Major theme in the book is abandonment followed by fostering, as in the life of Mowgli, echoing Kipling’s own childhood. The theme is echoed in the triumph of protagonists including Rikki-Tikki-Tavi and The White Seal over their enemies, as well as Mowgli’s. Another important theme is of law and freedom; the stories are not about animal behaviour, still less about the Darwinian struggle for survival, but about human archetypes in animal form. They teach respect for authority, obedience, and knowing one’s place in society with “the law of the jungle”, but the stories also illustrate the freedom to move between different worlds, such as when Mowgli moves between the jungle and the village. Critics have also noted the essential wildness and lawless energies in the stories, reflecting the irresponsible side of human nature.
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Rudyard Kipling was born on December 30, 1865, in Bombay, India. He was educated in England but returned to India in 1882. A decade later, Kipling married Caroline Balestier and settled in Brattleboro, Vermont, where he wrote The Jungle Book (1894), among a host of other works that made him hugely successful. Kipling was the recipient of the 1907 Nobel Prize in Literature. He died in 1936.