[March 24 2007]
Published in the Pall Mall Gazette, 12 and 13 December 1894, the Pall Mall Budget, 13 December 1894 (Christmas Number) with illustrations by Cecil Aldin, and McClure’s Magazine, January 1895. Collected in The Second Jungle Book, 1895. The Pall Mall Budget had as a heading “Mowgli’s Song Against People” (there entitled “Letting in the Jungle”) which was placed at the end of the story in The Second Jungle Book.
This tale follows on after "Tiger! Tiger", when Mowgli had lived for a time in a village, and used the village buffaloes to help him kill Shere Khan. He had been adopted by a woman, Messua, who had treated him kindly. Back with the wolves, and Bagheera and Baloo, he is telling of his adventures when they scent the village hunter Buldeo approaching. He sits down to rest and tells some passing charcoal burners that the villagers plan to torture and kill Messua and her husband as witches, and take their land. Mowgli goes hot foot to the village, and finds them bound and wounded in their hut. Furious at the sight and smell of his foster-mother's blood, he releases them and sends them through the jungle to a neighbouring town, where they will be safe.
Then, in one of the most implacable passages in Kipling's writings, Mowgli visits retribution on the villagers, who he sees as idle, senseless, cruel, and cowardly. He claims the help of Hathi the wild elephant and his sons, and they destroy the village and its livelihood without killing its people. The deer and the pig spoil the crops around it, the elephants break the roofs and scatter the stored seed-corn, and the eaters of flesh terrify the villagers until they flee. 'By the end of the Rains there was the roaring Jungle in full blast on the spot that had been under plough not six months before.'
The only Mowgli story not completed in Vermont, it was taken by the author with him on holiday at Tisbury, Wiltshire, the home of his parents after retirement, where two or three of the other stories in The Second Jungle Book were written.
Frederick Knowles in his A Kipling Primer cites a contemporary comment on this story from The Athenaeum:
'That fine poem of 'Letting in the Jungle' . . . is it not a drama of secular antagonism of nature and man ?'
©F A Underwood 2007 All rights reserved