Monday, 14 May 2012

THE JUNGLE BOOKS - Rudyard Kipling, 1894 and 1895

I once hated Kipling because I once hated If. I thought it was patronising until I became old enough to understand it.  But that is the very point of it. And then, in my early thirties, I was given the best piece of advice that I have ever heard. It was, of course, bound up in a theory within a theory but the thrust of it is: Be a river not a statue i.e. don’t be afraid to change who you are. So here I am, extolling the virtues of everything I turned my nose up at ten years ago.  I am a river alright.  And, as so, I am proud to read the works of a man I would once have scorned. 

Before we go any further, The Jungle Books (plural) bears very little resemblance to the silly Disney film (singular). Although, again, I must admit that I love the soundtrack to the latter. As an aside, King Louie was originally, I once read, to be ‘voiced’ by Louis Armstrong until it was thought that to have him as an ape would be inappropriate. So another Louie/s was used instead (Louis Prima). What silliness, especially when the ‘monkey’ in question is an animated oran utang which is not native to India and does not feature as one of the leaderless ‘bandar-log’ of the original at all.
However, Kipling’s Jungle Books are a treat to read. ‘The Law of the Jungle ’which is the underlying principle of the series is a fine example of a group of animals attempting to regulate their existence for the benefit of one and all. We could all do no better than to heed their advice. I don’t believe in enforced morality. Currently, my life is being controlled by those who, with guilty consciences of their own, are telling me I need to cut my CO2 emissions. I find it disgusting that we should all be forced to pay for a carrier bag each time we buy a magazine in WH Smith: I have been on exactly three aeroplane flights in the whole of my life and I have never bought  (or worn) a disposable nappy; my car has only three cylinders. But the Law of the Jungle, as espoused by Kipling, is something totally different. It is adhered to, without enforcement, for the good of all, out of a common sense and common virtue.
The stories themselves are of mixed quality, the best of them being Rikki Tikki Tavi and the various Mowgli tales. I’m not sure whether Kipling viewed them all as equals, or whether he used some as ‘fillers’, but even taking that into account, this is still a great collection.

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