Study Guide

The Jungle Book Chapter 5

By Rudyard Kipling

Chapter 5

"Tiger! Tiger!"

  • Okay, we're going back to immediately where the first tale left off. Got it? Good. Onward.
  • Mowgli leaves Mother Wolf's cave and heads down to the village.
  • The villagers are initially afraid of Mowgli, but one woman, Messua, thinks that Mowgli looks just like her son, who was taken by a tiger.
  • She takes him and feeds him, and he learns to speak the language of men—he's still not comfortable sleeping under a roof, though, so he sleeps outside.
  • One night, Grey Brother (Mother Wolf's eldest) comes up to him and tells him that Shere Khan swears to return.
  • Mowgli's, like, um, remember you guys kicked me out of the Pack? Why should I care?
  • Grey Brother tells him that it's highly likely the men will kick him out of their pack, too, so keep that in mind.
  • Mowgli struggles learning the ways of men, and considers killing the kids who make fun of him, but "it was unsportsmanlike to kill little naked cubs" (5.23).
  • At night, all the men gather around and tell wild tales about the jungle. Mowgli laughs because he knows all these stories are made-up superstitions, especially the one about the ghost tiger.
  • Buldeo, the village hunter, gets all up in Mowgli's face and is like, oh yeah, well, if he's so real, why don't you go hunt him down?
  • The headman says that Mowgli should help herd buffalo to temper his impertinence, and Mowgli is happy to be with buffalo instead of men.
  • While the buffalo graze, Mowgli gossips with Grey Brother, who says that Shere Khan has come back and means to kill Mowgli. Mowgli is like, bring it on.
  • Grey Brother agrees to tell Mowgli when Shere Khan plans on making his pounce.
  • Finally, the day arrives, but Mowgli has a plan: He will ride Rama, the largest buffalo, and with the help of Grey Brother and Akela (the cast-out wolf leader), they will surround Shere Khan—who is sleeping in the ravine—with the herd of buffalo and trample him. They must have gotten this plan from Scar.
  • They surround him, and Shere Khan is squished by buffalo.
  • Mowgli decides to skin him, but skinning a ten-foot tiger is tough, and while he's trying to peel that off, Buldeo the hunter shows up and acts like the tiger's pelt belongs to him.
  • Mowgli's like, you gotta be kidding me, and he summons Akela over as though the old wolf is his familiar.
  • Buldeo thinks this is some sort of sorcery, and he runs back to the village.
  • That night, Mowgli returns the buffalo to the village. To repay him, the villagers chuck rocks at him and call him names like "Sorcerer!" and "Jungle-demon!" (5.89). Thanks, guys.
  • Buldeo shoots at Mowgli, and when he hits a buffalo instead, he knows it's not because he's a terrible shot but instead that Mowgli just came out of the matrix or something and can move bullets in the air.
  • Mowgli says goodbye to Messua, who believes that he has avenged her son's death, and heads back to the jungle with the wolves.
  • He wears the hide of Shere Khan and presents himself to the Pack at Council Rock.
  • The wolves are impressed with Mowgli's feat, and they want Akela to lead them again; they are sick of lawlessness.
  • Bagheera says, "That may not be. […] Ye fought for freedom, and it is yours. Eat it, O Wolves" (5.111). In other words, you can't have your freedom and a leader too. You're all crazy.
  • Mowgli leaves the wolves behind and decides to live by himself in the jungle.
  • We're told that "years afterwards he became a man and married. But that is a story for grown-ups" (5.114). Got to keep that G rating, kiddos.