The Jungle Book | Study Guide

Rudyard Kipling

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The Jungle Book | Chapter 3 : Kaa's Hunting | Summary



Chapter 3 goes back in time, beginning before Mowgli is forced to leave the wolf pack. Mowgli, seven years old, is learning the Law of the Jungle from Baloo the bear and Bagheera the black panther. Mowgli has also been taught the Master Words, used for protection, in all the languages of the animals, and the Strangers' Hunting Call. The Strangers' Hunting Call allows a stranger to hunt for food in another animal's territory when the stranger is hungry and must hunt there. It is spoken in the language of the animal who controls the territory. This call and the Master Words are the only ways to stay alive in the jungle.

There is so much to learn Mowgli has a hard time focusing and staying awake. One day Baloo cuffs Mowgli for not listening, and Mowgli runs off, angry at the bear. Bagheera chides Baloo for hurting the boy, and Baloo says that he is gentle but that Mowgli has to know the Master Words or he will not survive. Bagheera, thinking they would be useful, wants to know the Master Words, too. Mowgli, who has been listening to their conversation, comes out of hiding and recites the words for Bagheera. Mowgli also says he will have his own tribe one day; he will hide in the tops of trees and throw things at Baloo, whom he is still angry with. Baloo and Bagheera realize Mowgli has been talking to the Bandar-log, the Monkey People, who have no laws, steal and lie, and throw their own filth down at other animals from the trees. Baloo tells Mowgli the Bandar-log are lawless, dangerous, and disrespectful, and he warns Mowgli to avoid them.

The Monkey People kidnap Mowgli. As Mowgli is hurled through the jungle treetops, he uses the Master Words to get Rann the kite to tell Baloo and Bagheera where he is. Baloo is upset he didn't warn Mowgli about the dangers of the Monkey People sooner. He and Bagheera go to find Kaa the rock python, who is 30 feet long, to ask him for help rescuing Mowgli. They know Kaa is the only creature the Bandar-log fear. Kaa, who is hungry, goes along with their request. Baloo is slower, so Kaa and Bagheera race ahead, leaving Baloo to go at a bear's pace.

When Kaa and Bagheera arrive at the Cold Lairs—an ancient human city now in ruins—they see hundreds of Monkey People crowding around Mowgli, trying to convince him to respect them. Kaa and Bagheera form a plan. Kaa heads for the rocks, and Bagheera attacks. The Monkey People throw Mowgli into a pit of cobras, but Mowgli uses the Master Words, and the cobras do not attack. The Monkey People attack Bagheera and almost kill the panther, but he escapes by crossing water the Monkey People cannot cross. Baloo shows up and fights the Monkey People, too. Kaa rushes down to help, terrifying the Monkey People, who run for cover. Kaa breaks down the snake pit wall, releasing Mowgli. Mowgli runs to Baloo and Bagheera, hugging them and apologizing for causing them so much pain and almost causing them to be killed. Mowgli tells Kaa he will give him goats in the future for saving his life. Kaa does his Dance of Kaa's Hunger, hypnotizing the monkeys, so he can eat them. Baloo and Bagheera succumb to Kaa's hypnotic dance, too, and Mowgli has to shake them by the shoulders to snap them out of their trances. Mowgli is the only one who is immune to the dance, and he rushes away with his teachers to escape the ensuing carnage.


The theme of violence is prevalent from the beginning of the chapter. When Baloo cuffs Mowgli for not paying attention, Bagheera chides Baloo for being rough with the boy. Being too rough causes Mowgli to resent Baloo, and a resentful cub doesn't follow rules. Violence leads to more violence when Baloo and Bagheera must go after Mowgli and risk their lives to rescue him from the Monkey People. The description of the fighting scene is bloody and graphic, and the monkeys are merciless. They don't live by laws, so they don't care how much destruction of life they cause. They just want to tear everyone to pieces.

Obedience also comes into play in this story. Mowgli's disobedience, however, is unintentional at first, because Baloo hasn't warned him enough about the Monkey People. Bagheera points out this tactical error after Mowgli has ranted on about playing and throwing things and hanging around with the people in the trees. Both of Mowgli's teachers know that while it is tempting for a little cub to want to play all day, it is actually dangerous to do so in the jungle. This danger becomes obvious when the Monkey People kidnap Mowgli and he realizes later he can't escape them, even to try to find food. Mowgli begins to understand that disobedience and unwillingness to follow the Law of the Jungle can lead to death, even if it is only death by starvation.

The interactions between animals and humans are also a factor in this chapter. While Mowgli is able to protect himself using the Master Words, and he can communicate with Kaa well enough to not become one of his victims, he also has the benefit of not being subject to Kaa's hypnosis. Baloo and Bagheera nearly become dinner for Kaa as well and have to pull themselves away from the dance's force. But Mowgli can interact with Kaa for as long as he wants. He realizes he needs to get away, though, in order to keep Baloo and Bagheera from being harmed. Kipling gives human Mowgli the upper hand with Kaa; just as the wolves cannot look Mowgli in the eyes, Mowgli can resist Kaa's eyes. The human intellect is a source of power. Mowgli, who speaks animal languages, possesses both types of power—human and animal.

Coming of age is also a theme touched upon in this chapter. Mowgli gets a harsh lesson in responsibility and the importance of rules, and his childish behavior is replaced by his efforts to save himself as well as keep Baloo and Bagheera safe. By understanding how his actions affect others, Mowgli begins to learn what it is to be a responsible adult.

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