The majority of us have seen The Jungle Book or at least can hum along to ‘The Bare Necessities’. And we are super excited about the release of the new Jungle Book adaptation, so we thought we would find out how Rudyard Kipling came up with all of the animals’ names.
As the film is set in India, many of the names are based on the Hindi translation of the animal themselves. For example ‘Baloo’ is based on the Hindi word Bhãlū which means bear. Bears represented the idea of protection, courage and physical strength. The bear showed authority and was seen as a good omen and arguably Baloo is Mowgli’s main carer. Similarly, Bagheera is almost the same word as Baghirā which means black Indian leopard. This is the same with Hathi, which is the exact word for elephant in Hindi.
Kipling also used influences from Persian and Arabic, with the tiger’s name ‘Shere Khan’. The word for tiger in Persian is just ‘Shere’ which is followed by the Arabic word for lord ‘Khan’. Kipling surrounded Mowgli with animals that all represented strong and powerful companions. All of the animals that looked after Mowgli were given characteristics, which made them ideal for looking after the young boy.
Despite this, the main characte, Mowgli’s name hasn’t come from Hindi or any other Indian language. At times he is named ‘the frog’ due to his lack of ‘fur’ and inability to sit still, or ‘man cub’ by the wolves that raise him, but his name doesn’t actually translate into anything; Rudyard Kipling made it up. Kipling also stated that Mowgli is meant to be pronounced, mow-gli, with the ‘mow’ rhyming with ‘cow’.
The influence of Hindi and other Indian languages in The Jungle Book comes from Kipling’s upbringing in India. He was born there before moving to England to be educated when he was 5, and once he’d completed his education he returned to India. The book is based on the Indian jungle ‘Seonee’ (now known as seoni) however, he had never actually visited this place. Kipling actually used stories from his friends to set the scene of the jungle. Maybe his friends told him about the singing bear in the jungle…