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The Jungle Book | Quotes


Man is the weakest and most defenseless of living things, and it is unsportsmanlike to touch him.

Narrator, Chapter 1

The narrator describes how animals of the jungle hold high moral standards in their hunting. The less human and animal interaction the better for the jungle animals. Humans, despite their physical weakness, can destroy animals, using guns and fire.


Each dog barks in his own yard!

Shere Khan, Chapter 1

Shere Khan is hurling an insult at the wolves when they defend Mowgli from him. Shere Khan is saying it is easy for them to be brave because he can't get at them in their cave.


Mowgli sat and cried as though his heart would break.

Narrator, Chapter 1

Mowgli, who has never cried before, realizes the wolves have turned against him and he must leave the jungle. The feeling of sorrow rising in him is so new, he wonders if he is dying. His tears cause physical pain, and they reveal he is definitely human, not a wolf.


We be of one blood, ye and I.

Mowgli, Chapter 3

These are the actual Master Words Mowgli must learn in every animal language, so the animals will know he is a friend and not harm him. Here, with his teacher Baloo, Mowgli recites them in different languages—snake, bird, and beast, foreshadowing Mowgli will need them when the Monkey People kidnap him and he falls into a snake pit.


They were always just going to have a leader, and laws ... but they never did.

Narrator, Chapter 3

The narrator describes the lawlessness and distractibility of the Monkey People, who think they are wonderful and great but never accomplish anything or follow through with their big plans. They imitate others, but they cannot accomplish anything because no one is leading and they can't be bothered to actually follow a leader.


The boy held the Master Word. I could have done no less.

Rann, Chapter 3

Rann the Kite goes to Baloo and Bagheera at the request of Mowgli to tell them where the Monkey People have taken him. In order to get Rann to do this for him, Mowgli uses the Master Word, the call that tells a creature he is a friend, not a foe. All creatures of the jungle, except the Monkey People, follow this law.


I take my life from thee tonight.

Mowgli, Chapter 3

Mowgli knows Kaa has saved his life, and he owes Kaa something in return. He promises to share any creature he kills with Kaa, or at least herd goats in his general direction. This quote also shows Mowgli understands how serious his situation was, and he could have been killed thanks to his ignorance regarding the Monkey People and his defiance of Baloo.


Buldeo has not said one word of truth concerning the jungle, which is at his very doors.

Mowgli, Chapter 5

This shows how little the people in the villages understand the ways of the jungle creatures and the laws they follow. The people believe there is some kind of sorcery practiced among the animals. They also believe animals can be ghosts of humans, but they don't understand the real instinctual origins of each individual animal's characteristics. Humans perceive the animals through human filters, which Mowgli knows is not the truth. The animals exist in their own right.


Ye fought for freedom, and it is yours. Eat it, O Wolves.

Bagheera, Chapter 5

Bagheera tells the wolves, who are now a scrawny, ill-fed, unhappy bunch, their freedom from Akela's leadership and Mowgli's help is what they asked for, so they have no right to beg Mowgli to come back and no right to expect Akela to help them. They were ready to kill Akela and give Mowgli to Shere Khan, though Mowgli had done nothing wrong and had followed the Law of the Jungle, so now they cannot complain. They must try to survive on their own without the leadership they spurned.


These two things fight in me as the snakes fight ... water comes out of my eyes ... yet I laugh. Why?

Mowgli, Chapter 6

This is from the song Mowgli sings in the jungle after he has defeated Shere Khan. He is sad because the villagers hurt and reject him but happy to be back in the jungle. Mowgli's tears symbolize the human part of him that will never fit in completely in the jungle. He is laughing and crying because he is human, and he is also an animal.


You will never be able to stop the killing. Go and play in the sea, Kotick.

Matkah, Chapter 7

The seals believe they have no power to fight off the hunters. No seals, up to this point, have been able to find a place where there are no hunters, so the seals have just given up and accepted that many of them will be killed for their fur. Violence appears to be a natural component of human and animal interaction, but Kotick's curiosity and bravery help him find a different way for his kind.


'Don't be frightened, Teddy,' said his father. 'That's his way of making friends.'

Teddy's father, Chapter 9

Speaking of Rikki-tikki-tavi, the mongoose, who ends up saving Teddy's entire family from three deadly snakes, Teddy's father illustrates a new kind of human and animal interaction in The Jungle Book. Rikki-tikki-tavi and Teddy's family have the most mutually beneficial relationship in all of the stories. However, as with even Mowgli and his animal friends, humans gain much more from animals than humans give.


(Here Rikki-tikki interrupted, and the rest of the song is lost.)

Narrator, Chapter 10

This funny aside appears at the end of Darzee's song of gratitude for Rikki-tikki-tavi, the mongoose who saves his fledglings from the cobras. It illustrates the hilarious character of the mongoose, his inability to sit still, and his intense curiosity, traits which make him unable to resist interrupting Darzee.


The dance—the elephant dance! I have seen it, and—I die!

Little Toomai, Chapter 11

Toomai's words operate on two levels, illustrating how overwhelming and remarkable it is for him to have seen the elephant dance, which no other human has seen, and also to have held onto Kala Nag all night no matter how difficult it was or how much Kala Nag moved. Little Toomai is still a little boy, but he has managed to survive the entire night without getting hurt or falling asleep. By the time he gets home, he feels nearly dead from exhaustion. On the other hand, after seeing something so special at such a young age, he implies the greatest wonder in his life has just occurred, and he could die happily and contented.


What I want to know is, why we have to fight at all.

Young mule, Chapter 13

These words from the young mule reflect the sadness the animals as well as the trained soldiers feel heading into war. It is a frightening, bloody battle to the death, and the young mule doesn't understand why anyone has to go through it. Everyone is obeying orders, but no one really understands why they are doing it.

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