The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling
A classic story of friendship between man and beast. Saved from the jaws of the evil tiger Shere Khan, young Mowgli is adopted by a wolf pack and taught the law of the jungle by lovable old Baloo the bear and Bhageera the panther. The adventures of Rikki-Tikki-Tavi the snake-fighting mongoose, little Toomai and the elephant's secret dance, and Kotick the white seal are all part of Mowgli's extraordinary journey with his animal friends.
I, alongside many others, have only until this point based my entire knowledge of The Jungle Book on the Disney adaptation. In the present day, I doubt that's anything to be ashamed of, but I'm ashamed nonetheless. Having now successfully traversed my way through Kipling's jungle, I am delighted (albeit initially disappointed) to report that it's a collection of jungle stories, rather than a novel. I wanted more Mowgli, but the trade-off was worth it.
Much darker than Disney, Kipling teaches us of friendship, courage, loyalty, and rules, in the form of short stories and poetry. I was surprised at the depth Kipling gave to his stories, and this only made it all the more enjoyable. Most of all, his jungle social commentary is on point, and still resonates today with certain personalities or groups.
Mowgli and all his well known friends star only in the first three chapters. It was wonderful to see Baloo, Bagheera, Kaa, and all of the others again, and to share in Mowgli's adventures in the jungle. Kaa was a good guy, the wolves are sometimes bad guys, and Shere Khan actually gets what's coming to him. Learning the laws of the jungle was brilliant, and Kipling did a good job ensuring his animals remained as animals; not behaving like humans, and having thought processes particular to their species; the monkey behaviours were my favourite of all in this respect.
My favourite story of them all was that of Rikki-Tikki-Tavi. What a badass mongoose that guy is. Taken in by humans after their son falls in love with him, the bold RTT makes it his mission to kill off anything that threatens his new family; mainly the two arsehole snakes that live in the garden. Kipling gives us a mongoose vs snake battle royale; suspenseful, horrific, and somewhat delectable, I was absolutely engrossed with it.
A gorgeous collection of adventures written with style, profundity, and charm. And I will repeat (as it can only be a good thing), darker than Disney.