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The Jungle Book | Symbols


Red Flower

In the jungle, animals will not say the word fire because it scares them, so they call it a number of other names, including "the red flower." In Chapter 1 Mowgli uses the red flower to assert dominance over the pack members who hate him, showing they are only "dogs" rather than members of a true wolf pack. The red flower symbolizes the power humans have to ultimately destroy animals and their habitats by burning them to the ground, in the literal as well as the metaphorical sense.

Council Rock

The Council Rock is where the wolf pack, called the Free People, meets to discuss pack issues, show new cubs to the pack to ensure their safety until they kill their first buck, and choose new leaders. It symbolizes the civility with which the wolf pack conducts its life as a group. It also symbolizes the recognition by individuals of a defined system of laws and authority. The pack members can all speak there, but they also have to abide by the Law of the Jungle as well as their rules for who can be a leader and when that leadership must change. This symbol appears in all of the Mowgli stories in The Jungle Book.

Elephant Dance

In Chapter 11 in the story "Toomai of the Elephants," an elephant dance is a mythical occurrence no man has ever seen. There are cleared spaces the elephant catchers refer to as "elephant ballrooms," but no one has actually seen the elephants create them. "Seeing the elephants dance," as the narrator of the story notes somewhat humorously, "means just never." It symbolizes a part of animal life, specifically that of elephants, that is private and not for humans to experience. The elephants hide it so well the drivers never get to see them actually perform the ritual.

It also symbolizes the idea of desiring something but never being able to have it. By the end of the story, the elephant dance symbolizes the rare connection between humans and animals, which happens when a human allows an animal to lead the way, trusting they will not be hurt, and following the rules of engagement throughout the experience. Little Toomai doesn't try to control Kala Nag or drive him during this experience. He simply rides on Kala Nag's back and allows Kala Nag to do the leading. This relinquishment of power is the only way a human being can have the privilege of viewing this private ritual.

Sea Cow's Tunnel

In the story "The White Seal" in Chapter 7, Sea Cow's Tunnel is a water tunnel under a mountain leading to a beach no human has ever been to. The only way to get there is to go through Sea Cow's Tunnel, which Kotick the seal does to find a place where his people will no longer be rounded up and killed for their skins. The tunnel symbolizes the freedom of the seals to exist without fear and without human intervention or harm. It is their only escape from humankind.

Mowgli's Tears

When Mowgli realizes he is no longer going to be a part of the pack, he is forced to assert himself, using fire to scare off his detractors. Once he chases most of the pack away, except for Akela and a few others who support him, he is overcome with emotion and feels physical pain as a result of this overwhelming despair. He begins to sob but has no idea what tears are, because he has never cried before. He thinks he is dying and asks Bagheera what is happening to him. Bagheera explains only men cry, and his strong feelings mean he has become a man. Mowgli's tears symbolize, for the animals, what separates Mowgli from them and what keeps him from truly belonging in the jungle. The tears reflect a specifically human way of expressing emotion.

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