signifies something significant: here, it Kotick's power, his mystique, his purity. His quest to find a better place for his kind is conceived as a noble endeavor, and his whiteness is what sets him apart. It is significant that he isn't a black seal or a gray seal or a mottled seal; rather, he is white just like the English are white. There is a clear sense that Kotick represents the English in their superiority as well as their desire to venture out into other lands that may prove useful to them (even if there are already lumbering, less intelligent creatures there like the sea cows/natives).