The Seeonee pack of wolves in the jungle head to their family lair when, thanks to the gossip of the jackal Tabaqui, they hear Shere Khan, the tiger with a pronounced limp but passion for fighting, is approaching. Mother Wolf protects her four cubs but is amazed to see a little, naked, brown human cub running into the cave. He is the prey that the tiger is looking for. Quickly she decides to bring the boy into her family, naming him Mowgli, which means "little frog.” Mother agrees to show him to the pack alongside her own cubs to be identified, so that they can be free to run and play without fear of being killed. At the wolves’ Circle Rock Council, Mowgli's right to be a member of the pack is questioned by Shere Khan, who still feels that the boy belongs to him. The Law of the Jungle states that if there is a dispute, a cub needs to have two members of the pack that are not his mother or father speak for him. As Mother prepares to fight for her man-cub, Baloo, the old brown bear, speaks for him and promises to teach him the laws of the jungle. This is seconded by Bagheera, the black panther, who buys Mowgli's safety by offering up to the pack a fat bull that he has just killed. Mowgli is then accepted into the pack.
Mowgli spends his childhood learning the ways of the jungle from Baloo, hunting with Bagheera, and living with his wolf family. Once he is kidnapped by the Monkey-People, but Baloo, Bagheera, and the python Kaa save him.
When he is eleven years old. Shere Khan again demands that Mowgli be given to him and a fight ensues; Shere Khan has a lot of the younger wolves on his side and they depose Akela, the wise and aging leader of the pack. However, Mowgli has fire that he has been tending, and knowing how much the animals fear fire, he threatens Shere Khan with it and then orders that they leave Akela safe. Hugging his wolf family, who ask him to return one day, he goes towards the nearest village to find his own people.
When he arrives, he is welcomed into the home of a couple who believe him to be their long-lost son who was taken from them as an infant by a tiger. Messua, the woman, decides he is not their missing boy, but a boy sent by the Gods to make up for their son being taken away. She treats him like her own but Mowgli, used to living in the jungle, is not comfortable or at ease in a human home. He sleeps outside. One day, Gray Brother, one of his wolf siblings, wakes him. Gray Brother has learned that Shere Khan is still hunting Mowgli, and brings Akela to the village to try to help. Mowgli works every day in the fields herding buffalo, so they plan to divide up the herd to throw Shere Khan off the scent, then make a big circle uphill to get ahead of the ravine, taking the bulls down into it and trapping Shere Khan between the cows and the bulls. Shere Khan takes the bait and is trampled. When he is dead, Mowgli starts to skin him with his knife, but having come searching for his buffalo, the chief hunter of the village, Buldeo, realizes that there was a price on the head of this tiger who has been killing villagers, and demands the skin for himself so that he can claim the reward. Mowgli tells Akela that Buldeo is threatening him so Akela holds the chief down. With the skin laid over the Council Rock, Akela is leader again.
Buldeo, having convinced the entire village that Mowgli is one with wolves, declares him to be a sorcerer and Mowgli is banished from the village. Buldeo leads a group of hunters into the jungle to try to kill Mowgli, who in the meantime has returned to the village to find Messua and her husband bound, gagged, and imprisoned in their home. He procures the help of Hathi the wise old elephant, who agrees to destroy the village. He and his sons start to put the word out that the best food and best kill is available down by the village. Mowgli frees Messua and her husband, telling them to flee. After they have left, the jungle dwellers start to close in on the village in an effort to make the villagers move away. Hathi and his sons eat all of the stored seed corn, the other animals ruin the fields, and the lack of supplies finally forces the starving humans to leave the village. Hathi barrels through buildings until nothing is left standing and in a few short months the jungle has grown over the land where the village used to be.
Having returned to the jungle stronger, and slightly feared, Mowgli is recognized as Master of the Jungle. One of his favorite friends is Kaa, the giant python, who saved his life. After their customary play-wrestle they go back to the scene of Kaa's life-saving heroics and meet a huge, elderly white cobra who has lived underground for so long that he does not realize the jungle has taken over the old palaces of the Raj that he used to serve. He is the Warden of the King's Treasure and he allows them to take ownership of it, but only whilst they are in his lair. He threatens to kill Mowgli, but after they overpower him Kaa and Mowgli realize his fangs have dried up and he is not a threat at all. Mowgli takes a jeweled elephant head-dress with him, but the white cobra tells him it is cursed and death will follow it wherever it goes. Mowgli doesn't believe him at first, but when a hunter looking to steal the item from them winds up dead followed by six others with a similar goal in mind, Mowgli realizes he was speaking the truth and returns the jeweled spike to him.
The story jumps to Mowgli at the age of seventeen, when his parents pass away. He rolls a boulder in front of their family cave and sings his mourning song. Akela is now too old to hunt for himself so Mowgli hunts for him. The Seeonee pack grows stronger. One day, a lone wolf who lives not in a pack but with his wife and children comes to their part of the jungle, having been involved in an attack by the red dogs. They killed his cubs and wife and almost slaughtered him. He asks for help from the Seeonee pack. Mowgli heads to where the dogs are to count them and devises a plan, along with Kaa, to draw them towards the river at twilight where the bees will swarm and attack them. There is a giant battle but Mowgli's plan puts the red dogs at a huge disadvantage as when they are climbing out of the river the wolves, who attack by biting the throat, are able to attack before the dogs are fully out of the water. Akela is not killed in battle but realizes it is time for him to die. Before he sings his own mourning song, he tells Mowgli to go back to man as he has paid his debt to the jungle. Mowgli does not want to leave and is puzzled by Akela's claim that "Mowgli will drive Mowgli out of the jungle."
Spring comes and with it a strange, unfamiliar feeling in Mowgli's stomach that leaves him unable to fight properly and generally feeling grumpy and depressed. He decides to undertake a Spring Running and begins a journey on foot that takes him to a village where again he sees Messua and re-introduces himself to her. He is feverish and rests with her for a few days while she takes care of him. As he is headed back to the jungle, Gray Brother finally answers Mowgli's call, and they trot back together as Mowgli breaks the news that he is going to rejoin the humans. He says farewell to his family - Baloo, Kaa, and Bagheera, who tell him how much they love him, and his wolf brothers, then sets off to live among men once more.
As for the other tales, the most well-known is that of “Rikki-Tikki-Tavi,” the tale of a feisty and brave mongoose who is washed away from his parents during the rains and finds himself living in a house with an English family of three. He discovers Nag and Nagaina, a cobra and his wife, who want the humans to leave so that they can have the bungalow to themselves when their children are born. Rikki-tikki surprises the male cobra and disables him until the man comes to shoot the snake dead. The family is grateful to Rikki for saving their lives, but he is mindful that the snake's wife will be even more determined to kill the family. He decides to smash all of her eggs, saving one to barter, which draws her away from the house and into her tunnel. Rikki-tikki follows, not knowing if he will make it out alive, but happily does after killing Nagaina. The family realize he has saved their lives three times now, and remain grateful to him, However, he is very humble, living with them and making sure the garden is kept free of snakes.
In “The White Seal,” Kotick, a young seal known for his incredible and rare white coat, journeys to find an island where all of the seals can be safe from men clubbing them for their pelts.
In “The Miracle of Purun Bhagat,” Purun Dass becomes Prime Minister of a province of India, but willingly gives up his rule for peace and quiet as a holy man. He travels on foot to the Himalayas and takes up residence in a craggy mountain near a small village. The villagers respect and honor him and he lives a pleasant existence. He befriends the animals, who warn him that the mountain is coming down one night. Purun Bhagat, as he is now known, warns the villagers of this and they flee. Purun Bhagat perishes, and the villagers mourn and honor him.
In “Toomai of the Elephants,” Little Toomai, the son of an elephant driver, travels deep into the jungle with his elephant, Kala Nag, to see the mysterious and mythical dance of the elephants – something which no man ever gets to see. When he returns, the Englishman Peterson Sahib, manager of all the Indian Government’s elephant operations, as well as the rest of the Indians involved, honor and celebrate the boy.
In “Servants of the Queen,” a collection of animals in the service of the Indian Government – a troop-horse, two mules, two bullocks, a small dog, and a camel from a visiting army – discuss their services, their masters, and their lives.
In “The Undertakers,” a crane, a jackal, and a crocodile who live by a river near a village converse. The crocodile remembers the events of the Mutiny of 1857. He recalls a young boy whom he tried to eat and how the boy escaped; later that very boy returns to kill the crocodile.
In “Quiquern,” an Inuit teenager named Kotuku travels into the vast, wild winter wasteland in the far North to find seal for his starving village.