Study Guide

Bagheera (the Black Panther) in The Jungle Book

By Rudyard Kipling

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Bagheera (the Black Panther)

A Purr-fect Plan

Bagheera is the second person (well, animal, but they're all so personified, it's hard to think of them otherwise) who speaks up for Mowgli at Council Rock. He bargains for the boy's life with a nice fat juicy buffalo, an offering which keeps the Wolf Pack from trading Mowgli to Shere Khan.

Bagheera's motivations for saving the man-cub are two-fold. On one paw, he sympathizes with Mowgli because he, too, was born in a zoo. Allegedly. His story about breaking "the silly lock with one blow" (1.82) of his paw seems a little too ridiculous to believe. So while we think he was raised in a zoo, we doubt his escape was that dramatic.

On the other paw, Bagheera wants to use Mowgli as a pawn to overthrow Shere Khan. Like the tiger, Bagheera doesn't really have a place in the wolf pack, either, since he's a panther, not a wolf. So Bagheera is to Mowgli what Shere Khan is to the other wolves: an animal trying to manipulate others into a position of power. At one point, Mowgli is even referred to as Bagheera's "pet" (3.1), and at council meetings Bagheera often whispers in Mowgli's ear, telling him what to do.

The panther isn't all sneaky, though. He "would have spoiled Mowgli if he had had his own way" (3.3). Aw.

Panther Pride

Bagheera's defining characteristic is his pride—he rarely takes the blame for anything. When Mowgli is monkey-snatched, Bagheera blames Baloo.

It's big talk coming from someone who generally takes a paws-off approach to life. In order to save Mowgli, Bagheera manipulates Kaa into assisting him with finding Mowgli by pretending the monkeys called him names like "footless, yellow earthworm" (3.70). It's quite the burn, though to be fair, the monkeys did mock the giant snake.

Notice a pattern here? Bagheera is best with his words, not his claws. He's basically useless in the fight against the monkeys. And when he's injured, he says, "I may have cried out in the battle" (3.124), which totally downplays the fact that he got his furry tail kicked by a bunch of apes.

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