Study Guide

The Jungle Book Chapter 13

By Rudyard Kipling

Chapter 13

Her Majesty's Servants

  • This story begins on a rainy night in a camp of "thirty thousand men, thousands of camels, elephants, horses, bullocks, and mules" (13.1). Which Bullocks? Sandra? Jim J?
  • They're gathered at Rawalpindi, and the animals are to be reviewed by the Viceroy of India who is going to be visited by the Amir of Afghanistan, which is "a very wild country" (13.2).
  • The narrator of this story is a nameless human, but he can understand everything the animals say.
  • One night, a bunch of camels get loose and tromp through the humans' tents—our narrator is warned of the incoming camel stampede, though, so he leaves his tent before it gets trampled.
  • His fox-terrier, Little Vixen, runs away, and our narrator runs after the dog.
  • The narrator ends up falling over near the Artillery lines of the camp.
  • Not wanting to continue stumbling around in the dark, he builds "a sort of wigwam" (13.3) and takes shelter.
  • Just as he's about to fall asleep, a mule wanders up, followed by a camel.
  • The mule makes fun of the camel for destroying the camp, and then gives him a swift mule kick to the ribs.
  • The camel sits down and cries because the mule hurt his humps his humps his lovely camel lumps.
  • A large troop-horse gallops up to join the conversation; he's mad that the camels woke him up.
  • The mule introduces himself as a "breech-piece mule" (13.11), and the horse says he's Dick Cunliffe's horse.
  • The camel apologizes for disturbing everything, blaming it on bad dreams.
  • Then, an elephant stumbles up, followed by another mule calling for Billy.
  • Billy seems to be the first mule we met here, and he does what he can to calm down the younger mule, i.e. threatening to kick him, too.
  • All the animals engage in a discussion about fear and cowardice versus bravery.
  • Billy is the posturing type, acting like he'll kick anything and everything; the younger mule tries not to be afraid, but comes off as sulky.
  • The troop-horse says he's only brave when Dick Cunliffe is on his back.
  • The camel's emotional setting seems to be either scared or stupid, because he doesn't seem to mind when the men use them as human—well, camel—shields during gunfights.
  • This talk escalates until the troop-horse and the donkey start calling each other names ("Brumby" (13.68) and "imported Malaga jackass" (13.69) are the insults of choice) and almost fight each other.
  • An elephant named Two Tails breaks up the fight, but ends up just joining the argument.
  • As the animals start getting louder and louder, Little Vixen, our narrator's dog, shows up and scares the big ol' elephant.
  • Little Vixen runs into the makeshift tent with her owner.
  • This incident causes the animals to agree that they're all afraid of certain things, and brave in other situations.
  • The discussion topic changes to "why we have to fight at all" (13.112), and the troop horse says it boils down to something as simple as "because we're told to" (13.113).
  • Finally, their late night political debate winds down and they all return to their respective camps.
  • The next day, the men and the animals parade past the Viceroy and the Amir of Afghanistan.
  • Our narrator watches as the animals from the previous night march by and the infantry band strikes up a song.
  • After the parade, a chief of the Amir comes to question an officer.
  • The officer says that all his men and his beasts obey their orders.
  • The chief says that in Afghanistan, they "obey only our own wills" (13.146).
  • And the officer, twirling his moustache like Snidely Whiplash, delivers the closing burn of the book: "Your Amir whom you do not obey must come here and take orders from our Viceroy" (13.147).