Study Guide

The Jungle Book The Elephant Dance

By Rudyard Kipling

The Elephant Dance

The Forbidden Dance

Mowgli's chapters make it easy to forget that the human world and the animal world are often quite separate. The animals have customs and rituals they just don't want the humans knowing about, and the Elephant Dance is one of these things. It's a secret ritual of the elephants, many of whom spend their days in servitude to humans. It's a rare moment for the elephants to exercise a few hours of freedom, behaving like animals instead of like slaves.

It's unusual that Kala Nag, the big elephant, lets Little Toomai accompany him to the Elephant Dance. Symbolically, it's a vote of confidence in Little Toomai—Kala Nag's like, you're cool with me, so you can know what we elephants are really about. Put in the context of imperialism (more on this in the "Introduction" section), then, we have the enslaved being totally cool with his captor. Which is a problematic message at best.

Which leaves us with one question: Do you think it was a mistake to show a human, even a little one, this private ritual? Why or why not? Talk amongst yourselves, Shmoopers.