I have this memory, from a long time ago. It’s me, sitting with a friend in the yard in front of my house, in my hometown.
It’s the summer of 1996 – or maybe ’97 – and we’re playing a game. We are reading two different books and we have to read everything silently, exept for the dialogue part, which we have to read out loud. It’s not a brilliant game and we get annoyed after a few lines.
A few weeks later, I’m at my great-grandmother house, lying in some weird position on the bed, reading and ignoring my grandma, who’s calling me down for lunch for the tenth time. But I can’t go. Not before I finish my book.
What’s in common between these two memories? The book I was reading: ‘The Jungle Book’.
I’ve always been kind of a fast reader, so I’ll let you picture how many times I read Kipling’s book during those three months of summer. Something like a hundred times, probably.
The jungle had become my world apart, with the wolves as my alternative family and Shere Kahn as my best enemy to defeat.
I grew to dislike monkeys – it actually took me years to get over this – and got fascinated by snakes.
And hyenas, I still can’t stand them.
Very briefly, for those of you who just landed on planet Earth and don’t know what I’m talking about, I’m going to explain.
The Jungle book is a children book, written by Rudyard Kipling.
It’s a story about a little man-cub, Mowgli, found in the jungle by Mother-wolf and Father-wolf, who take him away from the terrible tiger Shere Kahn. Because he’s just a cub, therefore he can’t be eaten.
For the moment, little Mowgli is safe.
Things get complicated when he grows up and the wolves pack can no longer protect him.
Mowgli has to face his greatest enemy Shere Kahn, who comes to redeem the man-cub that appartain to him.
The man-cub is not alone, though. Bagheera the panther and Baloo the bear help him through this adventure, to learn the secret of fire and to prepare for this battle.
The jungle book is a story written for children, to teach them something and to free their imagination. I can’t tell what Kipling meant to teach kids, but I can tell what I learned from him: that even in the jungle it’s not the strongest, but the smartest that wins; that even amongst declared enemies there’s a code of respect; that monkeys are too stupid to care about this code of respect – or about anything else; that snakes are dangerous, though so fascinating; that if a man-cub can be accepted by a pack of wolves, then there’s no reason why I shouldn’t accept someone of my own species, no matter how different from me he or she is.
‘The Jungle Book’ is a children book. And if you’re not a child and still enjoyed it as I did, be glad. It means that your inner child is not dead and that your heard and your mind are still open to the beautiful sensations that this world has to give.
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