Baloo was barely present in the first chapter to vet the young man-cub, but fell away after that. His major part of the story comes in with the book's second chapter, a "midquel" to the first chapter. It is also prefaced with another song by another absentee character: Kaa the python. Obfuscated by the Disney animated version, each of the characters are examples of real Indian wildlife. Baloo, for instance, is a sloth bear. The former range of this insectivorous bear stretched across the entire subcontinent, though finds itself restricted from the edges and large parts of the south today. Kipling's name undoubtedly derives from the Hindi term for the sloth bear, bhālu. The author was, however, no naturalist. Certain of Baloo's habits, like eating honey and nuts, are more typical of the Asian black bear which is not found in India. The two species are not closely related.
|A sloth bear. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.|
Bagheera is a black Indian leopard, a regional subspecies of the same leopard that spans Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. Typically leopards are yellow with black spots, but a recessive gene can give them an excess of melanin. Black leopards still have their spots, but are a beautiful black-on-black. Shere Khan is, of course, a Bengal tiger. Ironically, a male lion in Hindi is called a sher and a tiger is called a baagh or vyaghra. The Seoni District, where The Jungle Book is set, includes the Pench Tiger Reserve.
This chapter also provides the bulk of the plot for Disney's 1967 Jungle Book. Mowgli is abducted by the monkeys, who take him to an ancient abandoned city so they can make him their leader. Baloo, Bagheera, and Kaa run in for the rescue. In the original version, Baloo is actually the sterner disciplinarian, the Teacher of the Law, while Bagheera is the more lackadaisical and indulgent of the man-cub.
Without further ado, we now present the second chapter of The Jungle Book. Once more, the complete book can be found at Project Gutenberg.