- “Many strange legends are told of these jungles of India, but none so strange as the story of a small boy named Mowgli.”
Mowgli is a human child, who was found in a basket on the edge of a torn-apart boat as a baby by Bagheera, a black panther, with that fraction of a boat laying on a rock and its rear pointing up. Apparently orphaned, Mowgli was raised by a pack of wolves until he was 10 years old. However, the threat of Shere Khan forces the pack to send him away, and Bagheera decides to take him to a nearby man-village for his protection.
In the first scene of the film, Mowgli, as an infant, was found in a battered canoe. His parents were nowhere to be found, but it is implied that they died not too long before Mowgli was discovered by Bagheera. How exactly is unknown, but it can be concluded that a messy river accident claimed their lives.
Mowgli is portrayed as an average child in the original film. Generally happy-go-lucky, but had a difficult time dealing with rules, and even more so, change. His goal throughout the film was to somehow find his place in the jungle, in hopes of remaining there, despite the looming threat of Shere Khan. This ambition would cause trouble for Mowgli, as he would unknowingly become the pawn of schemes from some animals, such as Kaa the Python and King Louie, who both sought out to manipulate Mowgli for their own, personal gain, rather than treating him as a member of their family, which is truly what the man-cub desired.
This is one of the reasons as to why Mowgli's relationship with Baloo is so strong. Unlike most other animals, Baloo originally had no qualms with the idea of Mowgli staying in the jungle, and saw the man-cub as his own son as their time together escalated, with Mowgli returning the affection by viewing Baloo as his father. Once Baloo eventually did come around to realize the importance of Mowgli's entry into the Man-Village, it was out of love, as he only wanted what was best for Mowgli, despite the fact that it would lead to their separation. The same can be said for the wise, and often grouchy panther, Bagheera, though Mowgli's stubbornness, and failure to understand the circumstances of his situation, would leave the man-cub feeling unwanted and unworthy of love. Nevertheless, Mowgli would come to understand by the end of the film, and immediately patch his close relationships.
Interestingly, Mowgli is quite fearless and plucky, but not in an entirely foolish manner, despite his size and lack of animalistic abilities. When met with obstacles in the jungle, the man-cub would retaliate once the danger is realized, and often come out on top. And even when outmatched, physically and mentally, Mowgli would stand his ground and make it a point to prove that he isn't afraid. This is seen through his interactions with Kaa, the elephants, and the bandar-log minions of King Louie. The one exception to this situation is the final confrontation with Shere Khan, who proved to be a force powerful enough to actually strike legitimate fear within Mowgli; but even then, once Mowgli learned the tiger's weakness, he once again took charge of the situation, and put an end to the villain's tyranny, proving his worth and initial boasting about his ability to survive and thrive within the jungle.
On one peaceful day in the jungle, Bagheera the panther hears the cries of something unfamiliar to him and the jungle inhabitants. He goes to investigate and finds an abandoned, wrecked canoe. Inside, he finds a basket with a human baby, a "man cub." Knowing the man cub would die alone, Bagheera takes him to a wolf pack. As the years past, the man cub was named Mowgli, gained the ability to speak with animals, and has become great friends with Bagheera. One night, the wolf pack learned that the notorious predator, Shere Khan, has returned to that part of the jungle, in an attempt to murder Mowgli.
For his own protection, Mowgli is forced to go live in the Man Village, where he'll be safe. Bagheera offers to take him, but the stubborn Mowgli refuses to go. Mowgli and Bagheera rest in a tree for the night, but they encounter Kaa, who hypnotizes Mowgli and wraps him up in his coils in order to eat him. Fortunately, Mowgli is saved by Bagheera, and Kaa is pushed off the tree. The next morning, Mowlgli meets and befriends Hathi, Jr., the son of Colonel Hathi, leader of The Jungle Patrol. Colonel Hathi is surprised by the very idea of a man cub in "his" jungle. The escapade with Hathi causes Bagheera to become even more fed up with Mowgli, to the point where he abandons him. Alone, Mowgli sits quietly when a bear named Baloo comes strolling by.
Mowgli poorly attempts to fight off Baloo, but with his terrible combat ability, Baloo decides to teach Mowgli how to fight instead. The lesson includes teaching him how to roar like a bear. The ferocious roar of Baloo is heard miles away, and Bagheera rushes back to Mowgli's aid. When he finds Baloo and Mowgli bonding, Bagheera learns that Mowgli plans on staying with Baloo in the jungle, and storms off again. During a float down the river, Mowgli is kidnapped by a group of monkeys, and is taken to their leader an orangutan named King Louie.
Louie wishes to have Mowgli teach him how to make fire, so that he can become a man. However, Mowgli doesn't know the first thing about making fire, but Louie believes he's just being shy. Baloo and Bagheera arrive and rescues Mowgli, destroying Louie's empire in the process. That night, Baloo agrees to take Mowgli to the village after hearing about Shere Khan's plans to kill the boy. The next morning, Mowgli and Baloo begin to make their way, but Mowgli is oblivious as to where they're actually going. When Baloo confesses the truth, Mowgli runs off, feeling betrayed.
After running, Mowgli stops near a tree, where he encounters Kaa again. Kaa tries to persuade Mowgli to trust him on account that he can help Mowgli stay in the jungle. Mowgli is hesitant, but Kaa manages hypnotize Mowgli and sleepwalk on his coils. After coiling Mowgli up from head to legs, Kaa is interrupted by Shere Khan who heard Kaa sing to Mowgli. After Kaa's conversation with the tiger, Mowgli manages to regain consciousness and push Kaa off the tree. He accuses Kaa for lying to him and runs off.
At his lowest low, Mowgli finds himself in the wasteland part of the jungle, where a pack of comical vultures reside. They begin to taunt Mowgli because of his bizarre appearance, driving Mowgli to tears. Feeling sorry for the boy, the vultures apologize, and offers Mowgli a spot in their group. Mowgli denies the offer initially, but the vultures begin to warm up to him. Just as they begin to have fun, Shere Khan appears and attacks. Baloo arrives and battles the tiger, and is apparently killed. Lightning strikes a nearby tree, putting one of the branches on fire. Mowgli is told that Shere Khan's only fear is fire, and Mowgli uses the fire branch to scare Shere Khan away.
As the heroes celebrate, Mowgli and Bagheera begin to mourn for Baloo's death. Baloo then begins to wake up, revealing to be alive. Mowgli and Baloo reunite, just as Mowgli hears the singing of another human from the Man Village. It is a girl gathering water, and Mowgli falls in love. She leads him to the Man Village, and Mowgli is finally where he belongs.
Not long after Baloo and Bagheera dropped Mowgli off at the Man Village, Mowgli has since been adopted by the village leader and his wife. He now has a little brother named Ranjan, and has become close friends with the girl that lured him into the village, Shanti. Though he enjoys playing with Ranjan and Shanti, Mowgli misses his jungle life, and hopes to one day return to it. During a normal day, Mowgli almost led the village children to the jungle to show them how fun it can be. However, the village leader halted the event as he, and the other villagers, believe the jungle is a dangerous place.
Later on that night, Baloo sneaks into the village, reuniting with his "bear cub." When Shanti spots Baloo, she panics and alerts the villagers. Baloo and Mowgli make a run for the jungle, but the villagers attack Shere Khan, who also journeyed into the village to extract revenge on Mowgli. In the jungle, Mowgli and Baloo catch up, singing a reprise of The Bare Necessities. The next day, Mowgli and Baloo are gathering mangoes when Bagheera arrives. He asks Baloo if he is knowledgeable about the whereabouts of Mowgli, but Baloo denies (Mowgli is hiding in a tree during Baloo and Bagheera's conversation). He also tells him that the entire village has entered the jungle, searching for the man cub.
Bagheera's news makes Mowgli placate, and he wonders if Shanti is also searching with the villagers. For the sake of his friendship with Baloo however, Mowgli decides to shelve the feelings, and asks Baloo to find a good hideout for the two of them. The duo heads over to King Louie's place, but Louie has depart, and the jungle's inhabitants turned it into the biggest hangout around. After a party, Baloo begins to tell the animals about the village, using information from Mowgli to recite. Baloo repeats all that Mowgli has complained about, but, unknowing to Baloo, Mowgli actually misses the village, and runs off to be alone for a while.
Suddenly, Shanti and Ranjan appear after searching far and wide for Mowgli. As Baloo searches for him, he spots Shanti. Earlier, Mowgli and Baloo planned on scaring Shanti away if she ever found them, so, Baloo made himself appear to be vicious, successfully scaring her. As Mowgli has changed his mind, he tries to stop Baloo, accidentally revealing that he planned the entire scare. Shanti and Ranjan leave, having Mowgli follow to apologize. He finds them cornered by a vengeful Shere Khan, and a chase follows. It leads to ancient ruins where Baloo, Mowgli, and Shanti battle the tiger, while Bagheera watches over Ranjan.
After his defeat, Mowgli and Baloo bid farewell, as Mowgli decides to stay in the village. Soon, it is revealed that Mowgli, Shanti, and Ranjan are now allowed to visit Baloo and Bagheera as they please. A relationship between Mowgli and Shanti also blossoms.
Cameos and other appearances
While Mowgli himself was left out of the television series, TaleSpin, a young bear cub known as Kit Cloudkicker seems to be a stand-in for him, since Baloo calls him by the same nicknames as his Jungle Book counterpart Mowgli, like "Little Britches" and "Baby Bear".
Mowgli was featured on the Jungle Cubs: Born to Be Wild DVD cutscenes. In this story, Mowgli, Baloo, and Bagheera are heading off to the Man Village. Along the way, they meet some old friends and foes and each meeting brings a story from their childhood.
Mowgli made few cameo appearances in House of Mouse usually found in crowd shots with Baloo or King Louie. During the opening of the show, Mowgli can be seen petting Oliver from the film Oliver and Company. In "House of Turkey," Mowgli was seen being coiled up by Kaa when he and the other guests begin getting hungry with not turkey to dine on. In Ask Von Drake, during Ludwig Von Drake's headcount of all the guests, Mowgli was seen on a table with Baloo. In one episode, he took over the place of Tramp in the famous 'spaghetti scene' with Lady. In the episode "Goofy's Menu Magic" he was nearly eaten by Kaa when the snake does not receive his evening meal.
In The Lion King 1½, Mowgli with Baloo made a cameo appearance at the end of movie.
In It's a Small World: The Animated Series, Mowgli makes a brief cameo in the episode A Jolly Holi Day, mindlessly following Shanti with a lovestruck gaze.
In the live-action version, Mowgli is portrayed by Sean Naegeli as a 5-year-old boy and by actor Jason Scott Lee as an adult.
He is the son of an Indian Jungle guide named Nathoo who was guiding a group of soldiers led by Colonel Brydon. He and his daughter Katherine (nicknamed "Kitty") are very close friends and show deep affection for each other. She gives him a special bracelet that had belonged to her mother. After his father is killed by Shere Khan, Mowgli and his pet cub, Grey Brother were lost in the jungle and presumed dead. They were found by Bagheera who took them to be raised by a family of wolves and befriends Baloo, the big brown bear.
Mowgli grew up and found Kitty again in an Indian City and with the help of Dr. Plumford learns the ways of man again, in return Mowgli shows Kitty the wonders and secrets of the jungle. They start to show deep affection for each other once again. However, many people don't trust him and he grows to dislike how corrupt and uncivilized man have become. Finally after being treated cruelly by arrogant soldier Captain William Boone (who had disliked Mowgli from the very first time they met, particularly after refusing to take him to the treasure filled Monkey City) and his men, he feels he no longer belongs there and returns to the jungle. Meanwhile Boone decides to use force to get Mowgli to take him to the treasure, so he attempts to kidnap him, this fails but in the process Baloo is shot. Afterwards Mowgli saves Dr. Plumford from a group of Indian Bandits, but Brydon and Kitty are captured. Mowgli knows that they know he'll come to rescue her. After receiving thanks from Dr. Plumford, Mowgli takes him to Baloo and asks for his help.
The jungle man meets Boone again with his men Lieutenant Wilkins, Sergeant Harley, Buldeo, and Tabaqui who threaten to kill Kitty and her father unless he leads them to the treasure. Mowgli agrees, but is certain they will not live long enough to find it. Mowgli is tied to a tree that evening, but upon realising that Shere Khan is following the group, he escapes with the aid of Bagheera (to keep an eye out for the tiger while surveying the journey). Harley is the first to wake up and sees him running away, but while chasing him, he drowns in a pond of quicksand. Mowgli finds Colonel Brydon left to die by Boone and leads him back to the village on an elephant promising to bring Kitty back.
As Mowgli keeps an eye out and watches the group's progress, Tabaqui confronts him and barbarically tries to kill Mowgli - only to be kicked and sent plummeting to his death. Now Boone, Wilkins, Buldeo and Kitty are the only ones who find Monkey city, but Wilkins gets separated from them and is mauled by Shere Khan. Mowgli points Boone who is now holding Kitty as a hostage into a direction of the city. He taunts him by pointing to King Louie and telling him to follow him to the treasure. While following them, Mowgli is chased and shot at by Buldeo. The fight continues in a crypt, but the bandit sets off a booby trap that buries him alive while Mowgli escapes. Now Mowgli, Boone and Kitty are the only ones left who make it to the treasure. Boone attempts to kill Mowgli in a fierce sword fight, but he wins and severely injures the soldier. He escapes with Kitty while Boone is killed by Kaa the deadly Python.
In the end, Mowgli makes peace with Shere Khan who now sees him as a creature of the jungle and he and Kitty return to the village pleased to see that both Brydon and Baloo have been cured by Dr. Plumford. Mowgli becomes Lord of the Jungle and he and Kitty share a kiss next to a waterfall.
A 1998 live-action retelling of the story. In this version Mowgli's village is attacked by the vicious tiger Shere Khan and he gets lost in the ruckus and runs into the jungle. There, Mowgli met Baloo the wise bear, Bagheera the black panther, and the rest of his animal friends and they have many adventures. Towards the end, Mowgli sees humans, but decides to stay away from them and live with Baloo, Bagheera, and the rest of his friends in the jungle. Kaa is noticeably absent from this version of the film.
Mowgli is slated to appear in the upcoming 2016 live-action film adaptation, played by Neel Sethi.
Mowlgi is featured as the game's main protagonist and a playable character. The game acts as a retelling of the original, thus having Mowgli play the original role from the film.
Mowgli appears as a downloadable character for the PlayStation3 and Xbox360 in The Jungle Book Pack.
Mowgli appears as an unlockable meet-and-greet character near the Treehouse in Adventureland. To lure Mowgli out of hiding, the player must complete a few tasks for Baloo. At one point, Mowgli tells the player that he wishes to learn how to carry water jars as good as Shanti. He asks the player to find some so that he may practice. After the water jars are recovered, Mowgli and the player practice holding them atop their heads.
Mowgli originally made regular meet-and-greet appearances in all the parks but became extremely rare after 1999. He wears a brown cloak.
A statue of Mowgli with Baloo is featured at Disney's Pop Century Resort in Walt Disney World. Mowgli has a spell card known as "Mowgli's Swinging Vine" in the attraction Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom.
Mowgli appears in the popular parade in Tokyo Disneyland. In the parade, Mowgli can be found on the Jungle Book themed float atop Kaa the snake in his coils.
Mowgli appears in the bubble montage in Disney's Hollywood Studios version of the nighttime show.
Mowgli appears in Hong Kong Disneyland's It's a Small World attraction along with Baloo as a small world doll.
Relationships with other characters
- Animator Glen Keane used Mowgli's animation from the original film as reference when he animated Aladdin.
- In the original novel, Mowgli's name is pronounced "mau-glee," while in the Disney film it is pronounced "moh-glee."
- Also, in the novel, Mowgli's name is supposed to mean "frog" because of his smooth skin, but in real life the Hindi word for frog is very different and Mowgli doesn't even mean anything at all.
- Mowgli's walk entrance in the beginning of the movie was similar to Arthur's walk entrance in The Sword in the Stone, because both of them get licked lovingly by two canines.
- Coincidentally, Richard and Robert Reitherman, the brothers of Bruce Reitherman who voiced Mowgli, both voiced Arthur.
- Mowgli doesn't appear in Once Upon a Time. However, The Queen's Huntsman had a similar backstory, raised also by wolves, which is a reference to Mowgli.
- Mowgli is very similar to Simba. They don't want to leave their jungle habitats, get led astray by their primary friends, (Baloo, Timon) sent down the right path by their secondary friends, (Bagheera, Pumbaa) influenced by their primate mentors, (King Louie, Rafiki) chased by their feline enemies, (Shere Khan, Scar) overpowered by the villains' minions, (Kaa, The Hyenas) and fall deeply in love with the heroines. (Shanti, Nala)