[Page 3, line 1]Now Chil the Kite brings home the night… This eight-line verse, attributed to Night-Song in the Jungle heads the story. It is ‘Rann the Kite’ in the First American Edition and some early Macmillan Standard editions. Cheel is given as the native name for the common kite in R A Sterndale (p. 423). For Chil and other names see Kipling’s own list of names.
The black kite (Milvus migrans) belongs to the family Accipitridae..See also “Chil’s Song”.
Lockwood Kipling writes in Beast and Man in India:
This beautiful creature is almost as common as the crow, and its shrill thin scream, from which the name chil seems to be derived, is, like the crow’s note, a constant and characteristic Indian sound … Those who delight in the flight of birds … may find less interesting diversions than throwing fragments of food from a high roof when a fleet of swift pirates soon assembles … no morsel is ever allowed to reach the ground. The fierce sweeps and curves are splendid in grace, strength, and skill.
[Page 3, line 2] Mang the Bat ‘a made-up name’ (RK).
[Page 3, line 3] byre cattle-shed (P.H.).
[Page 3, line 6] tush canine tooth (P.H.).
[Page 3, line 11] Seeonee (more usually spelled ‘Seoni’) an area in Central India which Kipling did not know, but evidently largely took from R A Sterndale’s Seonee, or Camp Life in the Satpura Range and his other books on the life of the jungle. See the note by John Slater, the article by Rhona Gate, on the location of the Mowgli stories.
[Page 3, line 11] Father Wolf The wolf (Canis lupus) has a wide geographical range, extending over nearly the whole of Europe, Asia and North America. The Eurasian wolf (Canis lupus) enters North-west India, but in the peninsula Canis papilles is chiefly found. The ordinary colour of the wolf is grey but the Indian wolf has a dingy reddish-white fur. Wolves work in packs, running their prey down after a chase. This drawing was done by J W Wood for Sterndale’s Mammalia of India (1884).
[Page 3, line 17] cave where they all lived Mating for life and living as a family unit does not, in fact, seem to occur with wolves.
[Page 4, line 3] the jackal – Tabaqui, the Dish –Licker (Canis aureus) a small wolf-like member of the dog family inhabiting South Asia and East Europe, with greyish-yellow fur, darker on the back and lighter beneath, about two feet long, excluding its bushy tail. In default of living prey it will eat carrion, and is therefore a useful scavenger.
As for the name ‘Tabaqui’, Kipling wrote: “I think I made up this name myself”. However J Lockwood Kipling (p. 264) discussing the low opinion of dogs held by both Muslims and Hindus, states that: a human ‘sponger or parasite is a ‘tabáqi kutta’, a dish (licking) dog’. See
Kipling’s list of names
[Page 4, line 9] apt to go mad ‘The jackal afflicted with rabies is a deadly creature, and more common than one likes to think’. J Lockwood Kipling (p. 280). Sterndale (p. 238), noted that: ‘At Seonee we had at one time a plague of mad jackals, which did much damage’. Rudyard Kipling calls the disease ‘hydrophobia’ but his father calls it ‘rabies’, which is a more common appellation now.
[Page 4, line 20] Gidur-log translated in brackets in the text as ‘The Jackal People’, see also Kipling’s list of names; but interestingly no italics for the Indian phrase as used for ‘Bandar-log’ (the Monkey People) in “Kaa’s Hunting”?
[Page 7, line 1] nothing so unlucky as to compliment children to their faces A superstition transferred to animals from the ideas of native parents in India.
[Page 7, line 6] Shere Khan shere means ‘tiger’ in some Indian dialects. Khan means ‘chief’. (see Kipling’s list of names).
[Page 7, line 10] Waingunga River This river rises in the Mahadeo Hills south of Jubbulpore in what were the Central Provinces, now Madhya Pradesh, and winds its way through the Seoni region.
[Page 7, line 28] thy master J Lockwood Kipling (p. 279) notes: ‘He is supposed to be the friend and guide of the tiger, so the hangers-on of powerful persons are known as jackals.
[Page 10, line 7] baby who could just walk implies a child roughly one year old. The question of how this child survives to the age of 11 or 12 in the second half of the story, has been raised; e.g. Charles Carrington (KJ 129, March 1959, p. 23) wrote that if indeed the wolf would suckle him she could only do so for seven months and would then also lose interest in protecting him. It is unlikely that the human child would survive, certainly not at the age of about seven months, which Carrington’s calculations suggested, because he assumed him to be very young when adopted. Even taking him to be eighteen months old he would not be very likely to survive after the wolf lost interest in him. Such details should not be considered too seriously: the Mowgli stories are, after all, myths.
[Page 10, line 15] Father Wolf’s jaws The investigations by R L Green (p.116) showed that Kipling had read as a child Elizabeth Anna Harte’s Child-Nature (1869) which included a poem called “Wolfie” beginning:
A wolf took a child in her mouth,
And carried him off to her cave;
And so he grew up among little young wolves
Who taught him how to behave.
[Page 12, line 10] sambhur a large Indian deer, genus Rusa. The best known of the five species within this genus, Rusa unicolor is a very massive animal standing as much as 54 inches (some 140 cm) at the shoulder, with, in the case of some stags, antlers up to 45 or 50 inches (130 cm) in length.
[Page 15, line 14] Mowgli the Frog A made-up name. See Kipling’s list of names, where he notes that Mowgli does not mean ‘frog’ in any language known to him.
[Page 15, line 21] may when he marries withdraw from the pack This seems an unlikely law, see the note on Page 3, line 17.
[Page 16, line 8] Akela means ‘Alone’ according to Kipling, see Kipling’s list of names.
[Page 20, line 1] Baloo Hindustani for ‘Bear’, see Kipling’s list of names.
[Page 20, line 1] brown bear The black or sloth bear is common throughout India in rocky hills and forests, and the Himalayan black bear is found in the north from Punjab to Assam; however there seem to be no true brown bears in India except in the Himalayas and nearby forest regions.
[Page 20, line 4] he eats only nuts and roots and honey Sterndale (p. 55 in the 1929 edition) says of the Brown Bear: ‘Its principal food is … grass and other herbs, roots, nuts and fruit’.
[Page 20, line 16] Bagheera Hindustani for a panther or leopard (Kipling’s list of names) In Letters of Marque (From Sea to Sea Vol I, chapter IX.) Kipling describes a shooting party involving driven pig (wild boar) during which a panther came through and was eventually shot. When it was first sighted, the guns cried: ‘Bagheera’ or ‘Panther !’ according to their nationalities and blazed’. Sterndale (p. 177) mentions the occurrence of black panthers, while Sanderson refers to: ‘a variety of the leopard, perfectly black all over … is not altogether uncommon in Mysore and other parts of India’ (p. 328).
[Page 25, line 19] forced to drop his eyes Kipling made frequent use of the idea that humans can out-stare and thus subjugate animals in this and other stores in the Jungle Books. R.L. Green pointed out that one of the volumes Kipling read as a child and mentions in Something to Myself, 1937 (p. 8, line15) was Poems Written for a Child by M. B. Smedley and E. A. Hart (1868). This includes “North Pole Story” about ‘nine white wolves’ coming ‘over the wold’, that were defeated by a wanderer who turned and stared them in the eyes:
There is never a beast so strong
As to bear a brave man’s eye!
They crouched; they looked as if nothing was wrong,
And then they turned to fly!
This extreme power claimed for human eye contact with animals is no longer accepted, although human-animal and animal-animal eye contact is important in studies of animal behaviour (see Professor A. Manning, in the Appendix to The Oxford World’s Classics edition of The Jungle Book (OUP, 1987).
[Page 25, line 22] burs apparently not corrected to ‘burrs’ until the text was revised for the Sussex Edition.
[Page 26, line7] must never touch cattle Bagheera had bought Mowgli’s life with a bull; the bull therefore became Mowgli’s totem and so he should not kill one.
[Page 27, line 7] dare not look him between the eyes see the note above on page 25, line 19.
[Page 27, line 18] Ikki the Porcupine was named ‘Sahi’ in the First English Edition and early reprints. ‘Ikki’ was adopted from the First American Edition in later editions, see
Kipling’s list of names The acknowledgements in Kipling’s Preface list ‘a savant called Saki’ (‘Ikki’ in the First American Edition).
[Page 27, line 24] could not count Mowgli could not count but, oddly enough, Bagheera [page 31 line 22] and Shere Khan [page 35, line 25] could, and so could Akela in the First English Edition but not in many later printings.
[Page 27, line 26] Mao, the Peacock Mao is the native name for peacock (see Kipling’s list of names). ‘Mor’ in the First English Edition and early reprints is an approximation to the pronuniciation.
[Page 29, line 8] cages of the King’s Palace at Oodeypore usually spelled Udaipur, even by Kipling in Letters of Marque, is hundreds of miles west of Seoni. Kipling described his visit to the city (From Sea to Sea, Vol I) and mentioned the Durbar Gardens where there was a zoo with ‘a black panther who is the Prince of Darkness and a gentleman’. R.L. Green reported that there were still cages of wild animals in the gardens, then a public park, in 1970.
[Page 35, line 4] not long, as a rule was simply ‘not long’ in the first English but not in the First American Edition.
[Page 35, line 7] many seasons was ‘twelve seasons’ in both the First English and First American Editions.
[Page 38, line 2] sag [dogs] ‘a savage term of contempt’ from one human to another, according to J Lockwood Kipling (p. 294) who devotes several pages to the loathing for dogs felt by both Hindus and Muslims. The word as applied to wolves by Mowgli does not seem so extreme.
[Page 40, line 25] the cave where she lived with Father Wolf see the note on page 3, line 17 above.
[Page 41, line 3] to play with thee by night W H Sleeman
describes how an Indian who was in charge of a captured ‘wolf-boy’ saw two wolves approach him by night and begin to play with him: ‘They capered around him and he threw straw and leaves at them…’
[F. A. U.]
©F A Underwood 2007 All rights reserved