In my quest to read more of the classics I picked this book to see if the Disney tale most of us are familiar with is true to the original or not. First off, it's been a while since I saw the Disney animation but I'm pretty sure it didn't strictly follow the book. That wasn't a big surprise at all. However what I hadn't realised is that The Jungle Book is actually a number of short stories and songs or verses.
The most familiar is the first, Mowgli's brothers, about the man cub raised by wolves who has to take on his sworn enemy Shere Khan. The next one is The White Seal. In this story Kotick the seal dedicates himself to searching for a new home for his fellow seals, one where they aren't living with the threat of man. The third is Rikki Tikki Tavi, about a young mongoose of the same name who takes on cobras to protect his adopted human family. Next comes Toomai of the Elephants which relates the experience of a young boy from a long line of elephant handlers who has a unique bond and a one off experience with the elephant his father handles. Finally come Her Majesty's Servants, which recounts the overheard conversation of a group of Army animals.
The language in places is archaic, and elsewhere exotic, reflecting the settings of the stories and Kipling's background. Throughout the stories the animals are given human traits and the tales are moral stories, reflections on human society or both. I don't think they would be an easy read for a young person primarily because of the language used, particularly in Mowgli's Brothers, but they do make wonderful stories I fully plan on reading my little girl when she's bigger. There are parts that might make some people uncomfortable, such as Mowgli's killing of Shere Khan and the aftermath, so I'd urge caution if you are thinking of these stories for very young children.
I particularly enjoyed Rikki Tikki Tavi, as the mongoose hero is such a lovely, funny character, and the conversation between the Army animals, as they discuss their different fears and strengths is wonderful. I have no doubt I will be going back to The Jungle Book and dipping into the stories on their own rather than reading them all in one go, and no doubt I'll be looking to add more Kipling to my kindle. A note of warning though - the free version is very poorly formatted, with no clear breaks between the stories and verses which I found confusing when I didn't expect it to be more than one story, and will make navigating in future more difficult. If formatting is a bugbear for you I'd suggest getting another version.