Tuesday, 19 April 2016

The secret history of the Jungle Book

I've never forgotten my childhood trip to the cinema in 1967 to see the Disney Jungle Book film for the first time. It was enormously fun, with even a cameo role for the Beatles - which they refused to take part in - as Liverpudlian vultures. But there was also something, I remember, which I couldn't put my finger on, which also unnerved me.

I'm not sure what that was, but suspect it is the basic fear which the film and the book tap into, of being a child in a place you don't quite belong.

There is a new Disney version of the film out this week. Another remake is on its way. Something speaks to us from deep within the Jungle Book these days, but what is it?

Well, I had a clue about this earlier this year, when Sarah was on the train from Jaipur to Delhi and found herself talking to Swati Singh, an Indian critic and an expert and admirer of Rudyard Kipling.

It struck me, hearing about their conversation, that we needed an Indian perspective on Kipling in these post-colonial times, so I asked Swati to write a short book for the Real Press and I'm very glad she not only said yes, but wrote it. So The Secret History of the Jungle Book: How Mowgli can save the world is now published in time for the film's release.

I hope it will be widely read. Because what she does is turn The Jungle Book upside down. And what she finds is a masterpiece of children's literature which means something very different to what we all thought it did - and finds also a message in it that is directly relevant to an agonised multi-cultural world, torn apart by terrorism and identity politics.

Because there is a message of hope buried in The Jungle Book, by a man who - though he didn't say so - knew all about multiple cultural identities and the pain and possibilities they bring.

You can buy The Secret History of the Jungle Book as a £1.99 ebook or as a paperback.



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5 comments:

CarolS said...

Irresistible David, bought for self and Luke. Now to persuade Paul....

Jon Magidsohn said...

What is this new definition of children's literature?

Anonymous said...

The new definition implies the hidden subtext of what has been perceived as literature meant only for children. This expands the scope and meaning of ' children's literature'.

David Boyle said...

Thank you, Carol! And Jon, yes, I don;t see why children's literature should be confined to children!

Indo pusat said...

This is a nice and interesting posts . Thank you :)