Rudyard Kipling: A Life

Harry Ricketts in delanceyplace:

BookAs a child, Kipling had been sent by his family from their home in India to live with an unfamiliar family in England, who subjected both Rudyard and his younger sister to the heartbreak of separation and emotional abuse. Both as a child and as an adult, Kipling lived in multiple worlds — crossing boundaries from India to England and America and back again — and learning to cope in these multiple worlds. These two themes, abandonment and boundary crossing, found full voice in his powerful stories of young Mowgli among the wolves. In Kipling's book, unlike in Disney's whimsical movie, these were characters of dignity and gravity. Note: If this selection seems obscure to those who are not familiar with the Mowgli stories, please forgive me — I'm celebrating. Sunday is my birthday and these books were my escape when I was very young. I read my tattered copy of the combined Jungle Books (an 1896 edition since lost) dozens of times:

“What is most striking about Mowgli's story, from a biographical point of view — as it unfolds in 'Mowgli's Brothers', 'Kaa's Hunting' and 'Tiger! Tiger!' — is watching Kipling once more rewriting aspects of his own childhood. The pattern of abandonment was repeated no fewer than three times: twice in 'Mowgli's Brothers', which opened with him losing his human parents and closed with him being cast out by the wolf-pack; and again at the end of 'Tiger! Tiger!', when he was rejected by the village. Mowgli became, in effect, a super-orphan. But while the abandonment motif was magnified, so too were the emotional compensations. Kipling provided Mowgli at each successive abandonment with a queue of would-be foster-parents, falling over each other to look after him: Father and Mother Wolf, Akela the Lone Wolf, Baloo the Bear, Bagheera the Black Panther and Kaa the Python. Not only were all these wild animals eager to care for Mowgli, but they competed with each other for his affection and acknowledged his power over them, a situation that has appealed to generations of child readers.

More here.