On Book Titles

The Jungle Book, by Rudyard Kipling, is not a story all about Mowgli, as Disney would like to you think. No, The Jungle Book is a series of short stories, of which only three contain the man cub who was raised by wolves. The final story actually involved Mowgli living with humans, and finally being rejected by them. But, unlike the title suggests, The Jungle Book is not even all about the Jungle. Apart from the stories about Mowgli, most of the stories are actually set out of ‘The Jungle’ – one story is about a white seal, and takes place on beaches and seas, another involves a whole lot of animals involved in a human war discussing their roles in the battle, and takes place in a battle camp, yet another involves a mongoose getting adopted by a human family and saving them from the snakes in their backyard. There is also quite a bit of poetry – a poem between each chapter, and beginning each chapter.

What does this say? Did Rudyard Kipling purposefully call his stories The Jungle Book, knowing that most of his stories weren’t actually set in the jungle? Surely he would have had to. Was he saying something about what is a ‘Jungle’? It is interesting that pretty much every story in the book has at least one human character. Was he saying the jungles of India were being lost, or changed, due to human intervention? Was he saying that every place – every sea, every village, every forest, every house – is a sort jungle of its own? That the entire world (or at least, the entirety of India) is a Jungle?

The title of a book is so important – it is the first way that a reader will judge a book, and decide if the book is worth investigating. Maybe the title The Jungle Book was just something that Rudyard Kipling thought would be intriguing. Somehow, I don’t think so. Rudyard Kipling was no doubt trying to say something with his title. Unfortunately, I’m not quite sure exactly what it is.

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3 comments

  1. Fascinating post! I’ll have to reread The Jungle Book and see if I can pose an answer (or theory) as to what Kipling was playing at with that title…

  2. A thought provoking post. Thanks!

  3. Pingback: On where the list of 1001 Children’s Books I Must Read Before I Grow Up (Too Much) comes from | 1001 Children's Books

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