By Rudyard Kipling
Read by Richard Scott
Edited by Jana
image adobe stock / Landscapes by Дар'я Ющук
Hello, this is Richard, and we are starting the Chapter of the Jungle Book which is called Kaa’s Hunting. It continues the story of the man-cub Mowgli and features the infamous monkeys called the Bandar-log.
And I’m delighted to dedicate this episode to Joss from Cheltenham in England, whose family supports us on Patreon.
And this might be a good moment to recap some of the names in the Jungle Book, just to make sure it’s easy to follow along.
Mowgli is of course the man-cub. In the Disney film his name is pronounced Mo-glie as in the name Mo. But Kipling leaves us a note to say.
“MOWGLI is a name I made up. It does not mean `frog' in any language that I know of. It is pronounced Mowglee (accent on the Mow, which rhymes with 'cow').”
So that is why we are pronouncing his name “Mowgli” just as Kipling instructed.
And Kipling tells us that BALOO is Hindi for `Bear'.
And BAGH is Hindi for `Tiger' so BAGHEERA the black pantha sort of means a little tiger.
KAA, who this chapter is named after, is made-up name, from the queer open-mouthed hiss of a big snake. He is a python.
Anyway, I’ll explain a few more names as we go along, But now, let’s get on with the story.
All that is told here happened some time before Mowgli was turned out of the Seeonee Wolf Pack, or revenged himself on Shere Khan the tiger. It was in the days when Baloo was teaching him the Law of the Jungle. The big, serious, old brown bear was delighted to have so quick a pupil, for the young wolves will only learn as much of the Law of the Jungle as applies to their own pack and tribe, and run away as soon as they can repeat the Hunting Verse—“Feet that make no noise; eyes that can see in the dark; ears that can hear the winds in their lairs, and sharp white teeth, all these things are the marks of our brothers except Tabaqui the Jackal and the Hyaena whom we hate.” But Mowgli, as a man-cub, had to learn a great deal more than this. Sometimes Bagheera the Black Panther would come lounging through the jungle to see how his pet was getting on, and would purr with his head against a tree while Mowgli recited the day’s lesson to Baloo. The boy could climb almost as well as he could swim, and swim almost as well as he could run. So Baloo, the Teacher of the Law, taught him the Wood and Water Laws: how to tell a rotten branch from a sound one; how to speak politely to the wild bees when he came upon a hive of them fifty feet above ground; what to say to Mang the Bat when he disturbed him in the branches at midday; and how to warn the water-snakes in the pools before he splashed down among them. None of the Jungle People like being disturbed, and all are very ready to fly at an intruder. Then, too, Mowgli was taught the Strangers’ Hunting Call, which must be repeated aloud till it is answered, whenever one of the Jungle-People hunts outside his own grounds. It means, translated, “Give me leave to hunt here because I am hungry.” And the answer is, “Hunt then for food, but not for pleasure.”
All this will show you how much Mowgli had to learn by heart, and he grew very tired of saying the same thing over a hundred times. But, as Baloo said to Bagheera, one day when Mowgli had been cuffed and run off in a temper, “A man’s cub is a man’s cub, and he must learn all the Law of the Jungle.”
“But think how small he is,” said the Black Panther, who would have spoiled Mowgli if he had had his own way. “How can his little head carry all thy long talk?”
“Is there anything in the jungle too little to be killed? No. That is why I teach him these things, and that is why I hit him, very softly, when he forgets.”
“Softly! What dost thou know of softness, old Iron-feet?” Bagheera grunted. “His face is all bruised today by thy—softness. Ugh.”
“Better he should be bruised from head to foot by me who love him than that he should come to harm through ignorance,” Baloo answered very earnestly. “I am now teaching him the Master Words of the Jungle that shall protect him with the birds and the Snake People, and all that hunt on four feet, except his own pack. He can now claim protection, if he will only remember the words, from all in the jungle. Is not that worth a little beating?”
“Well, look to it then that thou dost not kill the man-cub. He is no tree trunk to sharpen thy blunt claws upon. But what are those Master Words? I am more likely to give help than to ask it”—Bagheera stretched out one paw and admired the steel-blue, ripping-chisel talons at the end of it—“still I should like to know.”
“I will call Mowgli and he shall say them—if he will. Come, Little Brother!”
“My head is ringing like a bee tree,” said a sullen little voice over their heads, and Mowgli slid down a tree trunk very angry and indignant, adding as he reached the ground: “I come for Bagheera and not for thee, fat old Baloo!”
“That is all one to me,” said Baloo, though he was hurt and grieved. “Tell Bagheera, then, the Master Words of the Jungle that I have taught thee this day.”
“Master Words for which people?” said Mowgli, delighted to show off. “The jungle has many tongues. I know them all.”
“A little thou knowest, but not much. See, O Bagheera, they never thank their teacher. Not one small wolfling has ever come back to thank old Baloo for his teachings. Say the word for the Hunting-People, then—great scholar.”
“We be of one blood, ye and I,” said Mowgli, giving the words the Bear accent which all the Hunting People use.
“Good. Now for the birds.”
Mowgli repeated, with the Kite’s whistle at the end of the sentence.
“Now for the Snake-People,” said Bagheera.
The answer was a perfectly indescribable hiss, and Mowgli kicked up his feet behind, clapped his hands together to applaud himself, and jumped on to Bagheera’s back, where he sat sideways, drumming with his heels on the glossy skin and making the worst faces he could think of at Baloo.
“There—there! That was worth a little bruise,” said the brown bear tenderly. “Some day thou wilt remember me.” Then he turned aside to tell Bagheera how he had begged the Master Words from Hathi the Wild Elephant, who knows all about these things, and how Hathi had taken Mowgli down to a pool to get the Snake Word from a water-snake, because Baloo could not pronounce it, and how Mowgli was now reasonably safe against all accidents in the jungle, because neither snake, bird, nor beast would hurt him.
“No one then is to be feared,” Baloo wound up, patting his big furry stomach with pride.
“Except his own tribe,” said Bagheera, under his breath; and then aloud to Mowgli, “Have a care for my ribs, Little Brother! What is all this dancing up and down?”
Mowgli had been trying to make himself heard by pulling at Bagheera’s shoulder fur and kicking hard. When the two listened to him he was shouting at the top of his voice, “And so I shall have a tribe of my own, and lead them through the branches all day long.”
“What is this new folly, little dreamer of dreams?” said Bagheera.
“Yes, and throw branches and dirt at old Baloo,” Mowgli went on. “They have promised me this. Ah!”
“Whoof!” Baloo’s big paw scooped Mowgli off Bagheera’s back, and as the boy lay between the big fore-paws he could see the Bear was angry.
“Mowgli,” said Baloo, “thou hast been talking with the Bandar-log—the Monkey People.”
Mowgli looked at Bagheera to see if the Panther was angry too, and Bagheera’s eyes were as hard as jade stones.
“Thou hast been with the Monkey People—the gray apes—the people without a law—the eaters of everything. That is great shame.”
“When Baloo hurt my head,” said Mowgli (he was still on his back), “I went away, and the gray apes came down from the trees and had pity on me. No one else cared.” He snuffled a little.
“The pity of the Monkey People!” Baloo snorted. “The stillness of the mountain stream! The cool of the summer sun! And then, man-cub?”
“And then, and then, they gave me nuts and pleasant things to eat, and they—they carried me in their arms up to the top of the trees and said I was their blood brother except that I had no tail, and should be their leader some day.”
“They have no leader,” said Bagheera. “They lie. They have always lied.”
“They were very kind and bade me come again. Why have I never been taken among the Monkey People? They stand on their feet as I do. They do not hit me with their hard paws. They play all day. Let me get up! Bad Baloo, let me up! I will play with them again.”
“Listen, man-cub,” said the Bear, and his voice rumbled like thunder on a hot night. “I have taught thee all the Law of the Jungle for all the peoples of the jungle—except the Monkey-Folk who live in the trees. They have no law. They are outcasts. They have no speech of their own, but use the stolen words which they overhear when they listen, and peep, and wait up above in the branches. Their way is not our way. They are without leaders. They have no remembrance. They boast and chatter and pretend that they are a great people about to do great affairs in the jungle, but the falling of a nut turns their minds to laughter and all is forgotten. We of the jungle have no dealings with them. We do not drink where the monkeys drink; we do not go where the monkeys go; we do not hunt where they hunt; we do not die where they die. Hast thou ever heard me speak of the Bandar-log till today?”
“No,” said Mowgli in a whisper, for the forest was very still now Baloo had finished.
“The Jungle-People put them out of their mouths and out of their minds. They are very many, evil, dirty, shameless, and they desire, if they have any fixed desire, to be noticed by the Jungle People. But we do not notice them even when they throw nuts and filth on our heads.”
He had hardly spoken when a shower of nuts and twigs spattered down through the branches; and they could hear coughings and howlings and angry jumpings high up in the air among the thin branches.
“The Monkey-People are forbidden,” said Baloo, “forbidden to the Jungle-People. Remember.”
“Forbidden,” said Bagheera, “but I still think Baloo should have warned thee against them.”
“I—I? How was I to guess he would play with such dirt. The Monkey People! Faugh!”
A fresh shower came down on their heads and the two trotted away, taking Mowgli with them. What Baloo had said about the monkeys was perfectly true. They belonged to the tree-tops, and as beasts very seldom look up, there was no occasion for the monkeys and the Jungle-People to cross each other’s path. But whenever they found a sick wolf, or a wounded tiger, or bear, the monkeys would torment him, and would throw sticks and nuts at any beast for fun and in the hope of being noticed. Then they would howl and shriek senseless songs, and invite the Jungle-People to climb up their trees and fight them, or would start furious battles over nothing among themselves, and leave the dead monkeys where the Jungle-People could see them. They were always just going to have a leader, and laws and customs of their own, but they never did, because their memories would not hold over from day to day, and so they compromised things by making up a saying, “What the Bandar-log think now the jungle will think later,” and that comforted them a great deal. None of the beasts could reach them, but on the other hand none of the beasts would notice them, and that was why they were so pleased when Mowgli came to play with them, and they heard how angry Baloo was.
They never meant to do any more—the Bandar-log never mean anything at all; but one of them invented what seemed to him a brilliant idea, and he told all the others that Mowgli would be a useful person to keep in the tribe, because he could weave sticks together for protection from the wind; so, if they caught him, they could make him teach them. Of course Mowgli, as a woodcutter’s child, inherited all sorts of instincts and used to make little huts of fallen branches without thinking how he came to do it. The Monkey-People, watching in the trees, considered his play most wonderful. This time, they said, they were really going to have a leader and become the wisest people in the jungle—so wise that everyone else would notice and envy them. Therefore they followed Baloo and Bagheera and Mowgli through the jungle very quietly till it was time for the midday nap, and Mowgli, who was very much ashamed of himself, slept between the Panther and the Bear, resolving to have no more to do with the Monkey People.
The next thing he remembered was feeling hands on his legs and arms—hard, strong, little hands—and then a swash of branches in his face, and then he was staring down through the swaying boughs as Baloo woke the jungle with his deep cries and Bagheera bounded up the trunk with every tooth bared. The Bandar-log howled with triumph and scuffled away to the upper branches where Bagheera dared not follow, shouting: “He has noticed us! Bagheera has noticed us. All the Jungle-People admire us for our skill and our cunning.” Then they began their flight; and the flight of the Monkey-People through tree-land is one of the things nobody can describe. They have their regular roads and crossroads, up hills and down hills, all laid out from fifty to seventy or a hundred feet above ground, and by these they can travel even at night if necessary. Two of the strongest monkeys caught Mowgli under the arms and swung off with him through the treetops, twenty feet at a bound. Had they been alone they could have gone twice as fast, but the boy’s weight held them back. Sick and giddy as Mowgli was he could not help enjoying the wild rush, though the glimpses of earth far down below frightened him, and the terrible check and jerk at the end of the swing over nothing but empty air brought his heart between his teeth. His escort would rush him up a tree till he felt the thinnest topmost branches crackle and bend under them, and then with a cough and a whoop would fling themselves into the air outward and downward, and bring up, hanging by their hands or their feet to the lower limbs of the next tree.
Sometimes he could see for miles and miles across the still green jungle, as a man on the top of a mast can see for miles across the sea, and then the branches and leaves would lash him across the face, and he and his two guards would be almost down to earth again. So, bounding and crashing and whooping and yelling, the whole tribe of Bandar-log swept along the tree-roads with Mowgli their prisoner.
And I’m delighted to dedicate this episode to Joss from Cheltenham in England. Joss writes to us: I suggest a story where a guy jumps so high he gets onto a cloud and finds a door and goes through it and finds a jungle. I love your podcast and especially the wicked uncle stories From Joss Cox
Well thank you Joss for that extremely imaginative suggestion and for your support on Patreon
For now, from me Richard, at Storynory.com, goodbye.