Thursday, 31 May 2001

Rudyard Kipling: The Second Jungle Book (1895)

Edition: Penguin, 1987 (Buy from Amazon)
Review number: 828

The original Jungle Book contained some stories which nowadays would be considered rather daring in a childrens' book because of their treatment of death. In The Second Jungle Book, this is even more the case, with violent death a commonplace. This is almost the "jungle red in tooth and claw", and it is going to be very surprising to anyone whose only prior acquaintance with the stories comes from the Disney cartoons. Things are slightly softened, mainly so that the stories will work, but death is present in every one.

A larger proportion of the stories are about Mowgli than is the case in the earlier book; the two tales which aren't are poorer in quality than their counterparts, Quiquern in particular being quite forgettable. The Mowgli stories, on the other hand, are very good indeed. They are not as immediately gripping as his duel with Shere Khan or the encounter with the monkeys, and it is easy to see why Kipling later redistributed the stories. (In the redistributed version, the mood does swing moves quite rapidly, as the stories from the different books are read.) The Second Jungle Book is more aimed at adults and older children than the first; it could be quite disturbing.

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