Rudyard Kipling’s “Mowgli’s Song Against People”

I will let loose against you the fleet-footed vines –
I will call in the Jungle to stamp out your lines !
The roofs shall fade before it,
The house-beams shall fall;
And the Karela, the bitter Karela,
Shall cover it all !

In the gates of these your councils my people shall sing.
In the doors of these your garners the Bat-folk shall cling;
And the snake shall be your watchman,
By a hearthstone unswept;
For the Karela, the bitter Karela,
Shall fruit where ye slept !

Ye shall not see my strikers; ye shall hear them and guess.
By night, before the moon-rise, I will send for my cess,
And the wolf shall be your herdsman
By a landmark removed;
For the Karela, the bitter Karela,
Shall seed where ye loved !

I will reap your fields before you at the hands of a host.
Ye shall glean behind my reapers for the bread that is lost;
And the deer shall be your oxen
On a headland untilled;
For the Karela, the bitter Karela,
Shall leaf where ye build !

I have untied against you the club-footed vines –
I have sent in the Jungle to swamp out your lines !
The trees – the trees are on you !
The house-beams shall fall;
And the Karela, the bitter Karela,
Shall cover you all !

 

Man, I’ve been off my game, guys! I’m sorry I’ve missed so many updates. A lot of exciting things have happened with The Prince of Prophecy Vol. III: Changing Tides, and it’s kept me really busy! I’m going to try to stay on top of these posts, but if I get a little behind I’m sorry in advance–right now I’m running my own three-ring circus.

For new fairy tale, Prince of Prophecy, and Writer’s Corner updates every Wednesday and Saturday, follow this blog!

 

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Rudyard Kipling’s “A Song of Kabir”

Oh, light was the world that he weighed in his hands!
Oh, heavy the tale of his fiefs and his lands!
He has gone from the guddee and put on the shroud,
And departed in guise of bairagi avowed!

Now the white road to Delhi is mat for his feet.
The sal and the kikar must guard him from heat.
His home is the camp, and waste, and the crowd —
He is seeking the Way as bairagi avowed!

He has looked upon Man, and his eyeballs are clear —
(There was One; there is One, and but One, saith Kabir);
The Red Mist of Doing has thinned to a cloud —
He has taken the Path for bairagi avowed!

To learn and discern of his brother the clod,
Of his brother the brute, and his brother the God,
He has gone from the council and put on the shroud
(“Can ye hear?” saith Kabir), a bairagi avowed!

 

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Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm’s “Rapunzel”

Arthur_Rackham_Rapunzel

Once upon a time there was a man and a woman who had long, but to no avail, wished for a child. Finally the woman came to believe that the good Lord would fulfill her wish. Through the small rear window of these people’s house they could see into a splendid garden that was filled with the most beautiful flowers and herbs. The garden was surrounded by a high wall, and no one dared enter, because it belonged to a sorceress who possessed great power and was feared by everyone.

One day the woman was standing at this window, and she saw a bed planted with the most beautiful rapunzel. It looked so fresh and green that she longed for some. It was her greatest desire to eat some of the rapunzel. This desire increased with every day, and not knowing how to get any, she became miserably ill.

Her husband was frightened, and asked her, “What ails you, dear wife?”

“Oh,” she answered, “if I do not get some rapunzel from the garden behind our house, I shall die.”

The man, who loved her dearly, thought, “Before you let your wife die, you must get her some of the rapunzel, whatever the cost.”

So just as it was getting dark he climbed over the high wall into the sorceress’s garden, hastily dug up a handful of rapunzel, and took it to his wife. She immediately made a salad from it, which she devoured eagerly. It tasted so very good to her that by the next day her desire for more had grown threefold. If she were to have any peace, the man would have to climb into the garden once again. Thus he set forth once again just as it was getting dark. But no sooner than he had climbed over the wall than, to his horror, he saw the sorceress standing there before him.

“How can you dare,” she asked with an angry look, “to climb into my garden and like a thief to steal my rapunzel? You will pay for this.”

“Oh,” he answered, “Let mercy overrule justice. I came to do this out of necessity. My wife saw your rapunzel from our window, and such a longing came over her, that she would die, if she did not get some to eat.”

The sorceress’s anger abated somewhat, and she said, “If things are as you say, I will allow you to take as much rapunzel as you want. But under one condition: You must give me the child that your wife will bring to the world. It will do well, and I will take care of it like a mother.”

In his fear the man agreed to everything.

When the woman gave birth, the sorceress appeared, named the little girl Rapunzel, and took her away. Rapunzel became the most beautiful child under the sun. When she was twelve years old, the fairy locked her in a tower that stood in a forest and that had neither a door nor a stairway, but only a tiny little window at the very top.

When the sorceress wanted to enter, she stood below and called out:

Rapunzel, Rapunzel,
Let down your hair to me.

Rapunzel had splendid long hair, as fine as spun gold. When she heard the sorceress’s voice, she untied her braids, wound them around a window hook, let her hair fall twenty yards to the ground, and the sorceress climbed up it.

A few years later it happened that a king’s son was riding through the forest. As he approached the tower he heard a song so beautiful that he stopped to listen. It was Rapunzel, who was passing the time by singing with her sweet voice. The prince wanted to climb up to her, and looked for a door in the tower, but none was to be found.

He rode home, but the song had so touched his heart that he returned to the forest every day and listened to it. One time, as he was thus standing behind a tree, he saw the sorceress approach, and heard her say:

Rapunzel, Rapunzel,
Let down your hair.

Then Rapunzel let down her strands of hair, and the sorceress climbed up them to her.

“If that is the ladder into the tower, then sometime I will try my luck.”

And the next day, just as it was beginning to get dark, he went to the tower and called out:

Rapunzel, Rapunzel,
Let down your hair.

The hair fell down, and the prince climbed up.

At first Rapunzel was terribly frightened when a man such as she had never seen before came in to her. However, the prince began talking to her in a very friendly manner, telling her that his heart had been so touched by her singing that he could have no peace until he had seen her in person. Then Rapunzel lost her fear, and when he asked her if she would take him as her husband, she thought, “He would rather have me than would old Frau Gothel.” She said yes and placed her hand into his.

She said, “I would go with you gladly, but I do not know how to get down. Every time that you come, bring a strand of silk, from which I will weave a ladder. When it is finished I will climb down, and you can take me away on your horse.” They arranged that he would come to her every evening, for the old woman came by day.

The sorceress did not notice what was happening until one day Rapunzel said to her, “Frau Gothel, tell me why it is that you are more difficult to pull up than is the young prince, who will be arriving any moment now?”

“You godless child,” cried the sorceress. “What am I hearing from you? I thought I had removed you from the whole world, but you have deceived me nonetheless.”

In her anger she grabbed Rapunzel’s beautiful hair, wrapped it a few times around her left hand, grasped a pair of scissors with her right hand, and snip snap, cut it off. And she was so unmerciful that she took Rapunzel into a wilderness where she suffered greatly.

On the evening of the same day that she sent Rapunzel away, the fairy tied the cut-off hair to the hook at the top of the tower, and when the prince called out:

Rapunzel, Rapunzel,
Let down your hair.

she let down the hair.

The prince climbed up, but above, instead of his beloved Rapunzel, he found the sorceress, who peered at him with poisonous and evil looks.

“Aha!” she cried scornfully. “You have come for your Mistress Darling, but that beautiful bird is no longer sitting in her nest, nor is she singing any more. The cat got her, and will scratch your eyes out as well. You have lost Rapunzel. You will never see her again.”

The prince was overcome with grief, and in his despair he threw himself from the tower. He escaped with his life, but the thorns into which he fell poked out his eyes. Blind, he wandered about in the forest, eating nothing but grass and roots, and doing nothing but weeping and wailing over the loss of his beloved wife. Thus he wandered about miserably for some years, finally happening into the wilderness where Rapunzel lived miserably with the twins that she had given birth to.

He heard a voice and thought it was familiar. He advanced toward it, and as he approached, Rapunzel recognized him, and crying, threw her arms around his neck. Two of her tears fell into his eyes, and they became clear once again, and he could see as well as before. He led her into his kingdom, where he was received with joy, and for a long time they lived happily and satisfied.

 

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Rudyard Kipling’s “The White Seal”


image19
Oh! hush thee, my baby, the night is behind us,
        And black are the waters that sparkled so green.
      The moon, o’er the combers, looks downward to find us
        At rest in the hollows that rustle between.
      Where billow meets billow, then soft be thy pillow,
        Ah, weary wee flipperling, curl at thy ease!
      The storm shall not wake thee, nor shark overtake thee,
        Asleep in the arms of the slow-swinging seas!
                                 Seal Lullaby

All these things happened several years ago at a place called Novastoshnah, or North East Point, on the Island of St. Paul, away and away in the Bering Sea. Limmershin, the Winter Wren, told me the tale when he was blown on to the rigging of a steamer going to Japan, and I took him down into my cabin and warmed and fed him for a couple of days till he was fit to fly back to St. Paul’s again. Limmershin is a very quaint little bird, but he knows how to tell the truth.

Nobody comes to Novastoshnah except on business, and the only people who have regular business there are the seals. They come in the summer months by hundreds and hundreds of thousands out of the cold gray sea. For Novastoshnah Beach has the finest accommodation for seals of any place in all the world.

Sea Catch knew that, and every spring would swim from whatever place he happened to be in–would swim like a torpedo-boat straight for Novastoshnah and spend a month fighting with his companions for a good place on the rocks, as close to the sea as possible. Sea Catch was fifteen years old, a huge gray fur seal with almost a mane on his shoulders, and long, wicked dog teeth. When he heaved himself up on his front flippers he stood more than four feet clear of the ground, and his weight, if anyone had been bold enough to weigh him, was nearly seven hundred pounds. He was scarred all over with the marks of savage fights, but he was always ready for just one fight more. He would put his head on one side, as though he were afraid to look his enemy in the face; then he would shoot it out like lightning, and when the big teeth were firmly fixed on the other seal’s neck, the other seal might get away if he could, but Sea Catch would not help him.

Yet Sea Catch never chased a beaten seal, for that was against the Rules of the Beach. He only wanted room by the sea for his nursery. But as there were forty or fifty thousand other seals hunting for the same thing each spring, the whistling, bellowing, roaring, and blowing on the beach was something frightful.

From a little hill called Hutchinson’s Hill, you could look over three and a half miles of ground covered with fighting seals; and the surf was dotted all over with the heads of seals hurrying to land and begin their share of the fighting. They fought in the breakers, they fought in the sand, and they fought on the smooth-worn basalt rocks of the nurseries, for they were just as stupid and unaccommodating as men. Their wives never came to the island until late in May or early in June, for they did not care to be torn to pieces; and the young two-, three-, and four-year-old seals who had not begun housekeeping went inland about half a mile through the ranks of the fighters and played about on the sand dunes in droves and legions, and rubbed off every single green thing that grew. They were called the holluschickie–the bachelors–and there were perhaps two or three hundred thousand of them at Novastoshnah alone.

Sea Catch had just finished his forty-fifth fight one spring when Matkah, his soft, sleek, gentle-eyed wife, came up out of the sea, and he caught her by the scruff of the neck and dumped her down on his reservation, saying gruffly: “Late as usual. Where have you been?”

It was not the fashion for Sea Catch to eat anything during the four months he stayed on the beaches, and so his temper was generally bad. Matkah knew better than to answer back. She looked round and cooed: “How thoughtful of you. You’ve taken the old place again.”

“I should think I had,” said Sea Catch. “Look at me!”

He was scratched and bleeding in twenty places; one eye was almost out, and his sides were torn to ribbons.

“Oh, you men, you men!” Matkah said, fanning herself with her hind flipper. “Why can’t you be sensible and settle your places quietly? You look as though you had been fighting with the Killer Whale.”

“I haven’t been doing anything but fight since the middle of May. The beach is disgracefully crowded this season. I’ve met at least a hundred seals from Lukannon Beach, house hunting. Why can’t people stay where they belong?”

“I’ve often thought we should be much happier if we hauled out at Otter Island instead of this crowded place,” said Matkah.

“Bah! Only the holluschickie go to Otter Island. If we went there they would say we were afraid. We must preserve appearances, my dear.”

Sea Catch sunk his head proudly between his fat shoulders and pretended to go to sleep for a few minutes, but all the time he was keeping a sharp lookout for a fight. Now that all the seals and their wives were on the land, you could hear their clamor miles out to sea above the loudest gales. At the lowest counting there were over a million seals on the beach–old seals, mother seals, tiny babies, and holluschickie, fighting, scuffling, bleating, crawling, and playing together–going down to the sea and coming up from it in gangs and regiments, lying over every foot of ground as far as the eye could reach, and skirmishing about in brigades through the fog. It is nearly always foggy at Novastoshnah, except when the sun comes out and makes everything look all pearly and rainbow-colored for a little while.

Kotick, Matkah’s baby, was born in the middle of that confusion, and he was all head and shoulders, with pale, watery blue eyes, as tiny seals must be, but there was something about his coat that made his mother look at him very closely.

“Sea Catch,” she said, at last, “our baby’s going to be white!”

“Empty clam-shells and dry seaweed!” snorted Sea Catch. “There never has been such a thing in the world as a white seal.”

“I can’t help that,” said Matkah; “there’s going to be now.” And she sang the low, crooning seal song that all the mother seals sing to their babies:

            You mustn’t swim till you’re six weeks old,
              Or your head will be sunk by your heels;
            And summer gales and Killer Whales
              Are bad for baby seals.
            Are bad for baby seals, dear rat,
              As bad as bad can be;
            But splash and grow strong,
            And you can’t be wrong.
              Child of the Open Sea!

Of course the little fellow did not understand the words at first. He paddled and scrambled about by his mother’s side, and learned to scuffle out of the way when his father was fighting with another seal, and the two rolled and roared up and down the slippery rocks. Matkah used to go to sea to get things to eat, and the baby was fed only once in two days, but then he ate all he could and throve upon it.

The first thing he did was to crawl inland, and there he met tens of thousands of babies of his own age, and they played together like puppies, went to sleep on the clean sand, and played again. The old people in the nurseries took no notice of them, and the holluschickie kept to their own grounds, and the babies had a beautiful playtime.

When Matkah came back from her deep-sea fishing she would go straight to their playground and call as a sheep calls for a lamb, and wait until she heard Kotick bleat. Then she would take the straightest of straight lines in his direction, striking out with her fore flippers and knocking the youngsters head over heels right and left. There were always a few hundred mothers hunting for their children through the playgrounds, and the babies were kept lively. But, as Matkah told Kotick, “So long as you don’t lie in muddy water and get mange, or rub the hard sand into a cut or scratch, and so long as you never go swimming when there is a heavy sea, nothing will hurt you here.”

Little seals can no more swim than little children, but they are unhappy till they learn. The first time that Kotick went down to the sea a wave carried him out beyond his depth, and his big head sank and his little hind flippers flew up exactly as his mother had told him in the song, and if the next wave had not thrown him back again he would have drowned.

After that, he learned to lie in a beach pool and let the wash of the waves just cover him and lift him up while he paddled, but he always kept his eye open for big waves that might hurt. He was two weeks learning to use his flippers; and all that while he floundered in and out of the water, and coughed and grunted and crawled up the beach and took catnaps on the sand, and went back again, until at last he found that he truly belonged to the water.

Then you can imagine the times that he had with his companions, ducking under the rollers; or coming in on top of a comber and landing with a swash and a splutter as the big wave went whirling far up the beach; or standing up on his tail and scratching his head as the old people did; or playing “I’m the King of the Castle” on slippery, weedy rocks that just stuck out of the wash. Now and then he would see a thin fin, like a big shark’s fin, drifting along close to shore, and he knew that that was the Killer Whale, the Grampus, who eats young seals when he can get them; and Kotick would head for the beach like an arrow, and the fin would jig off slowly, as if it were looking for nothing at all.

Late in October the seals began to leave St. Paul’s for the deep sea, by families and tribes, and there was no more fighting over the nurseries, and the holluschickie played anywhere they liked. “Next year,” said Matkah to Kotick, “you will be a holluschickie; but this year you must learn how to catch fish.”

They set out together across the Pacific, and Matkah showed Kotick how to sleep on his back with his flippers tucked down by his side and his little nose just out of the water. No cradle is so comfortable as the long, rocking swell of the Pacific. When Kotick felt his skin tingle all over, Matkah told him he was learning the “feel of the water,” and that tingly, prickly feelings meant bad weather coming, and he must swim hard and get away.

“In a little time,” she said, “you’ll know where to swim to, but just now we’ll follow Sea Pig, the Porpoise, for he is very wise.” A school of porpoises were ducking and tearing through the water, and little Kotick followed them as fast as he could. “How do you know where to go to?” he panted. The leader of the school rolled his white eye and ducked under. “My tail tingles, youngster,” he said. “That means there’s a gale behind me. Come along! When you’re south of the Sticky Water [he meant the Equator] and your tail tingles, that means there’s a gale in front of you and you must head north. Come along! The water feels bad here.”

This was one of very many things that Kotick learned, and he was always learning. Matkah taught him to follow the cod and the halibut along the under-sea banks and wrench the rockling out of his hole among the weeds; how to skirt the wrecks lying a hundred fathoms below water and dart like a rifle bullet in at one porthole and out at another as the fishes ran; how to dance on the top of the waves when the lightning was racing all over the sky, and wave his flipper politely to the stumpy-tailed Albatross and the Man-of-war Hawk as they went down the wind; how to jump three or four feet clear of the water like a dolphin, flippers close to the side and tail curved; to leave the flying fish alone because they are all bony; to take the shoulder-piece out of a cod at full speed ten fathoms deep, and never to stop and look at a boat or a ship, but particularly a row-boat. At the end of six months what Kotick did not know about deep-sea fishing was not worth the knowing. And all that time he never set flipper on dry ground.

One day, however, as he was lying half asleep in the warm water somewhere off the Island of Juan Fernandez, he felt faint and lazy all over, just as human people do when the spring is in their legs, and he remembered the good firm beaches of Novastoshnah seven thousand miles away, the games his companions played, the smell of the seaweed, the seal roar, and the fighting. That very minute he turned north, swimming steadily, and as he went on he met scores of his mates, all bound for the same place, and they said: “Greeting, Kotick! This year we are all holluschickie, and we can dance the Fire-dance in the breakers off Lukannon and play on the new grass. But where did you get that coat?”

Kotick’s fur was almost pure white now, and though he felt very proud of it, he only said, “Swim quickly! My bones are aching for the land.” And so they all came to the beaches where they had been born, and heard the old seals, their fathers, fighting in the rolling mist.

That night Kotick danced the Fire-dance with the yearling seals. The sea is full of fire on summer nights all the way down from Novastoshnah to Lukannon, and each seal leaves a wake like burning oil behind him and a flaming flash when he jumps, and the waves break in great phosphorescent streaks and swirls. Then they went inland to the holluschickie grounds and rolled up and down in the new wild wheat and told stories of what they had done while they had been at sea. They talked about the Pacific as boys would talk about a wood that they had been nutting in, and if anyone had understood them he could have gone away and made such a chart of that ocean as never was. The three- and four-year-old holluschickie romped down from Hutchinson’s Hill crying: “Out of the way, youngsters! The sea is deep and you don’t know all that’s in it yet. Wait till you’ve rounded the Horn. Hi, you yearling, where did you get that white coat?”

“I didn’t get it,” said Kotick. “It grew.” And just as he was going to roll the speaker over, a couple of black-haired men with flat red faces came from behind a sand dune, and Kotick, who had never seen a man before, coughed and lowered his head. The holluschickie just bundled off a few yards and sat staring stupidly. The men were no less than Kerick Booterin, the chief of the seal-hunters on the island, and Patalamon, his son. They came from the little village not half a mile from the sea nurseries, and they were deciding what seals they would drive up to the killing pens–for the seals were driven just like sheep–to be turned into seal-skin jackets later on.

“Ho!” said Patalamon. “Look! There’s a white seal!”

Kerick Booterin turned nearly white under his oil and smoke, for he was an Aleut, and Aleuts are not clean people. Then he began to mutter a prayer. “Don’t touch him, Patalamon. There has never been a white seal since–since I was born. Perhaps it is old Zaharrof’s ghost. He was lost last year in the big gale.”

“I’m not going near him,” said Patalamon. “He’s unlucky. Do you really think he is old Zaharrof come back? I owe him for some gulls’ eggs.”

“Don’t look at him,” said Kerick. “Head off that drove of four-year-olds. The men ought to skin two hundred to-day, but it’s the beginning of the season and they are new to the work. A hundred will do. Quick!”

Patalamon rattled a pair of seal’s shoulder bones in front of a herd of holluschickie and they stopped dead, puffing and blowing. Then he stepped near and the seals began to move, and Kerick headed them inland, and they never tried to get back to their companions. Hundreds and hundreds of thousands of seals watched them being driven, but they went on playing just the same. Kotick was the only one who asked questions, and none of his companions could tell him anything, except that the men always drove seals in that way for six weeks or two months of every year.

“I am going to follow,” he said, and his eyes nearly popped out of his head as he shuffled along in the wake of the herd.

“The white seal is coming after us,” cried Patalamon. “That’s the first time a seal has ever come to the killing-grounds alone.”

“Hsh! Don’t look behind you,” said Kerick. “It is Zaharrof’s ghost! I must speak to the priest about this.”

The distance to the killing-grounds was only half a mile, but it took an hour to cover, because if the seals went too fast Kerick knew that they would get heated and then their fur would come off in patches when they were skinned. So they went on very slowly, past Sea Lion’s Neck, past Webster House, till they came to the Salt House just beyond the sight of the seals on the beach. Kotick followed, panting and wondering. He thought that he was at the world’s end, but the roar of the seal nurseries behind him sounded as loud as the roar of a train in a tunnel. Then Kerick sat down on the moss and pulled out a heavy pewter watch and let the drove cool off for thirty minutes, and Kotick could hear the fog-dew dripping off the brim of his cap. Then ten or twelve men, each with an iron-bound club three or four feet long, came up, and Kerick pointed out one or two of the drove that were bitten by their companions or too hot, and the men kicked those aside with their heavy boots made of the skin of a walrus’s throat, and then Kerick said, “Let go!” and then the men clubbed the seals on the head as fast as they could.

Ten minutes later little Kotick did not recognize his friends any more, for their skins were ripped off from the nose to the hind flippers, whipped off and thrown down on the ground in a pile. That was enough for Kotick. He turned and galloped (a seal can gallop very swiftly for a short time) back to the sea; his little new mustache bristling with horror. At Sea Lion’s Neck, where the great sea lions sit on the edge of the surf, he flung himself flipper-overhead into the cool water and rocked there, gasping miserably. “What’s here?” said a sea lion gruffly, for as a rule the sea lions keep themselves to themselves.

“Scoochnie! Ochen scoochnie!” (“I’m lonesome, very lonesome!”) said Kotick. “They’re killing all the holluschickie on all the beaches!”

The Sea Lion turned his head inshore. “Nonsense!” he said. “Your friends are making as much noise as ever. You must have seen old Kerick polishing off a drove. He’s done that for thirty years.”

“It’s horrible,” said Kotick, backing water as a wave went over him, and steadying himself with a screw stroke of his flippers that brought him all standing within three inches of a jagged edge of rock.

“Well done for a yearling!” said the Sea Lion, who could appreciate good swimming. “I suppose it is rather awful from your way of looking at it, but if you seals will come here year after year, of course the men get to know of it, and unless you can find an island where no men ever come you will always be driven.”

“Isn’t there any such island?” began Kotick.

“I’ve followed the poltoos [the halibut] for twenty years, and I can’t say I’ve found it yet. But look here–you seem to have a fondness for talking to your betters–suppose you go to Walrus Islet and talk to Sea Vitch. He may know something. Don’t flounce off like that. It’s a six-mile swim, and if I were you I should haul out and take a nap first, little one.”

Kotick thought that that was good advice, so he swam round to his own beach, hauled out, and slept for half an hour, twitching all over, as seals will. Then he headed straight for Walrus Islet, a little low sheet of rocky island almost due northeast from Novastoshnah, all ledges and rock and gulls’ nests, where the walrus herded by themselves.

He landed close to old Sea Vitch–the big, ugly, bloated, pimpled, fat-necked, long-tusked walrus of the North Pacific, who has no manners except when he is asleep–as he was then, with his hind flippers half in and half out of the surf.

“Wake up!” barked Kotick, for the gulls were making a great noise.

“Hah! Ho! Hmph! What’s that?” said Sea Vitch, and he struck the next walrus a blow with his tusks and waked him up, and the next struck the next, and so on till they were all awake and staring in every direction but the right one.

“Hi! It’s me,” said Kotick, bobbing in the surf and looking like a little white slug.

“Well! May I be–skinned!” said Sea Vitch, and they all looked at Kotick as you can fancy a club full of drowsy old gentlemen would look at a little boy. Kotick did not care to hear any more about skinning just then; he had seen enough of it. So he called out: “Isn’t there any place for seals to go where men don’t ever come?”

“Go and find out,” said Sea Vitch, shutting his eyes. “Run away. We’re busy here.”

Kotick made his dolphin-jump in the air and shouted as loud as he could: “Clam-eater! Clam-eater!” He knew that Sea Vitch never caught a fish in his life but always rooted for clams and seaweed; though he pretended to be a very terrible person. Naturally the Chickies and the Gooverooskies and the Epatkas–the Burgomaster Gulls and the Kittiwakes and the Puffins, who are always looking for a chance to be rude, took up the cry, and–so Limmershin told me–for nearly five minutes you could not have heard a gun fired on Walrus Islet. All the population was yelling and screaming “Clam-eater! Stareek [old man]!” while Sea Vitch rolled from side to side grunting and coughing.

“Now will you tell?” said Kotick, all out of breath.

“Go and ask Sea Cow,” said Sea Vitch. “If he is living still, he’ll be able to tell you.”

“How shall I know Sea Cow when I meet him?” said Kotick, sheering off.

“He’s the only thing in the sea uglier than Sea Vitch,” screamed a Burgomaster gull, wheeling under Sea Vitch’s nose. “Uglier, and with worse manners! Stareek!”

Kotick swam back to Novastoshnah, leaving the gulls to scream. There he found that no one sympathized with him in his little attempt to discover a quiet place for the seals. They told him that men had always driven the holluschickie–it was part of the day’s work–and that if he did not like to see ugly things he should not have gone to the killing grounds. But none of the other seals had seen the killing, and that made the difference between him and his friends. Besides, Kotick was a white seal.

“What you must do,” said old Sea Catch, after he had heard his son’s adventures, “is to grow up and be a big seal like your father, and have a nursery on the beach, and then they will leave you alone. In another five years you ought to be able to fight for yourself.” Even gentle Matkah, his mother, said: “You will never be able to stop the killing. Go and play in the sea, Kotick.” And Kotick went off and danced the Fire-dance with a very heavy little heart.

That autumn he left the beach as soon as he could, and set off alone because of a notion in his bullet-head. He was going to find Sea Cow, if there was such a person in the sea, and he was going to find a quiet island with good firm beaches for seals to live on, where men could not get at them. So he explored and explored by himself from the North to the South Pacific, swimming as much as three hundred miles in a day and a night. He met with more adventures than can be told, and narrowly escaped being caught by the Basking Shark, and the Spotted Shark, and the Hammerhead, and he met all the untrustworthy ruffians that loaf up and down the seas, and the heavy polite fish, and the scarlet spotted scallops that are moored in one place for hundreds of years, and grow very proud of it; but he never met Sea Cow, and he never found an island that he could fancy.

If the beach was good and hard, with a slope behind it for seals to play on, there was always the smoke of a whaler on the horizon, boiling down blubber, and Kotick knew what that meant. Or else he could see that seals had once visited the island and been killed off, and Kotick knew that where men had come once they would come again.

He picked up with an old stumpy-tailed albatross, who told him that Kerguelen Island was the very place for peace and quiet, and when Kotick went down there he was all but smashed to pieces against some wicked black cliffs in a heavy sleet-storm with lightning and thunder. Yet as he pulled out against the gale he could see that even there had once been a seal nursery. And it was so in all the other islands that he visited.

Limmershin gave a long list of them, for he said that Kotick spent five seasons exploring, with a four months’ rest each year at Novastoshnah, when the holluschickie used to make fun of him and his imaginary islands. He went to the Gallapagos, a horrid dry place on the Equator, where he was nearly baked to death; he went to the Georgia Islands, the Orkneys, Emerald Island, Little Nightingale Island, Gough’s Island, Bouvet’s Island, the Crossets, and even to a little speck of an island south of the Cape of Good Hope. But everywhere the People of the Sea told him the same things. Seals had come to those islands once upon a time, but men had killed them all off. Even when he swam thousands of miles out of the Pacific and got to a place called Cape Corrientes (that was when he was coming back from Gough’s Island), he found a few hundred mangy seals on a rock and they told him that men came there too.

That nearly broke his heart, and he headed round the Horn back to his own beaches; and on his way north he hauled out on an island full of green trees, where he found an old, old seal who was dying, and Kotick caught fish for him and told him all his sorrows. “Now,” said Kotick, “I am going back to Novastoshnah, and if I am driven to the killing-pens with the holluschickie I shall not care.”

The old seal said, “Try once more. I am the last of the Lost Rookery of Masafuera, and in the days when men killed us by the hundred thousand there was a story on the beaches that some day a white seal would come out of the North and lead the seal people to a quiet place. I am old, and I shall never live to see that day, but others will. Try once more.”

And Kotick curled up his mustache (it was a beauty) and said, “I am the only white seal that has ever been born on the beaches, and I am the only seal, black or white, who ever thought of looking for new islands.”

This cheered him immensely; and when he came back to Novastoshnah that summer, Matkah, his mother, begged him to marry and settle down, for he was no longer a holluschick but a full-grown sea-catch, with a curly white mane on his shoulders, as heavy, as big, and as fierce as his father. “Give me another season,” he said. “Remember, Mother, it is always the seventh wave that goes farthest up the beach.”

Curiously enough, there was another seal who thought that she would put off marrying till the next year, and Kotick danced the Fire-dance with her all down Lukannon Beach the night before he set off on his last exploration. This time he went westward, because he had fallen on the trail of a great shoal of halibut, and he needed at least one hundred pounds of fish a day to keep him in good condition. He chased them till he was tired, and then he curled himself up and went to sleep on the hollows of the ground swell that sets in to Copper Island. He knew the coast perfectly well, so about midnight, when he felt himself gently bumped on a weed-bed, he said, “Hm, tide’s running strong tonight,” and turning over under water opened his eyes slowly and stretched. Then he jumped like a cat, for he saw huge things nosing about in the shoal water and browsing on the heavy fringes of the weeds.

“By the Great Combers of Magellan!” he said, beneath his mustache. “Who in the Deep Sea are these people?”

They were like no walrus, sea lion, seal, bear, whale, shark, fish, squid, or scallop that Kotick had ever seen before. They were between twenty and thirty feet long, and they had no hind flippers, but a shovel-like tail that looked as if it had been whittled out of wet leather. Their heads were the most foolish-looking things you ever saw, and they balanced on the ends of their tails in deep water when they weren’t grazing, bowing solemnly to each other and waving their front flippers as a fat man waves his arm.

“Ahem!” said Kotick. “Good sport, gentlemen?” The big things answered by bowing and waving their flippers like the Frog Footman. When they began feeding again Kotick saw that their upper lip was split into two pieces that they could twitch apart about a foot and bring together again with a whole bushel of seaweed between the splits. They tucked the stuff into their mouths and chumped solemnly.

“Messy style of feeding, that,” said Kotick. They bowed again, and Kotick began to lose his temper. “Very good,” he said. “If you do happen to have an extra joint in your front flipper you needn’t show off so. I see you bow gracefully, but I should like to know your names.” The split lips moved and twitched; and the glassy green eyes stared, but they did not speak.

“Well!” said Kotick. “You’re the only people I’ve ever met uglier than Sea Vitch–and with worse manners.”

Then he remembered in a flash what the Burgomaster gull had screamed to him when he was a little yearling at Walrus Islet, and he tumbled backward in the water, for he knew that he had found Sea Cow at last.

The sea cows went on schlooping and grazing and chumping in the weed, and Kotick asked them questions in every language that he had picked up in his travels; and the Sea People talk nearly as many languages as human beings. But the sea cows did not answer because Sea Cow cannot talk. He has only six bones in his neck where he ought to have seven, and they say under the sea that that prevents him from speaking even to his companions. But, as you know, he has an extra joint in his foreflipper, and by waving it up and down and about he makes what answers to a sort of clumsy telegraphic code.

By daylight Kotick’s mane was standing on end and his temper was gone where the dead crabs go. Then the Sea Cow began to travel northward very slowly, stopping to hold absurd bowing councils from time to time, and Kotick followed them, saying to himself, “People who are such idiots as these are would have been killed long ago if they hadn’t found out some safe island. And what is good enough for the Sea Cow is good enough for the Sea Catch. All the same, I wish they’d hurry.”

It was weary work for Kotick. The herd never went more than forty or fifty miles a day, and stopped to feed at night, and kept close to the shore all the time; while Kotick swam round them, and over them, and under them, but he could not hurry them up one-half mile. As they went farther north they held a bowing council every few hours, and Kotick nearly bit off his mustache with impatience till he saw that they were following up a warm current of water, and then he respected them more.

One night they sank through the shiny water–sank like stones–and for the first time since he had known them began to swim quickly. Kotick followed, and the pace astonished him, for he never dreamed that Sea Cow was anything of a swimmer. They headed for a cliff by the shore–a cliff that ran down into deep water, and plunged into a dark hole at the foot of it, twenty fathoms under the sea. It was a long, long swim, and Kotick badly wanted fresh air before he was out of the dark tunnel they led him through.

“My wig!” he said, when he rose, gasping and puffing, into open water at the farther end. “It was a long dive, but it was worth it.”

The sea cows had separated and were browsing lazily along the edges of the finest beaches that Kotick had ever seen. There were long stretches of smooth-worn rock running for miles, exactly fitted to make seal-nurseries, and there were play-grounds of hard sand sloping inland behind them, and there were rollers for seals to dance in, and long grass to roll in, and sand dunes to climb up and down, and, best of all, Kotick knew by the feel of the water, which never deceives a true sea catch, that no men had ever come there.

The first thing he did was to assure himself that the fishing was good, and then he swam along the beaches and counted up the delightful low sandy islands half hidden in the beautiful rolling fog. Away to the northward, out to sea, ran a line of bars and shoals and rocks that would never let a ship come within six miles of the beach, and between the islands and the mainland was a stretch of deep water that ran up to the perpendicular cliffs, and somewhere below the cliffs was the mouth of the tunnel.

“It’s Novastoshnah over again, but ten times better,” said Kotick. “Sea Cow must be wiser than I thought. Men can’t come down the cliffs, even if there were any men; and the shoals to seaward would knock a ship to splinters. If any place in the sea is safe, this is it.”

He began to think of the seal he had left behind him, but though he was in a hurry to go back to Novastoshnah, he thoroughly explored the new country, so that he would be able to answer all questions.

Then he dived and made sure of the mouth of the tunnel, and raced through to the southward. No one but a sea cow or a seal would have dreamed of there being such a place, and when he looked back at the cliffs even Kotick could hardly believe that he had been under them.

He was six days going home, though he was not swimming slowly; and when he hauled out just above Sea Lion’s Neck the first person he met was the seal who had been waiting for him, and she saw by the look in his eyes that he had found his island at last.

But the holluschickie and Sea Catch, his father, and all the other seals laughed at him when he told them what he had discovered, and a young seal about his own age said, “This is all very well, Kotick, but you can’t come from no one knows where and order us off like this. Remember we’ve been fighting for our nurseries, and that’s a thing you never did. You preferred prowling about in the sea.”

The other seals laughed at this, and the young seal began twisting his head from side to side. He had just married that year, and was making a great fuss about it.

“I’ve no nursery to fight for,” said Kotick. “I only want to show you all a place where you will be safe. What’s the use of fighting?”

“Oh, if you’re trying to back out, of course I’ve no more to say,” said the young seal with an ugly chuckle.

“Will you come with me if I win?” said Kotick. And a green light came into his eye, for he was very angry at having to fight at all.

“Very good,” said the young seal carelessly. “If you win, I’ll come.”

He had no time to change his mind, for Kotick’s head was out and his teeth sunk in the blubber of the young seal’s neck. Then he threw himself back on his haunches and hauled his enemy down the beach, shook him, and knocked him over. Then Kotick roared to the seals: “I’ve done my best for you these five seasons past. I’ve found you the island where you’ll be safe, but unless your heads are dragged off your silly necks you won’t believe. I’m going to teach you now. Look out for yourselves!”

Limmershin told me that never in his life–and Limmershin sees ten thousand big seals fighting every year–never in all his little life did he see anything like Kotick’s charge into the nurseries. He flung himself at the biggest sea catch he could find, caught him by the throat, choked him and bumped him and banged him till he grunted for mercy, and then threw him aside and attacked the next. You see, Kotick had never fasted for four months as the big seals did every year, and his deep-sea swimming trips kept him in perfect condition, and, best of all, he had never fought before. His curly white mane stood up with rage, and his eyes flamed, and his big dog teeth glistened, and he was splendid to look at. Old Sea Catch, his father, saw him tearing past, hauling the grizzled old seals about as though they had been halibut, and upsetting the young bachelors in all directions; and Sea Catch gave a roar and shouted: “He may be a fool, but he is the best fighter on the beaches! Don’t tackle your father, my son! He’s with you!”

Kotick roared in answer, and old Sea Catch waddled in with his mustache on end, blowing like a locomotive, while Matkah and the seal that was going to marry Kotick cowered down and admired their men-folk. It was a gorgeous fight, for the two fought as long as there was a seal that dared lift up his head, and when there were none they paraded grandly up and down the beach side by side, bellowing.

At night, just as the Northern Lights were winking and flashing through the fog, Kotick climbed a bare rock and looked down on the scattered nurseries and the torn and bleeding seals. “Now,” he said, “I’ve taught you your lesson.”

“My wig!” said old Sea Catch, boosting himself up stiffly, for he was fearfully mauled. “The Killer Whale himself could not have cut them up worse. Son, I’m proud of you, and what’s more, I’ll come with you to your island–if there is such a place.”

“Hear you, fat pigs of the sea. Who comes with me to the Sea Cow’s tunnel? Answer, or I shall teach you again,” roared Kotick.

There was a murmur like the ripple of the tide all up and down the beaches. “We will come,” said thousands of tired voices. “We will follow Kotick, the White Seal.”

Then Kotick dropped his head between his shoulders and shut his eyes proudly. He was not a white seal any more, but red from head to tail. All the same he would have scorned to look at or touch one of his wounds.

A week later he and his army (nearly ten thousand holluschickie and old seals) went away north to the Sea Cow’s tunnel, Kotick leading them, and the seals that stayed at Novastoshnah called them idiots. But next spring, when they all met off the fishing banks of the Pacific, Kotick’s seals told such tales of the new beaches beyond Sea Cow’s tunnel that more and more seals left Novastoshnah. Of course it was not all done at once, for the seals are not very clever, and they need a long time to turn things over in their minds, but year after year more seals went away from Novastoshnah, and Lukannon, and the other nurseries, to the quiet, sheltered beaches where Kotick sits all the summer through, getting bigger and fatter and stronger each year, while the holluschickie play around him, in that sea where no man comes.

 

This was supposed to go up on Wednesday, but I went to Disneyland that day and I accidentally set the publish date to next Wednesday, so that was my bad. But, anyway, here it is! I hope you enjoyed “The White Seal” from The Jungle Book. For more fairy tale updates every Wednesday and Saturday, follow this blog!

Getting ready for the launch party!

Well, The Prince of prophecy Vol. I: Destined is finally available in eBook, paperback, and hardcover! If you’d like to purchase it, you can do so at the following websites:

Amazon

Createspace

Nautilus Press

I am so excited for my launch party! I just received some of the last of my party favors today and I’m nearly finished with the decorations. This has been so much work, but I know the party is going to be awesome! I’ll post pictures here after the party–speaking of which, there won’t be a blog update this Saturday. My next post will be on Sunday and then we’ll get back to our “regular programming”.

Anyway, hope you guys have a great rest of the week and I’ll see ya’ll again on Sunday!

 

For new Prince of Prophecy and fairy tale updates every Wednesday and Saturday, follow this blog!

Rudyard Kipling’s “Mowgli’s Song”

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That he sang at the Council Rock when he danced on Shere Khan’s hide

The Song of Mowgli — I, Mowgli, am singing. Let the jungle listen to the things I have done.

Shere Khan said he would kill — would kill! At the gates in the twilight he would kill Mowgli, the Frog!

He ate and he drank. Drink deep, Shere Khan, for when wilt thou drink again? Sleep and dream of the kill.

I am alone on the grazing-grounds. Gray Brother, come to me!

Come to me, Lone Wolf, for there is big game afoot!

Bring up the great bull buffaloes, the blue-skinned herd bulls with the angry eyes. Drive them to and fro as I order.

Sleepest thou still, Shere Khan? Wake, oh, wake! Here come I, and the bulls are behind.

Rama, the King of the Buffaloes, stamped with his foot. Waters of the Waingunga, whither went Shere Khan?

He is not Ikki to dig holes, nor Mao, the Peacock, that he should fly. He is not Mang the Bat, to hang in the branches. Little bamboos that creak together, tell me where he ran?

Ow! He is there. Ahoo! He is there. Under the feet of Rama lies the Lame One! Up, Shere Khan!

Up and kill! Here is meat; break the necks of the bulls!

Hsh! He is asleep. We will not wake him, for his strength is very great. The kites have come down to see it. The black ants have come up to know it. There is a great assembly in his honor.

Alala! I have no cloth to wrap me. The kites will see that I am naked. I am ashamed to meet all these people.

Lend me thy coat, Shere Khan. Lend me thy gay striped coat that I may go to the Council Rock.

By the Bull that bought me I made a promise — a little promise.

Only thy coat is lacking before I keep my word.

With the knife, with the knife that men use, with the knife of the hunter, I will stoop down for my gift.

Waters of the Waingunga, Shere Khan gives me his coat for the love that he bears me. Pull, Gray Brother! Pull, Akela! Heavy is the hide of Shere Khan.

The Man Pack are angry. They throw stones and talk child’s talk.

My mouth is bleeding. Let me run away.

Through the night, through the hot night, run swiftly with me, my brothers. We will leave the lights of the village and go to the low moon.

Waters of the Waingunga, the Man-Pack have cast me out. I did them no harm, but they were afraid of me. Why?

Wolf Pack, ye have cast me out too. The jungle is shut to me and the village gates are shut. Why?

As Mang flies between the beasts and birds, so fly I between the village and the jungle. Why?

I dance on the hide of Shere Khan, but my heart is very heavy. My mouth is cut and wounded with the stones from the village, but my heart is very light, because I have come back to the jungle. Why?

These two things fight together in me as the snakes fight in the spring. The water comes out of my eyes; yet I laugh while it falls. Why?

I am two Mowglis, but the hide of Shere Khan is under my feet.

All the jungle knows that I have killed Shere Khan. Look — look well, O Wolves!

Ahae! My heart is heavy with the things that I do not understand.

 

This has to be one of my favorite poems from The Jungle Books. Poor Mowgli has been cast out of both packs–this is one of the reasons why I think many adolescents can relate to Mowgli’s struggles even in this day and age. Rejection and feeling like an outsider is, unfortunately, still a prevalent issue in today’s society. For new fairy tale updates every Wednesday and Saturday, follow this blog!

Rudyard Kipling’s “Tiger! Tiger!”

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             What of the hunting, hunter bold?
                Brother, the watch was long and cold.
             What of the quarry ye went to kill?
                Brother, he crops in the jungle still.
             Where is the power that made your pride?
                Brother, it ebbs from my flank and side.
             Where is the haste that ye hurry by?
                Brother, I go to my lair–to die.

 

Now we must go back to the first tale. When Mowgli left the wolf’s cave after the fight with the Pack at the Council Rock, he went down to the plowed lands where the villagers lived, but he would not stop there because it was too near to the jungle, and he knew that he had made at least one bad enemy at the Council. So he hurried on, keeping to the rough road that ran down the valley, and followed it at a steady jog-trot for nearly twenty miles, till he came to a country that he did not know. The valley opened out into a great plain dotted over with rocks and cut up by ravines. At one end stood a little village, and at the other the thick jungle came down in a sweep to the grazing-grounds, and stopped there as though it had been cut off with a hoe. All over the plain, cattle and buffaloes were grazing, and when the little boys in charge of the herds saw Mowgli they shouted and ran away, and the yellow pariah dogs that hang about every Indian village barked. Mowgli walked on, for he was feeling hungry, and when he came to the village gate he saw the big thorn-bush that was drawn up before the gate at twilight, pushed to one side.

“Umph!” he said, for he had come across more than one such barricade in his night rambles after things to eat. “So men are afraid of the People of the Jungle here also.” He sat down by the gate, and when a man came out he stood up, opened his mouth, and pointed down it to show that he wanted food. The man stared, and ran back up the one street of the village shouting for the priest, who was a big, fat man dressed in white, with a red and yellow mark on his forehead. The priest came to the gate, and with him at least a hundred people, who stared and talked and shouted and pointed at Mowgli.

“They have no manners, these Men Folk,” said Mowgli to himself. “Only the gray ape would behave as they do.” So he threw back his long hair and frowned at the crowd.

“What is there to be afraid of?” said the priest. “Look at the marks on his arms and legs. They are the bites of wolves. He is but a wolf-child run away from the jungle.”

Of course, in playing together, the cubs had often nipped Mowgli harder than they intended, and there were white scars all over his arms and legs. But he would have been the last person in the world to call these bites, for he knew what real biting meant.

“Arre! Arre!” said two or three women together. “To be bitten by wolves, poor child! He is a handsome boy. He has eyes like red fire. By my honor, Messua, he is not unlike thy boy that was taken by the tiger.”

“Let me look,” said a woman with heavy copper rings on her wrists and ankles, and she peered at Mowgli under the palm of her hand. “Indeed he is not. He is thinner, but he has the very look of my boy.”

The priest was a clever man, and he knew that Messua was wife to the richest villager in the place. So he looked up at the sky for a minute and said solemnly: “What the jungle has taken the jungle has restored. Take the boy into thy house, my sister, and forget not to honor the priest who sees so far into the lives of men.”

“By the Bull that bought me,” said Mowgli to himself, “but all this talking is like another looking-over by the Pack! Well, if I am a man, a man I must become.”

The crowd parted as the woman beckoned Mowgli to her hut, where there was a red lacquered bedstead, a great earthen grain chest with funny raised patterns on it, half a dozen copper cooking pots, an image of a Hindu god in a little alcove, and on the wall a real looking glass, such as they sell at the country fairs.

She gave him a long drink of milk and some bread, and then she laid her hand on his head and looked into his eyes; for she thought perhaps that he might be her real son come back from the jungle where the tiger had taken him. So she said, “Nathoo, O Nathoo!” Mowgli did not show that he knew the name. “Dost thou not remember the day when I gave thee thy new shoes?” She touched his foot, and it was almost as hard as horn. “No,” she said sorrowfully, “those feet have never worn shoes, but thou art very like my Nathoo, and thou shalt be my son.”

Mowgli was uneasy, because he had never been under a roof before. But as he looked at the thatch, he saw that he could tear it out any time if he wanted to get away, and that the window had no fastenings. “What is the good of a man,” he said to himself at last, “if he does not understand man’s talk? Now I am as silly and dumb as a man would be with us in the jungle. I must speak their talk.”

It was not for fun that he had learned while he was with the wolves to imitate the challenge of bucks in the jungle and the grunt of the little wild pig. So, as soon as Messua pronounced a word Mowgli would imitate it almost perfectly, and before dark he had learned the names of many things in the hut.

There was a difficulty at bedtime, because Mowgli would not sleep under anything that looked so like a panther trap as that hut, and when they shut the door he went through the window. “Give him his will,” said Messua’s husband. “Remember he can never till now have slept on a bed. If he is indeed sent in the place of our son he will not run away.”

So Mowgli stretched himself in some long, clean grass at the edge of the field, but before he had closed his eyes a soft gray nose poked him under the chin.

“Phew!” said Gray Brother (he was the eldest of Mother Wolf’s cubs). “This is a poor reward for following thee twenty miles. Thou smellest of wood smoke and cattle–altogether like a man already. Wake, Little Brother; I bring news.”

“Are all well in the jungle?” said Mowgli, hugging him.

“All except the wolves that were burned with the Red Flower. Now, listen. Shere Khan has gone away to hunt far off till his coat grows again, for he is badly singed. When he returns he swears that he will lay thy bones in the Waingunga.”

“There are two words to that. I also have made a little promise. But news is always good. I am tired to-night,–very tired with new things, Gray Brother,–but bring me the news always.”

“Thou wilt not forget that thou art a wolf? Men will not make thee forget?” said Gray Brother anxiously.

“Never. I will always remember that I love thee and all in our cave. But also I will always remember that I have been cast out of the Pack.”

“And that thou mayest be cast out of another pack. Men are only men, Little Brother, and their talk is like the talk of frogs in a pond. When I come down here again, I will wait for thee in the bamboos at the edge of the grazing-ground.”

For three months after that night Mowgli hardly ever left the village gate, he was so busy learning the ways and customs of men. First he had to wear a cloth round him, which annoyed him horribly; and then he had to learn about money, which he did not in the least understand, and about plowing, of which he did not see the use. Then the little children in the village made him very angry. Luckily, the Law of the Jungle had taught him to keep his temper, for in the jungle life and food depend on keeping your temper; but when they made fun of him because he would not play games or fly kites, or because he mispronounced some word, only the knowledge that it was unsportsmanlike to kill little naked cubs kept him from picking them up and breaking them in two.

He did not know his own strength in the least. In the jungle he knew he was weak compared with the beasts, but in the village people said that he was as strong as a bull.

And Mowgli had not the faintest idea of the difference that caste makes between man and man. When the potter’s donkey slipped in the clay pit, Mowgli hauled it out by the tail, and helped to stack the pots for their journey to the market at Khanhiwara. That was very shocking, too, for the potter is a low-caste man, and his donkey is worse. When the priest scolded him, Mowgli threatened to put him on the donkey too, and the priest told Messua’s husband that Mowgli had better be set to work as soon as possible; and the village head-man told Mowgli that he would have to go out with the buffaloes next day, and herd them while they grazed. No one was more pleased than Mowgli; and that night, because he had been appointed a servant of the village, as it were, he went off to a circle that met every evening on a masonry platform under a great fig-tree. It was the village club, and the head-man and the watchman and the barber, who knew all the gossip of the village, and old Buldeo, the village hunter, who had a Tower musket, met and smoked. The monkeys sat and talked in the upper branches, and there was a hole under the platform where a cobra lived, and he had his little platter of milk every night because he was sacred; and the old men sat around the tree and talked, and pulled at the big huqas (the water-pipes) till far into the night. They told wonderful tales of gods and men and ghosts; and Buldeo told even more wonderful ones of the ways of beasts in the jungle, till the eyes of the children sitting outside the circle bulged out of their heads. Most of the tales were about animals, for the jungle was always at their door. The deer and the wild pig grubbed up their crops, and now and again the tiger carried off a man at twilight, within sight of the village gates.

Mowgli, who naturally knew something about what they were talking of, had to cover his face not to show that he was laughing, while Buldeo, the Tower musket across his knees, climbed on from one wonderful story to another, and Mowgli’s shoulders shook.

Buldeo was explaining how the tiger that had carried away Messua’s son was a ghost-tiger, and his body was inhabited by the ghost of a wicked, old money-lender, who had died some years ago. “And I know that this is true,” he said, “because Purun Dass always limped from the blow that he got in a riot when his account books were burned, and the tiger that I speak of he limps, too, for the tracks of his pads are unequal.”

“True, true, that must be the truth,” said the gray-beards, nodding together.

“Are all these tales such cobwebs and moon talk?” said Mowgli. “That tiger limps because he was born lame, as everyone knows. To talk of the soul of a money-lender in a beast that never had the courage of a jackal is child’s talk.”

Buldeo was speechless with surprise for a moment, and the head-man stared.

“Oho! It is the jungle brat, is it?” said Buldeo. “If thou art so wise, better bring his hide to Khanhiwara, for the Government has set a hundred rupees on his life. Better still, talk not when thy elders speak.”

Mowgli rose to go. “All the evening I have lain here listening,” he called back over his shoulder, “and, except once or twice, Buldeo has not said one word of truth concerning the jungle, which is at his very doors. How, then, shall I believe the tales of ghosts and gods and goblins which he says he has seen?”

“It is full time that boy went to herding,” said the head-man, while Buldeo puffed and snorted at Mowgli’s impertinence.

The custom of most Indian villages is for a few boys to take the cattle and buffaloes out to graze in the early morning, and bring them back at night. The very cattle that would trample a white man to death allow themselves to be banged and bullied and shouted at by children that hardly come up to their noses. So long as the boys keep with the herds they are safe, for not even the tiger will charge a mob of cattle. But if they straggle to pick flowers or hunt lizards, they are sometimes carried off. Mowgli went through the village street in the dawn, sitting on the back of Rama, the great herd bull. The slaty-blue buffaloes, with their long, backward-sweeping horns and savage eyes, rose out their byres, one by one, and followed him, and Mowgli made it very clear to the children with him that he was the master. He beat the buffaloes with a long, polished bamboo, and told Kamya, one of the boys, to graze the cattle by themselves, while he went on with the buffaloes, and to be very careful not to stray away from the herd.

An Indian grazing ground is all rocks and scrub and tussocks and little ravines, among which the herds scatter and disappear. The buffaloes generally keep to the pools and muddy places, where they lie wallowing or basking in the warm mud for hours. Mowgli drove them on to the edge of the plain where the Waingunga came out of the jungle; then he dropped from Rama’s neck, trotted off to a bamboo clump, and found Gray Brother. “Ah,” said Gray Brother, “I have waited here very many days. What is the meaning of this cattle-herding work?”

“It is an order,” said Mowgli. “I am a village herd for a while. What news of Shere Khan?”

“He has come back to this country, and has waited here a long time for thee. Now he has gone off again, for the game is scarce. But he means to kill thee.”

“Very good,” said Mowgli. “So long as he is away do thou or one of the four brothers sit on that rock, so that I can see thee as I come out of the village. When he comes back wait for me in the ravine by the dhak tree in the center of the plain. We need not walk into Shere Khan’s mouth.”

Then Mowgli picked out a shady place, and lay down and slept while the buffaloes grazed round him. Herding in India is one of the laziest things in the world. The cattle move and crunch, and lie down, and move on again, and they do not even low. They only grunt, and the buffaloes very seldom say anything, but get down into the muddy pools one after another, and work their way into the mud till only their noses and staring china-blue eyes show above the surface, and then they lie like logs. The sun makes the rocks dance in the heat, and the herd children hear one kite (never any more) whistling almost out of sight overhead, and they know that if they died, or a cow died, that kite would sweep down, and the next kite miles away would see him drop and follow, and the next, and the next, and almost before they were dead there would be a score of hungry kites come out of nowhere. Then they sleep and wake and sleep again, and weave little baskets of dried grass and put grasshoppers in them; or catch two praying mantises and make them fight; or string a necklace of red and black jungle nuts; or watch a lizard basking on a rock, or a snake hunting a frog near the wallows. Then they sing long, long songs with odd native quavers at the end of them, and the day seems longer than most people’s whole lives, and perhaps they make a mud castle with mud figures of men and horses and buffaloes, and put reeds into the men’s hands, and pretend that they are kings and the figures are their armies, or that they are gods to be worshiped. Then evening comes and the children call, and the buffaloes lumber up out of the sticky mud with noises like gunshots going off one after the other, and they all string across the gray plain back to the twinkling village lights.

Day after day Mowgli would lead the buffaloes out to their wallows, and day after day he would see Gray Brother’s back a mile and a half away across the plain (so he knew that Shere Khan had not come back), and day after day he would lie on the grass listening to the noises round him, and dreaming of old days in the jungle. If Shere Khan had made a false step with his lame paw up in the jungles by the Waingunga, Mowgli would have heard him in those long, still mornings.

At last a day came when he did not see Gray Brother at the signal place, and he laughed and headed the buffaloes for the ravine by the dhk tree, which was all covered with golden-red flowers. There sat Gray Brother, every bristle on his back lifted.

“He has hidden for a month to throw thee off thy guard. He crossed the ranges last night with Tabaqui, hot-foot on thy trail,” said the Wolf, panting.

Mowgli frowned. “I am not afraid of Shere Khan, but Tabaqui is very cunning.”

“Have no fear,” said Gray Brother, licking his lips a little. “I met Tabaqui in the dawn. Now he is telling all his wisdom to the kites, but he told me everything before I broke his back. Shere Khan’s plan is to wait for thee at the village gate this evening–for thee and for no one else. He is lying up now, in the big dry ravine of the Waingunga.”

“Has he eaten today, or does he hunt empty?” said Mowgli, for the answer meant life and death to him.

“He killed at dawn,–a pig,–and he has drunk too. Remember, Shere Khan could never fast, even for the sake of revenge.”

“Oh! Fool, fool! What a cub’s cub it is! Eaten and drunk too, and he thinks that I shall wait till he has slept! Now, where does he lie up? If there were but ten of us we might pull him down as he lies. These buffaloes will not charge unless they wind him, and I cannot speak their language. Can we get behind his track so that they may smell it?”

“He swam far down the Waingunga to cut that off,” said Gray Brother.

“Tabaqui told him that, I know. He would never have thought of it alone.” Mowgli stood with his finger in his mouth, thinking. “The big ravine of the Waingunga. That opens out on the plain not half a mile from here. I can take the herd round through the jungle to the head of the ravine and then sweep down –but he would slink out at the foot. We must block that end. Gray Brother, canst thou cut the herd in two for me?”

“Not I, perhaps–but I have brought a wise helper.” Gray Brother trotted off and dropped into a hole. Then there lifted up a huge gray head that Mowgli knew well, and the hot air was filled with the most desolate cry of all the jungle–the hunting howl of a wolf at midday.

“Akela! Akela!” said Mowgli, clapping his hands. “I might have known that thou wouldst not forget me. We have a big work in hand. Cut the herd in two, Akela. Keep the cows and calves together, and the bulls and the plow buffaloes by themselves.”

The two wolves ran, ladies’-chain fashion, in and out of the herd, which snorted and threw up its head, and separated into two clumps. In one, the cow-buffaloes stood with their calves in the center, and glared and pawed, ready, if a wolf would only stay still, to charge down and trample the life out of him. In the other, the bulls and the young bulls snorted and stamped, but though they looked more imposing they were much less dangerous, for they had no calves to protect. No six men could have divided the herd so neatly.

“What orders!” panted Akela. “They are trying to join again.”

Mowgli slipped on to Rama’s back. “Drive the bulls away to the left, Akela. Gray Brother, when we are gone, hold the cows together, and drive them into the foot of the ravine.”

“How far?” said Gray Brother, panting and snapping.

“Till the sides are higher than Shere Khan can jump,” shouted Mowgli. “Keep them there till we come down.” The bulls swept off as Akela bayed, and Gray Brother stopped in front of the cows. They charged down on him, and he ran just before them to the foot of the ravine, as Akela drove the bulls far to the left.

“Well done! Another charge and they are fairly started. Careful, now–careful, Akela. A snap too much and the bulls will charge. Hujah! This is wilder work than driving black-buck. Didst thou think these creatures could move so swiftly?” Mowgli called.

“I have–have hunted these too in my time,” gasped Akela in the dust. “Shall I turn them into the jungle?”

“Ay! Turn. Swiftly turn them! Rama is mad with rage. Oh, if I could only tell him what I need of him to-day.”

The bulls were turned, to the right this time, and crashed into the standing thicket. The other herd children, watching with the cattle half a mile away, hurried to the village as fast as their legs could carry them, crying that the buffaloes had gone mad and run away.

But Mowgli’s plan was simple enough. All he wanted to do was to make a big circle uphill and get at the head of the ravine, and then take the bulls down it and catch Shere Khan between the bulls and the cows; for he knew that after a meal and a full drink Shere Khan would not be in any condition to fight or to clamber up the sides of the ravine. He was soothing the buffaloes now by voice, and Akela had dropped far to the rear, only whimpering once or twice to hurry the rear-guard. It was a long, long circle, for they did not wish to get too near the ravine and give Shere Khan warning. At last Mowgli rounded up the bewildered herd at the head of the ravine on a grassy patch that sloped steeply down to the ravine itself. From that height you could see across the tops of the trees down to the plain below; but what Mowgli looked at was the sides of the ravine, and he saw with a great deal of satisfaction that they ran nearly straight up and down, while the vines and creepers that hung over them would give no foothold to a tiger who wanted to get out.

“Let them breathe, Akela,” he said, holding up his hand. “They have not winded him yet. Let them breathe. I must tell Shere Khan who comes. We have him in the trap.”

He put his hands to his mouth and shouted down the ravine– it was almost like shouting down a tunnel–and the echoes jumped from rock to rock.

After a long time there came back the drawling, sleepy snarl of a full-fed tiger just wakened.

“Who calls?” said Shere Khan, and a splendid peacock fluttered up out of the ravine screeching.

“I, Mowgli. Cattle thief, it is time to come to the Council Rock! Down–hurry them down, Akela! Down, Rama, down!”

The herd paused for an instant at the edge of the slope, but Akela gave tongue in the full hunting-yell, and they pitched over one after the other, just as steamers shoot rapids, the sand and stones spurting up round them. Once started, there was no chance of stopping, and before they were fairly in the bed of the ravine Rama winded Shere Khan and bellowed.

“Ha! Ha!” said Mowgli, on his back. “Now thou knowest!” and the torrent of black horns, foaming muzzles, and staring eyes whirled down the ravine just as boulders go down in floodtime; the weaker buffaloes being shouldered out to the sides of the ravine where they tore through the creepers. They knew what the business was before them–the terrible charge of the buffalo herd against which no tiger can hope to stand. Shere Khan heard the thunder of their hoofs, picked himself up, and lumbered down the ravine, looking from side to side for some way of escape, but the walls of the ravine were straight and he had to hold on, heavy with his dinner and his drink, willing to do anything rather than fight. The herd splashed through the pool he had just left, bellowing till the narrow cut rang. Mowgli heard an answering bellow from the foot of the ravine, saw Shere Khan turn (the tiger knew if the worst came to the worst it was better to meet the bulls than the cows with their calves), and then Rama tripped, stumbled, and went on again over something soft, and, with the bulls at his heels, crashed full into the other herd, while the weaker buffaloes were lifted clean off their feet by the shock of the meeting. That charge carried both herds out into the plain, goring and stamping and snorting. Mowgli watched his time, and slipped off Rama’s neck, laying about him right and left with his stick.

“Quick, Akela! Break them up. Scatter them, or they will be fighting one another. Drive them away, Akela. Hai, Rama! Hai, hai, hai! my children. Softly now, softly! It is all over.”

Akela and Gray Brother ran to and fro nipping the buffaloes’ legs, and though the herd wheeled once to charge up the ravine again, Mowgli managed to turn Rama, and the others followed him to the wallows.

Shere Khan needed no more trampling. He was dead, and the kites were coming for him already.

“Brothers, that was a dog’s death,” said Mowgli, feeling for the knife he always carried in a sheath round his neck now that he lived with men. “But he would never have shown fight. His hide will look well on the Council Rock. We must get to work swiftly.”

A boy trained among men would never have dreamed of skinning a ten-foot tiger alone, but Mowgli knew better than anyone else how an animal’s skin is fitted on, and how it can be taken off. But it was hard work, and Mowgli slashed and tore and grunted for an hour, while the wolves lolled out their tongues, or came forward and tugged as he ordered them. Presently a hand fell on his shoulder, and looking up he saw Buldeo with the Tower musket. The children had told the village about the buffalo stampede, and Buldeo went out angrily, only too anxious to correct Mowgli for not taking better care of the herd. The wolves dropped out of sight as soon as they saw the man coming.

“What is this folly?” said Buldeo angrily. “To think that thou canst skin a tiger! Where did the buffaloes kill him? It is the Lame Tiger too, and there is a hundred rupees on his head. Well, well, we will overlook thy letting the herd run off, and perhaps I will give thee one of the rupees of the reward when I have taken the skin to Khanhiwara.” He fumbled in his waist cloth for flint and steel, and stooped down to singe Shere Khan’s whiskers. Most native hunters always singe a tiger’s whiskers to prevent his ghost from haunting them.

“Hum!” said Mowgli, half to himself as he ripped back the skin of a forepaw. “So thou wilt take the hide to Khanhiwara for the reward, and perhaps give me one rupee? Now it is in my mind that I need the skin for my own use. Heh! Old man, take away that fire!”

“What talk is this to the chief hunter of the village? Thy luck and the stupidity of thy buffaloes have helped thee to this kill. The tiger has just fed, or he would have gone twenty miles by this time. Thou canst not even skin him properly, little beggar brat, and forsooth I, Buldeo, must be told not to singe his whiskers. Mowgli, I will not give thee one anna of the reward, but only a very big beating. Leave the carcass!”

“By the Bull that bought me,” said Mowgli, who was trying to get at the shoulder, “must I stay babbling to an old ape all noon? Here, Akela, this man plagues me.”

Buldeo, who was still stooping over Shere Khan’s head, found himself sprawling on the grass, with a gray wolf standing over him, while Mowgli went on skinning as though he were alone in all India.

“Ye-es,” he said, between his teeth. “Thou art altogether right, Buldeo. Thou wilt never give me one anna of the reward. There is an old war between this lame tiger and myself–a very old war, and–I have won.”

To do Buldeo justice, if he had been ten years younger he would have taken his chance with Akela had he met the wolf in the woods, but a wolf who obeyed the orders of this boy who had private wars with man-eating tigers was not a common animal. It was sorcery, magic of the worst kind, thought Buldeo, and he wondered whether the amulet round his neck would protect him. He lay as still as still, expecting every minute to see Mowgli turn into a tiger too.

“Maharaj! Great King,” he said at last in a husky whisper.

“Yes,” said Mowgli, without turning his head, chuckling a little.

“I am an old man. I did not know that thou wast anything more than a herdsboy. May I rise up and go away, or will thy servant tear me to pieces?”

“Go, and peace go with thee. Only, another time do not meddle with my game. Let him go, Akela.”

Buldeo hobbled away to the village as fast as he could, looking back over his shoulder in case Mowgli should change into something terrible. When he got to the village he told a tale of magic and enchantment and sorcery that made the priest look very grave.

Mowgli went on with his work, but it was nearly twilight before he and the wolves had drawn the great gay skin clear of the body.

“Now we must hide this and take the buffaloes home! Help me to herd them, Akela.”

The herd rounded up in the misty twilight, and when they got near the village Mowgli saw lights, and heard the conches and bells in the temple blowing and banging. Half the village seemed to be waiting for him by the gate. “That is because I have killed Shere Khan,” he said to himself. But a shower of stones whistled about his ears, and the villagers shouted: “Sorcerer! Wolf’s brat! Jungle demon! Go away! Get hence quickly or the priest will turn thee into a wolf again. Shoot, Buldeo, shoot!”

The old Tower musket went off with a bang, and a young buffalo bellowed in pain.

“More sorcery!” shouted the villagers. “He can turn bullets. Buldeo, that was thy buffalo.”

“Now what is this?” said Mowgli, bewildered, as the stones flew thicker.

“They are not unlike the Pack, these brothers of thine,” said Akela, sitting down composedly. “It is in my head that, if bullets mean anything, they would cast thee out.”

“Wolf! Wolf’s cub! Go away!” shouted the priest, waving a sprig of the sacred tulsi plant.

“Again? Last time it was because I was a man. This time it is because I am a wolf. Let us go, Akela.”

A woman–it was Messua–ran across to the herd, and cried: “Oh, my son, my son! They say thou art a sorcerer who can turn himself into a beast at will. I do not believe, but go away or they will kill thee. Buldeo says thou art a wizard, but I know thou hast avenged Nathoo’s death.”

“Come back, Messua!” shouted the crowd. “Come back, or we will stone thee.”

Mowgli laughed a little short ugly laugh, for a stone had hit him in the mouth. “Run back, Messua. This is one of the foolish tales they tell under the big tree at dusk. I have at least paid for thy son’s life. Farewell; and run quickly, for I shall send the herd in more swiftly than their brickbats. I am no wizard, Messua. Farewell!”

“Now, once more, Akela,” he cried. “Bring the herd in.”

The buffaloes were anxious enough to get to the village. They hardly needed Akela’s yell, but charged through the gate like a whirlwind, scattering the crowd right and left.

“Keep count!” shouted Mowgli scornfully. “It may be that I have stolen one of them. Keep count, for I will do your herding no more. Fare you well, children of men, and thank Messua that I do not come in with my wolves and hunt you up and down your street.”

He turned on his heel and walked away with the Lone Wolf, and as he looked up at the stars he felt happy. “No more sleeping in traps for me, Akela. Let us get Shere Khan’s skin and go away. No, we will not hurt the village, for Messua was kind to me.”

When the moon rose over the plain, making it look all milky, the horrified villagers saw Mowgli, with two wolves at his heels and a bundle on his head, trotting across at the steady wolf’s trot that eats up the long miles like fire. Then they banged the temple bells and blew the conches louder than ever. And Messua cried, and Buldeo embroidered the story of his adventures in the jungle, till he ended by saying that Akela stood up on his hind legs and talked like a man.

The moon was just going down when Mowgli and the two wolves came to the hill of the Council Rock, and they stopped at Mother Wolf’s cave.

“They have cast me out from the Man-Pack, Mother,” shouted Mowgli, “but I come with the hide of Shere Khan to keep my word.”

Mother Wolf walked stiffly from the cave with the cubs behind her, and her eyes glowed as she saw the skin.

“I told him on that day, when he crammed his head and shoulders into this cave, hunting for thy life, Little Frog–I told him that the hunter would be the hunted. It is well done.”

“Little Brother, it is well done,” said a deep voice in the thicket. “We were lonely in the jungle without thee, and Bagheera came running to Mowgli’s bare feet. They clambered up the Council Rock together, and Mowgli spread the skin out on the flat stone where Akela used to sit, and pegged it down with four slivers of bamboo, and Akela lay down upon it, and called the old call to the Council, “Look–look well, O Wolves,” exactly as he had called when Mowgli was first brought there.

Ever since Akela had been deposed, the Pack had been without a leader, hunting and fighting at their own pleasure. But they answered the call from habit; and some of them were lame from the traps they had fallen into, and some limped from shot wounds, and some were mangy from eating bad food, and many were missing. But they came to the Council Rock, all that were left of them, and saw Shere Khan’s striped hide on the rock, and the huge claws dangling at the end of the empty dangling feet. It was then that Mowgli made up a song that came up into his throat all by itself, and he shouted it aloud, leaping up and down on the rattling skin, and beating time with his heels till he had no more breath left, while Gray Brother and Akela howled between the verses.

“Look well, O Wolves. Have I kept my word?” said Mowgli. And the wolves bayed “Yes,” and one tattered wolf howled:

“Lead us again, O Akela. Lead us again, O Man-cub, for we be sick of this lawlessness, and we would be the Free People once more.”

“Nay,” purred Bagheera, “that may not be. When ye are full-fed, the madness may come upon you again. Not for nothing are ye called the Free People. Ye fought for freedom, and it is yours. Eat it, O Wolves.”

“Man-Pack and Wolf-Pack have cast me out,” said Mowgli. “Now I will hunt alone in the jungle.”

“And we will hunt with thee,” said the four cubs.

So Mowgli went away and hunted with the four cubs in the jungle from that day on. But he was not always alone, because, years afterward, he became a man and married.

But that is a story for grown-ups.

 

Here’s some more Jungle Book for you! It’s been a while since I posted Kipling … I think I’ll begin posting more from Carroll soon too. For fairy tale updates every Wednesday and Saturday, follow this blog! See you on Wednesday!

Rudyard Kipling’s “Road-Song of the Bandar-Log”

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Here we go in a flung festoon,
Half-way up to the jealous moon!
Don’t you envy our pranceful bands?
Don’t you wish you had extra hands?
Wouldn’t you like if your tails were–so–
Curved in the shape of a Cupid’s bow?
Now you’re angry, but–never mind,
Brother, thy tail hangs down behind!

 
Here we sit in a branchy row,
Thinking of beautiful things we know;
Dreaming of deeds that we mean to do,
All complete, in a minute or two–
Something noble and wise and good,
Done by merely wishing we could.
We’ve forgotten, but–never mind,
Brother, thy tail hangs down behind!

 
All the talk we ever have heard
Uttered by bat or beast or bird–
Hide or fin or scale or feather–
Jabber it quickly and all together!
Excellent! Wonderful! Once again!

 
Now we are talking just like men!
Let’s pretend we are … never mind,
Brother, thy tail hangs down behind!
This is the way of the Monkey-kind.

 

Then join our leaping lines that scumfish through the pines,
That rocket by where, light and high, the wild grape swings.
By the rubbish in our wake, and the noble noise we make,
Be sure, be sure, we’re going to do some splendid things!

 

Ah! I’m late again with my post! I’ve very sorry for the slight delay–as I’ve said in my previous post, I’ve been working on The Prince of Prophecy Vol. I: Destined, trying to ready it for its June 21st eBook release. This blog should be back to its regular Wednesday/Saturday Schedule in a couple of weeks.

I hope you enjoyed Rudyard Kipling’s “Road-Song of the Bandar-Log”! Follow this blog for fairy-tale/classic literature updates every Wednesday and Saturday!

Rudyard Kipling’s “Hunting Song of the Seeonee Pack”

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As the dawn was breaking the Sambhur belled

           Once, twice and again!

And a doe leaped up, and a doe leaped up

From the pond in the wood where the wild deer sup.

This I, scouting alone, beheld,

            Once, twice and again!

As the dawn was breaking the Sambhur belled

            Once, twice and again!

And a wolf stole back, and a wolf stole back

To carry the word to the waiting pack,

And we sought and we found and we bayed on his track

            Once, twice and again!

As the dawn was breaking the Wolf Pack yelled

            Once, twice and again!

Feet in the jungle that leave no mark!

Eyes that can see in the dark—the dark!

Tongue—give tongue to it! Hark! O hark!

            Once, twice and again!

For those of you who don’t already know, this poem is from Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Books. I thought a poem would be a nice change of pace and a great way to honor the great Maya Angelou (one of my favorite poets) who died today. 

Follow this blog for fairy tale/classic literature updates and information on my new book The Prince of Prophecy Vol. I: Destined, every Wednesday and Saturday!

Rudyard Kipling’s “Mowgli’s Brothers”

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Now Rann the Kite brings home the night
      That Mang the Bat sets free--
   The herds are shut in byre and hut
      For loosed till dawn are we.
   This is the hour of pride and power,
      Talon and tush and claw.
   Oh, hear the call!--Good hunting all
      That keep the Jungle Law!
   Night-Song in the Jungle

It was seven o’clock of a very warm evening in the Seeonee hills when Father Wolf woke up from his day’s rest, scratched himself, yawned, and spread out his paws one after the other to get rid of the sleepy feeling in their tips. Mother Wolf lay with her big gray nose dropped across her four tumbling, squealing cubs, and the moon shone into the mouth of the cave where they all lived. “Augrh!” said Father Wolf. “It is time to hunt again.” He was going to spring down hill when a little shadow with a bushy tail crossed the threshold and whined: “Good luck go with you, O Chief of the Wolves. And good luck and strong white teeth go with noble children that they may never forget the hungry in this world.”

It was the jackal–Tabaqui, the Dish-licker–and the wolves of India despise Tabaqui because he runs about making mischief, and telling tales, and eating rags and pieces of leather from the village rubbish-heaps. But they are afraid of him too, because Tabaqui, more than anyone else in the jungle, is apt to go mad, and then he forgets that he was ever afraid of anyone, and runs through the forest biting everything in his way. Even the tiger runs and hides when little Tabaqui goes mad, for madness is the most disgraceful thing that can overtake a wild creature. We call it hydrophobia, but they call it dewanee–the madness– and run.

“Enter, then, and look,” said Father Wolf stiffly, “but there is no food here.”

“For a wolf, no,” said Tabaqui, “but for so mean a person as myself a dry bone is a good feast. Who are we, the Gidur-log [the jackal people], to pick and choose?” He scuttled to the back of the cave, where he found the bone of a buck with some meat on it, and sat cracking the end merrily.

“All thanks for this good meal,” he said, licking his lips. “How beautiful are the noble children! How large are their eyes! And so young too! Indeed, indeed, I might have remembered that the children of kings are men from the beginning.”

Now, Tabaqui knew as well as anyone else that there is nothing so unlucky as to compliment children to their faces. It pleased him to see Mother and Father Wolf look uncomfortable.

Tabaqui sat still, rejoicing in the mischief that he had made, and then he said spitefully:

“Shere Khan, the Big One, has shifted his hunting grounds. He will hunt among these hills for the next moon, so he has told me.”

Shere Khan was the tiger who lived near the Waingunga River, twenty miles away.

“He has no right!” Father Wolf began angrily–“By the Law of the Jungle he has no right to change his quarters without due warning. He will frighten every head of game within ten miles, and I–I have to kill for two, these days.”

“His mother did not call him Lungri [the Lame One] for nothing,” said Mother Wolf quietly. “He has been lame in one foot from his birth. That is why he has only killed cattle. Now the villagers of the Waingunga are angry with him, and he has come here to make our villagers angry. They will scour the jungle for him when he is far away, and we and our children must run when the grass is set alight. Indeed, we are very grateful to Shere Khan!”

“Shall I tell him of your gratitude?” said Tabaqui.

“Out!” snapped Father Wolf. “Out and hunt with thy master. Thou hast done harm enough for one night.”

“I go,” said Tabaqui quietly. “Ye can hear Shere Khan below in the thickets. I might have saved myself the message.”

Father Wolf listened, and below in the valley that ran down to a little river he heard the dry, angry, snarly, singsong whine of a tiger who has caught nothing and does not care if all the jungle knows it.

“The fool!” said Father Wolf. “To begin a night’s work with that noise! Does he think that our buck are like his fat Waingunga bullocks?”

“H’sh. It is neither bullock nor buck he hunts to-night,” said Mother Wolf. “It is Man.”

The whine had changed to a sort of humming purr that seemed to come from every quarter of the compass. It was the noise that bewilders woodcutters and gypsies sleeping in the open, and makes them run sometimes into the very mouth of the tiger.

“Man!” said Father Wolf, showing all his white teeth. “Faugh! Are there not enough beetles and frogs in the tanks that he must eat Man, and on our ground too!”

The Law of the Jungle, which never orders anything without a reason, forbids every beast to eat Man except when he is killing to show his children how to kill, and then he must hunt outside the hunting grounds of his pack or tribe. The real reason for this is that man-killing means, sooner or later, the arrival of white men on elephants, with guns, and hundreds of brown men with gongs and rockets and torches. Then everybody in the jungle suffers. The reason the beasts give among themselves is that Man is the weakest and most defenseless of all living things, and it is unsportsmanlike to touch him. They say too–and it is true –that man-eaters become mangy, and lose their teeth.

The purr grew louder, and ended in the full-throated “Aaarh!” of the tiger’s charge.

Then there was a howl–an untigerish howl–from Shere Khan. “He has missed,” said Mother Wolf. “What is it?”

Father Wolf ran out a few paces and heard Shere Khan muttering and mumbling savagely as he tumbled about in the scrub.

“The fool has had no more sense than to jump at a woodcutter’s campfire, and has burned his feet,” said Father Wolf with a grunt. “Tabaqui is with him.”

“Something is coming uphill,” said Mother Wolf, twitching one ear. “Get ready.”

The bushes rustled a little in the thicket, and Father Wolf dropped with his haunches under him, ready for his leap. Then, if you had been watching, you would have seen the most wonderful thing in the world–the wolf checked in mid-spring. He made his bound before he saw what it was he was jumping at, and then he tried to stop himself. The result was that he shot up straight into the air for four or five feet, landing almost where he left ground.

“Man!” he snapped. “A man’s cub. Look!”

Directly in front of him, holding on by a low branch, stood a naked brown baby who could just walk–as soft and as dimpled a little atom as ever came to a wolf’s cave at night. He looked up into Father Wolf’s face, and laughed.

“Is that a man’s cub?” said Mother Wolf. “I have never seen one. Bring it here.”

A Wolf accustomed to moving his own cubs can, if necessary, mouth an egg without breaking it, and though Father Wolf’s jaws closed right on the child’s back not a tooth even scratched the skin as he laid it down among the cubs.

“How little! How naked, and–how bold!” said Mother Wolf softly. The baby was pushing his way between the cubs to get close to the warm hide. “Ahai! He is taking his meal with the others. And so this is a man’s cub. Now, was there ever a wolf that could boast of a man’s cub among her children?”

“I have heard now and again of such a thing, but never in our Pack or in my time,” said Father Wolf. “He is altogether without hair, and I could kill him with a touch of my foot. But see, he looks up and is not afraid.”

The moonlight was blocked out of the mouth of the cave, for Shere Khan’s great square head and shoulders were thrust into the entrance. Tabaqui, behind him, was squeaking: “My lord, my lord, it went in here!”

“Shere Khan does us great honor,” said Father Wolf, but his eyes were very angry. “What does Shere Khan need?”

“My quarry. A man’s cub went this way,” said Shere Khan. “Its parents have run off. Give it to me.”

Shere Khan had jumped at a woodcutter’s campfire, as Father Wolf had said, and was furious from the pain of his burned feet. But Father Wolf knew that the mouth of the cave was too narrow for a tiger to come in by. Even where he was, Shere Khan’s shoulders and forepaws were cramped for want of room, as a man’s would be if he tried to fight in a barrel.

“The Wolves are a free people,” said Father Wolf. “They take orders from the Head of the Pack, and not from any striped cattle-killer. The man’s cub is ours–to kill if we choose.”

“Ye choose and ye do not choose! What talk is this of choosing? By the bull that I killed, am I to stand nosing into your dog’s den for my fair dues? It is I, Shere Khan, who speak!”

The tiger’s roar filled the cave with thunder. Mother Wolf shook herself clear of the cubs and sprang forward, her eyes, like two green moons in the darkness, facing the blazing eyes of Shere Khan.

“And it is I, Raksha [The Demon], who answers. The man’s cub is mine, Lungri–mine to me! He shall not be killed. He shall live to run with the Pack and to hunt with the Pack; and in the end, look you, hunter of little naked cubs–frog-eater– fish-killer–he shall hunt thee! Now get hence, or by the Sambhur that I killed (I eat no starved cattle), back thou goest to thy mother, burned beast of the jungle, lamer than ever thou camest into the world! Go!”

Father Wolf looked on amazed. He had almost forgotten the days when he won Mother Wolf in fair fight from five other wolves, when she ran in the Pack and was not called The Demon for compliment’s sake. Shere Khan might have faced Father Wolf, but he could not stand up against Mother Wolf, for he knew that where he was she had all the advantage of the ground, and would fight to the death. So he backed out of the cave mouth growling, and when he was clear he shouted:

“Each dog barks in his own yard! We will see what the Pack will say to this fostering of man-cubs. The cub is mine, and to my teeth he will come in the end, O bush-tailed thieves!”

Mother Wolf threw herself down panting among the cubs, and Father Wolf said to her gravely:

“Shere Khan speaks this much truth. The cub must be shown to the Pack. Wilt thou still keep him, Mother?”

“Keep him!” she gasped. “He came naked, by night, alone and very hungry; yet he was not afraid! Look, he has pushed one of my babes to one side already. And that lame butcher would have killed him and would have run off to the Waingunga while the villagers here hunted through all our lairs in revenge! Keep him? Assuredly I will keep him. Lie still, little frog. O thou Mowgli –for Mowgli the Frog I will call thee–the time will come when thou wilt hunt Shere Khan as he has hunted thee.”

“But what will our Pack say?” said Father Wolf.

The Law of the Jungle lays down very clearly that any wolf may, when he marries, withdraw from the Pack he belongs to. But as soon as his cubs are old enough to stand on their feet he must bring them to the Pack Council, which is generally held once a month at full moon, in order that the other wolves may identify them. After that inspection the cubs are free to run where they please, and until they have killed their first buck no excuse is accepted if a grown wolf of the Pack kills one of them. The punishment is death where the murderer can be found; and if you think for a minute you will see that this must be so.

Father Wolf waited till his cubs could run a little, and then on the night of the Pack Meeting took them and Mowgli and Mother Wolf to the Council Rock–a hilltop covered with stones and boulders where a hundred wolves could hide. Akela, the great gray Lone Wolf, who led all the Pack by strength and cunning, lay out at full length on his rock, and below him sat forty or more wolves of every size and color, from badger-colored veterans who could handle a buck alone to young black three-year-olds who thought they could. The Lone Wolf had led them for a year now. He had fallen twice into a wolf trap in his youth, and once he had been beaten and left for dead; so he knew the manners and customs of men. There was very little talking at the Rock. The cubs tumbled over each other in the center of the circle where their mothers and fathers sat, and now and again a senior wolf would go quietly up to a cub, look at him carefully, and return to his place on noiseless feet. Sometimes a mother would push her cub far out into the moonlight to be sure that he had not been overlooked. Akela from his rock would cry: “Ye know the Law–ye know the Law. Look well, O Wolves!” And the anxious mothers would take up the call: “Look–look well, O Wolves!”

At last–and Mother Wolf’s neck bristles lifted as the time came–Father Wolf pushed “Mowgli the Frog,” as they called him, into the center, where he sat laughing and playing with some pebbles that glistened in the moonlight.

Akela never raised his head from his paws, but went on with the monotonous cry: “Look well!” A muffled roar came up from behind the rocks–the voice of Shere Khan crying: “The cub is mine. Give him to me. What have the Free People to do with a man’s cub?” Akela never even twitched his ears. All he said was: “Look well, O Wolves! What have the Free People to do with the orders of any save the Free People? Look well!”

There was a chorus of deep growls, and a young wolf in his fourth year flung back Shere Khan’s question to Akela: “What have the Free People to do with a man’s cub?” Now, the Law of the Jungle lays down that if there is any dispute as to the right of a cub to be accepted by the Pack, he must be spoken for by at least two members of the Pack who are not his father and mother.

“Who speaks for this cub?” said Akela. “Among the Free People who speaks?” There was no answer and Mother Wolf got ready for what she knew would be her last fight, if things came to fighting.

Then the only other creature who is allowed at the Pack Council–Baloo, the sleepy brown bear who teaches the wolf cubs the Law of the Jungle: old Baloo, who can come and go where he pleases because he eats only nuts and roots and honey–rose upon his hind quarters and grunted.

“The man’s cub–the man’s cub?” he said. “I speak for the man’s cub. There is no harm in a man’s cub. I have no gift of words, but I speak the truth. Let him run with the Pack, and be entered with the others. I myself will teach him.”

“We need yet another,” said Akela. “Baloo has spoken, and he is our teacher for the young cubs. Who speaks besides Baloo?”

A black shadow dropped down into the circle. It was Bagheera the Black Panther, inky black all over, but with the panther markings showing up in certain lights like the pattern of watered silk. Everybody knew Bagheera, and nobody cared to cross his path; for he was as cunning as Tabaqui, as bold as the wild buffalo, and as reckless as the wounded elephant. But he had a voice as soft as wild honey dripping from a tree, and a skin softer than down.

“O Akela, and ye the Free People,” he purred, “I have no right in your assembly, but the Law of the Jungle says that if there is a doubt which is not a killing matter in regard to a new cub, the life of that cub may be bought at a price. And the Law does not say who may or may not pay that price. Am I right?”

“Good! Good!” said the young wolves, who are always hungry. “Listen to Bagheera. The cub can be bought for a price. It is the Law.”

“Knowing that I have no right to speak here, I ask your leave.”

“Speak then,” cried twenty voices.

“To kill a naked cub is shame. Besides, he may make better sport for you when he is grown. Baloo has spoken in his behalf. Now to Baloo’s word I will add one bull, and a fat one, newly killed, not half a mile from here, if ye will accept the man’s cub according to the Law. Is it difficult?”

There was a clamor of scores of voices, saying: “What matter? He will die in the winter rains. He will scorch in the sun. What harm can a naked frog do us? Let him run with the Pack. Where is the bull, Bagheera? Let him be accepted.” And then came Akela’s deep bay, crying: “Look well–look well, O Wolves!”

Mowgli was still deeply interested in the pebbles, and he did not notice when the wolves came and looked at him one by one. At last they all went down the hill for the dead bull, and only Akela, Bagheera, Baloo, and Mowgli’s own wolves were left. Shere Khan roared still in the night, for he was very angry that Mowgli had not been handed over to him.

“Ay, roar well,” said Bagheera, under his whiskers, “for the time will come when this naked thing will make thee roar to another tune, or I know nothing of man.”

“It was well done,” said Akela. “Men and their cubs are very wise. He may be a help in time.”

“Truly, a help in time of need; for none can hope to lead the Pack forever,” said Bagheera.

Akela said nothing. He was thinking of the time that comes to every leader of every pack when his strength goes from him and he gets feebler and feebler, till at last he is killed by the wolves and a new leader comes up–to be killed in his turn.

“Take him away,” he said to Father Wolf, “and train him as befits one of the Free People.”

And that is how Mowgli was entered into the Seeonee Wolf Pack for the price of a bull and on Baloo’s good word.

Now you must be content to skip ten or eleven whole years, and only guess at all the wonderful life that Mowgli led among the wolves, because if it were written out it would fill ever so many books. He grew up with the cubs, though they, of course, were grown wolves almost before he was a child. And Father Wolf taught him his business, and the meaning of things in the jungle, till every rustle in the grass, every breath of the warm night air, every note of the owls above his head, every scratch of a bat’s claws as it roosted for a while in a tree, and every splash of every little fish jumping in a pool meant just as much to him as the work of his office means to a business man. When he was not learning he sat out in the sun and slept, and ate and went to sleep again. When he felt dirty or hot he swam in the forest pools; and when he wanted honey (Baloo told him that honey and nuts were just as pleasant to eat as raw meat) he climbed up for it, and that Bagheera showed him how to do. Bagheera would lie out on a branch and call, “Come along, Little Brother,” and at first Mowgli would cling like the sloth, but afterward he would fling himself through the branches almost as boldly as the gray ape. He took his place at the Council Rock, too, when the Pack met, and there he discovered that if he stared hard at any wolf, the wolf would be forced to drop his eyes, and so he used to stare for fun. At other times he would pick the long thorns out of the pads of his friends, for wolves suffer terribly from thorns and burs in their coats. He would go down the hillside into the cultivated lands by night, and look very curiously at the villagers in their huts, but he had a mistrust of men because Bagheera showed him a square box with a drop gate so cunningly hidden in the jungle that he nearly walked into it, and told him that it was a trap. He loved better than anything else to go with Bagheera into the dark warm heart of the forest, to sleep all through the drowsy day, and at night see how Bagheera did his killing. Bagheera killed right and left as he felt hungry, and so did Mowgli–with one exception. As soon as he was old enough to understand things, Bagheera told him that he must never touch cattle because he had been bought into the Pack at the price of a bull’s life. “All the jungle is thine,” said Bagheera, “and thou canst kill everything that thou art strong enough to kill; but for the sake of the bull that bought thee thou must never kill or eat any cattle young or old. That is the Law of the Jungle.” Mowgli obeyed faithfully.

And he grew and grew strong as a boy must grow who does not know that he is learning any lessons, and who has nothing in the world to think of except things to eat.

Mother Wolf told him once or twice that Shere Khan was not a creature to be trusted, and that some day he must kill Shere Khan. But though a young wolf would have remembered that advice every hour, Mowgli forgot it because he was only a boy–though he would have called himself a wolf if he had been able to speak in any human tongue.

Shere Khan was always crossing his path in the jungle, for as Akela grew older and feebler the lame tiger had come to be great friends with the younger wolves of the Pack, who followed him for scraps, a thing Akela would never have allowed if he had dared to push his authority to the proper bounds. Then Shere Khan would flatter them and wonder that such fine young hunters were content to be led by a dying wolf and a man’s cub. “They tell me,” Shere Khan would say, “that at Council ye dare not look him between the eyes.” And the young wolves would growl and bristle.

Bagheera, who had eyes and ears everywhere, knew something of this, and once or twice he told Mowgli in so many words that Shere Khan would kill him some day. Mowgli would laugh and answer: “I have the Pack and I have thee; and Baloo, though he is so lazy, might strike a blow or two for my sake. Why should I be afraid?”

It was one very warm day that a new notion came to Bagheera– born of something that he had heard. Perhaps Ikki the Porcupine had told him; but he said to Mowgli when they were deep in the jungle, as the boy lay with his head on Bagheera’s beautiful black skin, “Little Brother, how often have I told thee that Shere Khan is thy enemy?”

“As many times as there are nuts on that palm,” said Mowgli, who, naturally, could not count. “What of it? I am sleepy, Bagheera, and Shere Khan is all long tail and loud talk–like Mao, the Peacock.”

“But this is no time for sleeping. Baloo knows it; I know it; the Pack know it; and even the foolish, foolish deer know. Tabaqui has told thee too.”

“Ho! ho!” said Mowgli. “Tabaqui came to me not long ago with some rude talk that I was a naked man’s cub and not fit to dig pig-nuts. But I caught Tabaqui by the tail and swung him twice against a palm-tree to teach him better manners.”

“That was foolishness, for though Tabaqui is a mischief-maker, he would have told thee of something that concerned thee closely. Open those eyes, Little Brother. Shere Khan dare not kill thee in the jungle. But remember, Akela is very old, and soon the day comes when he cannot kill his buck, and then he will be leader no more. Many of the wolves that looked thee over when thou wast brought to the Council first are old too, and the young wolves believe, as Shere Khan has taught them, that a man-cub has no place with the Pack. In a little time thou wilt be a man.”

“And what is a man that he should not run with his brothers?” said Mowgli. “I was born in the jungle. I have obeyed the Law of the Jungle, and there is no wolf of ours from whose paws I have not pulled a thorn. Surely they are my brothers!”

Bagheera stretched himself at full length and half shut his eyes. “Little Brother,” said he, “feel under my jaw.”

Mowgli put up his strong brown hand, and just under Bagheera’s silky chin, where the giant rolling muscles were all hid by the glossy hair, he came upon a little bald spot.

“There is no one in the jungle that knows that I, Bagheera, carry that mark–the mark of the collar; and yet, Little Brother, I was born among men, and it was among men that my mother died–in the cages of the king’s palace at Oodeypore. It was because of this that I paid the price for thee at the Council when thou wast a little naked cub. Yes, I too was born among men. I had never seen the jungle. They fed me behind bars from an iron pan till one night I felt that I was Bagheera–the Panther– and no man’s plaything, and I broke the silly lock with one blow of my paw and came away. And because I had learned the ways of men, I became more terrible in the jungle than Shere Khan. Is it not so?”

“Yes,” said Mowgli, “all the jungle fear Bagheera–all except Mowgli.”

“Oh, thou art a man’s cub,” said the Black Panther very tenderly. “And even as I returned to my jungle, so thou must go back to men at last–to the men who are thy brothers–if thou art not killed in the Council.”

“But why–but why should any wish to kill me?” said Mowgli.

“Look at me,” said Bagheera. And Mowgli looked at him steadily between the eyes. The big panther turned his head away in half a minute.

“That is why,” he said, shifting his paw on the leaves. “Not even I can look thee between the eyes, and I was born among men, and I love thee, Little Brother. The others they hate thee because their eyes cannot meet thine; because thou art wise; because thou hast pulled out thorns from their feet–because thou art a man.”

“I did not know these things,” said Mowgli sullenly, and he frowned under his heavy black eyebrows.

“What is the Law of the Jungle? Strike first and then give tongue. By thy very carelessness they know that thou art a man. But be wise. It is in my heart that when Akela misses his next kill–and at each hunt it costs him more to pin the buck–the Pack will turn against him and against thee. They will hold a jungle Council at the Rock, and then–and then–I have it!” said Bagheera, leaping up. “Go thou down quickly to the men’s huts in the valley, and take some of the Red Flower which they grow there, so that when the time comes thou mayest have even a stronger friend than I or Baloo or those of the Pack that love thee. Get the Red Flower.”

By Red Flower Bagheera meant fire, only no creature in the jungle will call fire by its proper name. Every beast lives in deadly fear of it, and invents a hundred ways of describing it.

“The Red Flower?” said Mowgli. “That grows outside their huts in the twilight. I will get some.”

“There speaks the man’s cub,” said Bagheera proudly. “Remember that it grows in little pots. Get one swiftly, and keep it by thee for time of need.”

“Good!” said Mowgli. “I go. But art thou sure, O my Bagheera”–he slipped his arm around the splendid neck and looked deep into the big eyes–“art thou sure that all this is Shere Khan’s doing?”

“By the Broken Lock that freed me, I am sure, Little Brother.”

“Then, by the Bull that bought me, I will pay Shere Khan full tale for this, and it may be a little over,” said Mowgli, and he bounded away.

“That is a man. That is all a man,” said Bagheera to himself, lying down again. “Oh, Shere Khan, never was a blacker hunting than that frog-hunt of thine ten years ago!”

Mowgli was far and far through the forest, running hard, and his heart was hot in him. He came to the cave as the evening mist rose, and drew breath, and looked down the valley. The cubs were out, but Mother Wolf, at the back of the cave, knew by his breathing that something was troubling her frog.

“What is it, Son?” she said.

“Some bat’s chatter of Shere Khan,” he called back. “I hunt among the plowed fields tonight,” and he plunged downward through the bushes, to the stream at the bottom of the valley. There he checked, for he heard the yell of the Pack hunting, heard the bellow of a hunted Sambhur, and the snort as the buck turned at bay. Then there were wicked, bitter howls from the young wolves: “Akela! Akela! Let the Lone Wolf show his strength. Room for the leader of the Pack! Spring, Akela!”

The Lone Wolf must have sprung and missed his hold, for Mowgli heard the snap of his teeth and then a yelp as the Sambhur knocked him over with his forefoot.

He did not wait for anything more, but dashed on; and the yells grew fainter behind him as he ran into the croplands where the villagers lived.

“Bagheera spoke truth,” he panted, as he nestled down in some cattle fodder by the window of a hut. “To-morrow is one day both for Akela and for me.”

Then he pressed his face close to the window and watched the fire on the hearth. He saw the husbandman’s wife get up and feed it in the night with black lumps. And when the morning came and the mists were all white and cold, he saw the man’s child pick up a wicker pot plastered inside with earth, fill it with lumps of red-hot charcoal, put it under his blanket, and go out to tend the cows in the byre.

“Is that all?” said Mowgli. “If a cub can do it, there is nothing to fear.” So he strode round the corner and met the boy, took the pot from his hand, and disappeared into the mist while the boy howled with fear.

“They are very like me,” said Mowgli, blowing into the pot as he had seen the woman do. “This thing will die if I do not give it things to eat”; and he dropped twigs and dried bark on the red stuff. Halfway up the hill he met Bagheera with the morning dew shining like moonstones on his coat.

“Akela has missed,” said the Panther. “They would have killed him last night, but they needed thee also. They were looking for thee on the hill.”

“I was among the plowed lands. I am ready. See!” Mowgli held up the fire-pot.

“Good! Now, I have seen men thrust a dry branch into that stuff, and presently the Red Flower blossomed at the end of it. Art thou not afraid?”

“No. Why should I fear? I remember now–if it is not a dream–how, before I was a Wolf, I lay beside the Red Flower, and it was warm and pleasant.”

All that day Mowgli sat in the cave tending his fire pot and dipping dry branches into it to see how they looked. He found a branch that satisfied him, and in the evening when Tabaqui came to the cave and told him rudely enough that he was wanted at the Council Rock, he laughed till Tabaqui ran away. Then Mowgli went to the Council, still laughing.

Akela the Lone Wolf lay by the side of his rock as a sign that the leadership of the Pack was open, and Shere Khan with his following of scrap-fed wolves walked to and fro openly being flattered. Bagheera lay close to Mowgli, and the fire pot was between Mowgli’s knees. When they were all gathered together, Shere Khan began to speak–a thing he would never have dared to do when Akela was in his prime.

“He has no right,” whispered Bagheera. “Say so. He is a dog’s son. He will be frightened.”

Mowgli sprang to his feet. “Free People,” he cried, “does Shere Khan lead the Pack? What has a tiger to do with our leadership?”

“Seeing that the leadership is yet open, and being asked to speak–” Shere Khan began.

“By whom?” said Mowgli. “Are we all jackals, to fawn on this cattle butcher? The leadership of the Pack is with the Pack alone.”

There were yells of “Silence, thou man’s cub!” “Let him speak. He has kept our Law”; and at last the seniors of the Pack thundered: “Let the Dead Wolf speak.” When a leader of the Pack has missed his kill, he is called the Dead Wolf as long as he lives, which is not long.

Akela raised his old head wearily:–

“Free People, and ye too, jackals of Shere Khan, for twelve seasons I have led ye to and from the kill, and in all that time not one has been trapped or maimed. Now I have missed my kill. Ye know how that plot was made. Ye know how ye brought me up to an untried buck to make my weakness known. It was cleverly done. Your right is to kill me here on the Council Rock, now. Therefore, I ask, who comes to make an end of the Lone Wolf? For it is my right, by the Law of the Jungle, that ye come one by one.”

There was a long hush, for no single wolf cared to fight Akela to the death. Then Shere Khan roared: “Bah! What have we to do with this toothless fool? He is doomed to die! It is the man-cub who has lived too long. Free People, he was my meat from the first. Give him to me. I am weary of this man-wolf folly. He has troubled the jungle for ten seasons. Give me the man-cub, or I will hunt here always, and not give you one bone. He is a man, a man’s child, and from the marrow of my bones I hate him!”

Then more than half the Pack yelled: “A man! A man! What has a man to do with us? Let him go to his own place.”

“And turn all the people of the villages against us?” clamored Shere Khan. “No, give him to me. He is a man, and none of us can look him between the eyes.”

Akela lifted his head again and said, “He has eaten our food. He has slept with us. He has driven game for us. He has broken no word of the Law of the Jungle.”

“Also, I paid for him with a bull when he was accepted. The worth of a bull is little, but Bagheera’s honor is something that he will perhaps fight for,” said Bagheera in his gentlest voice.

“A bull paid ten years ago!” the Pack snarled. “What do we care for bones ten years old?”

“Or for a pledge?” said Bagheera, his white teeth bared under his lip. “Well are ye called the Free People!”

“No man’s cub can run with the people of the jungle,” howled Shere Khan. “Give him to me!”

“He is our brother in all but blood,” Akela went on, “and ye would kill him here! In truth, I have lived too long. Some of ye are eaters of cattle, and of others I have heard that, under Shere Khan’s teaching, ye go by dark night and snatch children from the villager’s doorstep. Therefore I know ye to be cowards, and it is to cowards I speak. It is certain that I must die, and my life is of no worth, or I would offer that in the man-cub’s place. But for the sake of the Honor of the Pack,–a little matter that by being without a leader ye have forgotten,–I promise that if ye let the man-cub go to his own place, I will not, when my time comes to die, bare one tooth against ye. I will die without fighting. That will at least save the Pack three lives. More I cannot do; but if ye will, I can save ye the shame that comes of killing a brother against whom there is no fault–a brother spoken for and bought into the Pack according to the Law of the Jungle.”

“He is a man–a man–a man!” snarled the Pack. And most of the wolves began to gather round Shere Khan, whose tail was beginning to switch.

“Now the business is in thy hands,” said Bagheera to Mowgli. “We can do no more except fight.”

Mowgli stood upright–the fire pot in his hands. Then he stretched out his arms, and yawned in the face of the Council; but he was furious with rage and sorrow, for, wolflike, the wolves had never told him how they hated him. “Listen you!” he cried. “There is no need for this dog’s jabber. Ye have told me so often tonight that I am a man (and indeed I would have been a wolf with you to my life’s end) that I feel your words are true. So I do not call ye my brothers any more, but sag [dogs], as a man should. What ye will do, and what ye will not do, is not yours to say. That matter is with me; and that we may see the matter more plainly, I, the man, have brought here a little of the Red Flower which ye, dogs, fear.”

He flung the fire pot on the ground, and some of the red coals lit a tuft of dried moss that flared up, as all the Council drew back in terror before the leaping flames.

Mowgli thrust his dead branch into the fire till the twigs lit and crackled, and whirled it above his head among the cowering wolves.

“Thou art the master,” said Bagheera in an undertone. “Save Akela from the death. He was ever thy friend.”

Akela, the grim old wolf who had never asked for mercy in his life, gave one piteous look at Mowgli as the boy stood all naked, his long black hair tossing over his shoulders in the light of the blazing branch that made the shadows jump and quiver.

“Good!” said Mowgli, staring round slowly. “I see that ye are dogs. I go from you to my own people–if they be my own people. The jungle is shut to me, and I must forget your talk and your companionship. But I will be more merciful than ye are. Because I was all but your brother in blood, I promise that when I am a man among men I will not betray ye to men as ye have betrayed me.” He kicked the fire with his foot, and the sparks flew up. “There shall be no war between any of us in the Pack. But here is a debt to pay before I go.” He strode forward to where Shere Khan sat blinking stupidly at the flames, and caught him by the tuft on his chin. Bagheera followed in case of accidents. “Up, dog!” Mowgli cried. “Up, when a man speaks, or I will set that coat ablaze!”

Shere Khan’s ears lay flat back on his head, and he shut his eyes, for the blazing branch was very near.

“This cattle-killer said he would kill me in the Council because he had not killed me when I was a cub. Thus and thus, then, do we beat dogs when we are men. Stir a whisker, Lungri, and I ram the Red Flower down thy gullet!” He beat Shere Khan over the head with the branch, and the tiger whimpered and whined in an agony of fear.

“Pah! Singed jungle cat–go now! But remember when next I come to the Council Rock, as a man should come, it will be with Shere Khan’s hide on my head. For the rest, Akela goes free to live as he pleases. Ye will not kill him, because that is not my will. Nor do I think that ye will sit here any longer, lolling out your tongues as though ye were somebodies, instead of dogs whom I drive out–thus! Go!” The fire was burning furiously at the end of the branch, and Mowgli struck right and left round the circle, and the wolves ran howling with the sparks burning their fur. At last there were only Akela, Bagheera, and perhaps ten wolves that had taken Mowgli’s part. Then something began to hurt Mowgli inside him, as he had never been hurt in his life before, and he caught his breath and sobbed, and the tears ran down his face.

“What is it? What is it?” he said. “I do not wish to leave the jungle, and I do not know what this is. Am I dying, Bagheera?”

“No, Little Brother. That is only tears such as men use,” said Bagheera. “Now I know thou art a man, and a man’s cub no longer. The jungle is shut indeed to thee henceforward. Let them fall, Mowgli. They are only tears.” So Mowgli sat and cried as though his heart would break; and he had never cried in all his life before.

“Now,” he said, “I will go to men. But first I must say farewell to my mother.” And he went to the cave where she lived with Father Wolf, and he cried on her coat, while the four cubs howled miserably.

“Ye will not forget me?” said Mowgli.

“Never while we can follow a trail,” said the cubs. “Come to the foot of the hill when thou art a man, and we will talk to thee; and we will come into the croplands to play with thee by night.”

“Come soon!” said Father Wolf. “Oh, wise little frog, come again soon; for we be old, thy mother and I.”

“Come soon,” said Mother Wolf, “little naked son of mine. For, listen, child of man, I loved thee more than ever I loved my cubs.”

“I will surely come,” said Mowgli. “And when I come it will be to lay out Shere Khan’s hide upon the Council Rock. Do not forget me! Tell them in the jungle never to forget me!”

The dawn was beginning to break when Mowgli went down the hillside alone, to meet those mysterious things that are called men.

I decided to switch it up today with a story from The Jungle Books. Don’t worry, we’ll get back to Grimm’s and HCA really soon. I also plan on putting up some stories from The Arabian Nights eventually. I hope you enjoyed Mowgli’s Brothers and  follow this blog (if you’re not already) for more folk tales/fairy tales and updates on my new book The Prince of Prophecy Vol. I: Destined (launching June 21st)! I update this blog every Wednesday and Saturday so be sure to check back here for new posts!