How Fear Came

(Notes edited by Alan Underwood and John Radcliffe)


Pall Mall Budget, June 7 and 14 1894. with the title “How Fear Came to the Jungle”, and headed with the introduction and verses of “The Law of the Jungle” with illustrations by Cecil Aldin, later well-known for his pictures of dogs and fox hunting subjects. New York World June 10, and Pall Mall Gazette June 14 and 15, with the title “A Strange Tale of the Jungle”. Collected in The Second Jungle Book 1895. The story is headed by the verse “The Stream in shrunk” collected in Songs from Books (2013), and in the later verse collections.

The Story

It is a time of drought in the jungle, the rains have failed, the green plants are dying in the heat, and most of the sources of water have dried up. Hathi, the wild elephant, proclaims the Water Truce according to the Law of the Jungle, so that all animals can come and drink at the shrunken Waingunga River with no fear of being killed by predators.


When all are drinking, Shere Khan comes to the river, boasting that he has killed Man because it is ‘his right and his Night’. The lame tiger fouls the water as he drinks and is dismissed to his lair by Hathi and his sons. The great elephant then tells an old tale that shows what Shere Khan means.


In the earliest times all the animals lived together in peace. There was no killing and no fear. Tha, the First of the Elephants, made the First of the Tigers the master and judge of the Jungle, but when there was a dispute between two bucks, the First of the Tigers leapt on one of them and broke his neck. The smell of the blood made the people foolish and they ran about wildly. The First of the Tigers fled, and Tha made the trees and trailing creepers mark the killer with stripes, which the tiger wears to this day. In the place of the Tiger he made the Gray Ape master of the Jungle, but the Ape mocked the people, and there was no Law. Tha decreed that since the first master had brought Death, and the second Shame, the jungle people should henceforward know Fear, the fear of Man. The First of the Tigers went to find Man and break his neck, but when he found him, standing hairless on two legs in his cave, he was afraid, and ran away. Thenceforward there was fear in the jungle; each ‘tribe’, the buffaloes, the deer. the pig, feared the others, and all feared Man.

The tiger was ashamed, and because of his role in the very beginning, Tha decreed that from that day forward there would be one night in the year when he would be free from fear, and Man would be afraid of him. But at all other times, Fear would follow the tiger, and that would be his fate, and the fate of the jungle peoples for ever.

Critical comments

Frederick Knowles (A Kipling Primer) quotes Joel Chandler Harris on this story:

”The wild sweep of the narrative is inimitable’.

Elliott Gilbert (The Good Kipling) comments that
‘this is a retelling of the expulsion from Eden story … with its picture of Adam and Eve defying God and going out to make their own way in the world’ :

All the elements of the Garden of Eden myth are here: the perfect peace and innocence of the world at its birth, the act of disobedience, the ejection from paradise into a universe of fear and dread. Even the mark of Cain comes into the story, for the stripes of the Tiger, we are told, will scar the first killer and his descendants forever.

Shamsul Islam (p. 124) echoes this view:

The parallel between Hathi’s narrative and the story of the Garden in Genesis is quite striking. Hathi’s story makes us see God as the source of all law; the Law of the Jungle therefore
assumes the proportions of divine positive law – the law given by God to man in addition to the natural law.

The Law of the Jungle is based on five essential elements: (i) Reason, (ii) the Common Good, (iii) Ethical Values, (iv) Law-making Authority and Promulgation, (v) Custom ax Tradition.

Mark Paffard (p. 93) also stresses the idea that:

… the jungle world is in a fallen state, from which the rigid hierarchies of ‘caste’, the division into Eaters of Grass and Eaters of Flesh, and so on, has evolved.


©F A Underwood and John Radcliffe 2007 All rights reserved