Rudyard Kipling’s original order of stories in The Jungle Books may seem random at first look. Mowgli stories are interspersed with stories about seals, other little boys, and mystics. Suspenseful plot-driven stories are next to dialogue-heavy stories. Kipling re-ordered the stories after they were first published, and divided them into a volume of Mowgli stories and non-Mowgli stories.
As you’ve been reading, have you been noticing similarities between stories that first appear very different from each other? Which stories could be connected or lumped together? Which stories seem similar in plot, character, theme, or tone?
For one thing, I realized I had been sorting them by protagonist. So obviously the Mowgli stories would go together: “Mowgli’s Brothers,” ‘Kaa’s Hunting,” “Tiger! Tiger!,” “How Fear Came,” “Letting in The Jungle,” “The King’s Ankus,” “The Red Dog”, and “Spring Running.” Then the stories with animal protagonists: “The White Seal,” “Rikki-Tikki-Tavi,” “Her Majesty’s Servants,” “The Undertakers” Then the three with human protagonists who aren’t Mowgli: “Toomai of the Elephants,” “The Miracle of Purun Bhagat,” “Quiquern”
But you can sort them in many other ways.
“The White Seal” and “Quiqern” stand out as stories set in super cold, northern places.
“Her Majesty’s Servants” and “The Undertakers” are entirely about animals talking to each other about human affairs and how it affects them.
Some stories feature clear-cut villains such as Shere Khan the tiger, the monkey people, Nag the cobra.
“How Fear Came” stands out as an attempt to give the jungle some mythology, or at least history. “The King’s Ankus” is perhaps in the same vein.
Some stories are about the struggle to survive, such as “Quiquern.”
“Mowgli’s Brothers,” “The White Seal,” “Quiqern,” and “Toomai of the Elephants” are conventional coming-of-age stories, whereas “The Miracle of Purun Bhagat” is a very unconventional coming-of-age.
“Tiger! Tiger!,” “Letting In The Jungle,” and “Toomai of the Elephants” revolve around the tension between village and jungle, and between humans and animals.
What similarities did I miss? How would you sort them?