I recently went to see Disney’s new cinematic redux of The Jungle Book. It’s a keeper, if only because it’s not an animated cartoon for kids; it’s the unforgettable Rudyard Kipling story for adults. Neel Sethi, an American child actor of 12, is brilliant in the lead role playing the jungle boy, Mowgli, and voice-overs by Ben Kingsley (as the protective panther, Bagheera), Bill Murray (as the “bare necessities” bear, Baloo), and Christopher Walken (as king of the apes, King Louie), are superb. I came away from the theater thinking this compelling tale of human-animal affection and cooperation may well do more for ecology and save-the-animals rhetoric than all the talking-heads put together.
I’ve been a fan of the Britisher, Joseph Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936), for years, especially after reading a collection of his poetry. He’s not a W. B. Yeats (although both men won Nobel Prizes), but Kipling’s poet’s ear for language, his mastery of rhyme and rhythm and content, are as good as it gets. What I didn’t know until now was Kipling’s The Jungle Books were written while he lived in Brattleboro, Vermont, USA, where his first two children were born, Josephine and Elsie.
Born in Bombay, India, in 1865 to Britishers working abroad, educated in England, Kipling’s stock went way up for me when I discovered he declined most of the many honors which were offered him in his celebrated life, including a knighthood, the Poet Laureateship, and the Order of Merit, but in 1907 he accepted the Nobel Prize for Literature.
Joseph Rudyard Kipling is an unforgettable storyteller and Disney’s new rendering of The Jungle Book is worthy of the famous yarn-spinner’s vivid imagination. Those of us who’ve experienced the rare joys of intimate heart-bonds to animals as friends and teachers will delight in this movie. And who knows, perhaps this new Disney version will move even those who aren’t animal lovers but who love great stories and dramatic storytelling to open hearts and minds to the ’sharedness’ on board this ark of Earth and to Man’s place among the Many in the great Circle of Life.
Joseph Harvill, Scottiephile