Study Guide

The Jungle Book Chapter 1

By Rudyard Kipling

Chapter 1

Mowgli's Brothers

  • "It was seven o'clock of a very warm evening" (1.1) when Father Wolf wakes up. How does he know the precise time? Does he check his watch? His iPhone?
  • He's about to go hunt, when Tabaqui the jackal slinks up to cause trouble.
  • He says that Shere Khan—"the Big One" (1.8)—has shifted his hunting ground.
  • Father Wolf is angry because this tiger will scare away all the game, making it harder for him to hunt.
  • Mother Wolf chimes in that the villagers hate "the Lame One" (1.11), and they might get angry enough to set the grass on fire to scare him away.
  • Speak of the devil, they all hear Shere Khan roaring up a storm.
  • Father Wolf doesn't understand why he does that; all he's doing is scaring everything away. (Singing Katy Perry that loud will do that.)
  • Mother Wolf interprets the roar differently: She says the tiger is hunting Man.
  • The narrator tells us that it's against the Law of the Jungle to eat Man, so when the young man's cub just walks up to them, Father Wolf gently carries him back to Mother Wolf.
  • They're impressed that the man's cub isn't afraid, so they decide to raise him.
  • Inside their cave is safe because it's too narrow for Shere Khan to get inside—he sure tries, though, sticking his big furry head in the cave's mouth.
  • Mother Wolf yells at him, saying that one day the man's cub will grow up to hunt him. ("Is that a threat?" "No, it's foreshadowing.")
  • Shere Khan backs away, swearing to gobble that man cub up someday.
  • After the tiger leaves, Mother Wolf names the man's cub Mowgli, which means "little frog" (1.44).
  • Later, they take Mowgli to Council Rock to introduce him to the Pack, especially Akela, the great Lone Wolf who leads them.
  • When they present Mowgli to Akela, Shere Khan shows up (who invited him?) and says, "the cub is mine" (1.49).
  • Akela says that, according to the Law of the Jungle, "if there is any dispute as to the right of a cub to be accepted by the Pack, he must be spoken for by at least two members of the Pack who are not his father and mother" (1.50).
  • Baloo the bear and Bagheera the Black Panther speak up for Mowgli; to sweeten the deal, Bagheera promises a fat bull to buy Mowgli's safety.
  • Bagheera kills the bull, and Akela agrees to admit Mowgli into the Seeonee Wolf-Pack.
  • Now we skip ten or eleven years while Mowgli is taught everything he needs to know by Father Wolf, Bagheera, and Baloo—it's like the text version of a montage.
  • By this point, Akela is an old wolf, and Bagheera fears the day is nigh that he will no longer rule the pack.
  • He's really worried, because Shere Khan is always lurking around trying to convince the younger wolves that a man-cub has no place with the pack.
  • Bagheera tells Mowgli that they have to strike Shere Khan first.
  • He advises Mowgli to sneak down to the village and take "Red Flower" (1.89) for Shere Khan. No, he isn't deathly allergic to roses—Red Flower is what they call fire.
  • Mowgli creeps to the village and steals a pot-full of red-hot charcoal.
  • On the way, he spots Akela try to eat a sambhur, but instead get kicked by it. #huntingfail
  • Back in the jungle, Mowgli tends to the Red Flower to keep it burning all night long.
  • At the next council meeting, Shere Khan is there, trying to take control of the Pack: "Give me the man-cub, or I will hunt here always, and not give you one bone" (1.119), he says.
  • Akela says they are cowardly if they let Shere Khan kill the man-cub, pointing out that "He is our brother in all but blood" (1.127).
  • He says he will agree to step down as leader without fighting if they simply let Mowgli go.
  • They don't really care, probably because a deer almost took Akela out earlier, and the wolves gather around Shere Khan.
  • Bagheera tells Mowgli it is time for them to fight, so Mowgli flings the fire-pot at Shere Khan, setting the grass aflame.
  • Mowgli says that he will leave for the village of man, and he promises not to betray the wolves as they have betrayed him.
  • For good measure, he whacks Shere Khan in the head with a branch.
  • Bagheera tells Mowgli to spare Akela, so he tells the wolves that Akela is free to live as he pleases.
  • As the fire closes in, Mowgli leaves with the only creatures who stood by his side: Akela, Bagheera, and a handful of wolves.
  • Mowgli starts crying for the first time ever: "Am I dying, Bagheera?" (1.138) he asks.
  • Bagheera says they are only tears.
  • Mowgli says goodbye to Mother and Father Wolf, then he heads down the hillside, alone, "to meet those mysterious things that are called men" (1.146).

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