In Rudyard Kipling’s mind, The Jungle Book wasn’t quite a pretty Disney story. The forest was darker, more threatening. Bagheera, who was caged like a little one, trusted humans even less. Baloo, a friend, was still a wild animal. And Shere Khan, Mowgli’s nemesis, was the kind of tiger you wouldn’t want to see on a safari.
Kipling’s original manuscript, archived at the British Library since the 1940s, has so far only been accessible to researchers. Now, the Library and independent publishers, SP Books, have collaborated to publish the work in a limited edition of 1,000 copies. The manuscript, spanning 173 leaves and published on November 25, contains stories from the Jungle Book (1893-1894) and the Second Jungle Book (1895). His elegant writing is complemented by careful drawings in black ink, rarely seen by the public.
The sketches represent the “little man” Mowgli, a dwarf against the forest of Pench in Madhya Pradesh, with astonishing clarity. There is Shere Khan against a herd of buffaloes. There are verses and songs that appear at the start and end of each story, including the Parade-Song of the Camp-Animals, Rikki-Tikki-Tavi, and Road Song of the Bandar-Log.
The book offers an overview of Kipling’s creative process. The British author wrote it in Vermont in the United States, years after leaving India. They show how clearly he remembered the country in which he had spent the first six years of his life; and where he returned, at age 16, after studying in England, to spend the next six and a half years as a journalist, traveler and writer.
The designs were a work in progress and never published. But fans of the book will notice the subtle revisions Kipling made as he worked through his stories. One tale, Her Majesty’s Servants, was originally titled The Queen’s Servants; another, titled Red Dog, was originally The Little People of the Rocks. There are notes scribbled for oneself as the writer came up with names and made red pencil corrections.
It’s no surprise that Kipling sketched out some of his characters. His father, John Lockwood Kipling, was a teacher and later director of the Jeejeebhoy School of Art in Bombay (now Mumbai). Kipling was born in Bombay and has added sketches to many of the thousands of poems, hundreds of short stories, four novels, travel books and essays he wrote. Some survived and were bequeathed by his wife, Caroline, to major libraries and universities after his death in 1936.
The book features illustrations by French artist Maurice de Becque. It ends with the iconic poem Law of the Jungle: “Now these are the laws of the jungle and they are many and powerful. But the head of the Law and the hoof, and the hip and the hump is – Obey. ‘ At $ 240 ( ??18,000), it is probably a gift for nostalgic adults than for little ones.