The Jungle Book


Rudyard Kipling

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The Jungle Book Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of Rudyard Kipling

Although Rudyard Kipling was born in British India, he moved to the United Kingdom at age five, where he received his schooling. Kipling grew up in a boarding school, which he hated and had only bad things to say about in his autobiography. In 1882, after he completed his schooling, Kipling returned to India, where he worked as an assistant editor in Lahore. Kipling never attended college because he did not have the grades nor the funding to be a sought-after candidate. While working as an assistant editor, Kipling began writing and eventually publishing short stories. Many of these stories appeared in the Civil and Military Gazette, a publication for which Kipling often edited. He published his first collection of short stories in 1888 under the title Plain Tales from the Hills. Over the new few years, Kipling wrote at a quick pace, completing dozens of short stories, which he published across several collections. In 1889, Kipling returned to the United Kingdom and lived in London, where he met his wife, Carrie Balestier. After his marriage, Rudyard traveled regularly and lived in many places, including the United States. In 1894, he published his most famous work, The Jungle Book, and one year later, he published its sequel, The Second Jungle Book. In addition to these works, Kipling is also known for his novel Kim (1901), the short story “The Man Who Would Be King” and his poem “The White Man’s Burden.” Kipling died in 1936 while undergoing surgery for an ulcer at age 70. In his lifetime, Kipling was universally beloved. He received the Nobel Prize in Literature, and his peers endlessly praised him. Today, Kipling is still seen as a writer of immense status, though his unwavering support for British imperialism, which appears throughout his work, is often cited as problematic. 
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Historical Context of The Jungle Book

The Jungle Book is largely a collection of stories about the British colonization of India, with many of the story’s lessons promoting British imperialist values. Britain began expanding its influence in India as early as 1757, though it would not directly seize control until 1858, during which time many British people, especially military families, lived in India. Kipling himself was born in India, and although he moved away at a young age, he returned after finishing his schooling. Under British rule, many native Indian people suffered from poverty and famine. The British exploited India for its resources and treated its native residents as second-class citizens. Britain would control India for the entirety of Kipling’s life, as India did not gain independence until 1947. In Kipling’s lifetime, support for the British Empire, especially its occupation of India, was incredibly popular because it was such a lucrative venture for the British people. However, it came at the cost of exploiting Indian people and, as such, the “morals” preached in The Jungle Book—which celebrate British imperialism—are now considered outdated and indefensible.

Other Books Related to The Jungle Book

The most apparent literary work related to The Jungle Book is The Second Jungle Book, which Kipling published the following year. Like its predecessor, The Second Jungle Book features a combination of stories and poems. Some of the stories and poems feature Mowgli, while others are stand-alone tales. Also like its predecessor, The Second Jungle Book was extremely popular and remains one of Kipling’s best-known works of fiction. In addition to The Second Jungle Book, there is a Third Jungle Book, though Kipling did not write it. However, Pamela Jekel, the author, wrote the stories in Kipling’s style. Moreover, like Kipling’s works, The Third Jungle Book features Mowgli as a main character. Kipling also inspired much of the children’s literature published at the end of the nineteenth century and beyond. including the works of Mark Twain, A.A. Milne, and Dr. Seuss. Among the works that influenced The Jungle Book are Aesop’s Fables, another collection of morality tales featuring anthropomorphized animals, and the adventure stories of Robert Louis Stevenson and H. Rider Haggard.
Key Facts about The Jungle Book
  • Full Title: The Jungle Book
  • When Written: 1893–1894
  • Where Written: Vermont, U.S.A.
  • When Published: 1894
  • Literary Period: Golden Age of Children’s Literature
  • Genre: Fable, Children’s Literature
  • Setting: British India
  • Climax: Mowgli tricks and kills the Tiger Shere Khan. However, the villagers decide he must be a sorcerer, and they exile him from the village.
  • Antagonist: Shere Khan
  • Point of View: First Person and Third Person

Extra Credit for The Jungle Book

Stage Adaptation. Kipling wrote a stage version of The Jungle Book, but he never published it.

Help from Family. John Lockwood Kipling, Rudyard’s father, drew many of the illustrations that accompanied the original publications of stories later collected as The Jungle Book.