A book by Silvana Franco
No child should be allowed to grow up without readingThe Jungle Books. Published in 1894 and 1895, the stories crackle with as much life and intensity as ever. Rudyard Kipling pours fuel on childhood fantasies with his tales of Mowgli, lost in the jungles … see full wiki
Rudyard Kipling's 1894-1895 THE JUNGLE BOOKS (written in Vermont) are about jungles in a very broad sense of that word: areas where people and animals interact barely at all or if (as in the Indian army), humans and beasts ever do work together, each has a clearly defined sphere. Moreover, some of the jungles are the icy wastes of the Arctic and Anarctica. The jungles thus defined are also magic domains where wolves can speak to cobras, tigers to elephants and where some animals, notably army elephants, donkeys, cavalry horses, buffalo and pet dogs can not only communicate among themselves but also understand the language and values of their human masters.
Roughly half the pages of the two JUNGLE BOOKS tell of the growing to earliest manhood ("nearly seventeen") of a young Indian human, called Nathoo by his human mother Messua and Mowgli (little frog) by Raksha (the demon), the wolf who accepted him among her cubs on the day when the evil lame tiger Shere Khan separated the toddler from his wood gathering and wood working parents. We see Mowgli growing slowly in wisdom and grace, taught jungle lore by the wise old bear Baloo, assisted by Bagheera the black panther and Kaa the mighty rock python.
In one story Mowgli is kidnapped by the Bandar Log (the monkey tribe) and taken to Cold Lairs to teach them how to build better shelters. Kaa and Baloo team up to rescue him. In another tale Mowgli and Kaa concoct a winning plan to defeat hundreds of ravenous Dhole (red dogs of the Deccan) who kill everything in their paths. Returning with Kaa to the Cold Lairs (a long deserted Rajah's palace which has gone back to the jungle), Mowgli discovers a huge treasure trove guarded by a blind and deaf cobra whose poison has dried up. He takes away a large, heavy, jewel-encrusted ankus (elephant goad) only to see lust to possess it lead to several deaths among humans. In the end, one spring day when all the animals are rutting or fighting or generally going mad, Mowgli feels the fires of puberty. Without knowing what is amiss with him, the sight of a teenage Indian girl moves him to return definitively to human kind, including his recently widowed mother and her one year old son. His remaining old animal friends who have seen him grow into manhood and lordship of the forests of Central India agree that it is The Law that man return to man. One by one they bid Mowgli: "Good Hunting On a New Trail, Master of the Jungle!" "And this is the last of the Mowgli stories."
Other tales are not only of Indian mongooses like Rikki-tikki-tavi but also of walruses, whales, seals and other creatures of frozen ocean wastes trying to come to terms with the men who would hunt them to extinction. In another yarn an ancient crocodile remembers the symbiotic relationship he developed over many decades with the village people he fed on. He also recalls the year 1857 when rivers ran red with the blood first of the English then of the Indian soldiers who had rebelled in the Great Mutiny against the rule of the East India Company.
To many readers the finest of all the tales of THE JUNGLE BOOKS is "The Miracle of Purun Bhagat." Purun Dass was an exalted high caste Hindu who received an English education and became progressive prime minister "of an old-fashioned Hindoo court" in an independent Native State of the Northwest. When he turned sixty, the Prime Minister renounced his many honors and began to live a life of religious isolation and contemplation, under the religious name Purun Bhagat. He became a Sunnyasi, "a houseless wandering mendicant." He wandered north into the Himalayas until he found a perfect place to end his days -- a pass that had taken him two days to climb. Mountains 20,000 feet high were fifty or sixty miles away, though he felt he could reach out and touch them.
Fifteen hundred feet below him was a tiny village. The villagers rejoiced to have a holy man so near and for many years they brought him his daily bread and drink. Wild animals came to accept and love Purun Bhagat. Toward the tale's end, these animals, with difficulty, made the holy man aware that his entire mountain was about to crash down in an avalanche.
For the last time Purun Bhagat reverted to Purun Dass. "He was no longer a holy man, but Sir Purun Dass, K.C.I.E. (Knight Commander of the Indian Empire), Prime Minister of no small State, a man accustomed to command, going out to save life." Man and animals poured down the 1500 feet to the village, sounded the alarm and drove the inhabitants across the narrow valley and far up the opposite mountain. Came the avalanche. But the people and animals were saved. Purun Bhagat himself lived only long enough to compose his mind to prayer.
After his death, the grateful humans set up a shrine where "they worship ... with lights and flowers and offerings to this day. But they do not know that the saint of their worshp is the late Sir Purun Dass, K.C.I.E., D.C.L., Ph.D., etc, once Prime Minister of the progressive and enlightened State of Mohiniwala, and honorary or corresponding member of more learned and scientific societies than will ever do any good in this world or the next."
THE JUNGLE BOOKS are for children and adults. They are insightful, wise in the ways of men and beasts, and beautifully written.
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A book by Silvana Franco
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