- “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, being illiterate and lack of animalistic abilities and survival instincts. 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 appears in the 2016 live-action film adaptation, portrayed by Neel Sethi. As a child, Mowgli's father was killed by Shere Khan, leaving him an orphan. He was later found by Bagheera, who later took Mowgli to the wolf pack, under the leadership of Akela. Raksha took him in as her son, and since his adoption, Mowgli spends his time training with Bagheera and his siblings and learning how to become a proper wolf. He also has a fascination with inventing and uses such creations to assist him in surviving despite his lack of animalistic skills. These creations are looked down upon by the wolves, and dubbed "tricks".
During the "dry season", only one area of the jungle, a watering hole know colloquially as the Water Truce, provides water, which the animals respond to by forming a truce to obtain an equal share for their own survival. This includes Shere Khan, who notices the presence of Mowgli. He threatens to kill members of the wolf pack unless the boy is handed over to him. Mowgli, not wanting anyone to get hurt, leaves the pack with Bagheera. After Khan later learns that the wolves allowed Mowgli to leave as opposed to turning the man-cub over, the tiger kills Akela and takes control of the wolf pack.
Meanwhile, Mowgli is separated from Bagheera during an attack by Shere Khan and encounters Kaa. The huge snake hypnotizes and tries to eat the man-cub, revealing his past while she entrances him, but he is saved by Baloo, who drives the giant python away. Baloo forces Mowgli to return the favour by obtaining honey from a high up cliff side. Mowgli does so successfully and tries to leave. Baloo convinces him to remain by his side, saying that he needs more food and resources for “hibernation’ during the winter, but promises to take him to the Man-Village should he wish, also noting that Mowgli is capable of being a man in the jungle as opposed to being a man in the village. Over time, Mowgli and Baloo form a bond, and they eventually are located by Bagheera. Bagheera tries to take Mowgli to the Man-Village, but Baloo convinces the panther to wait until morning after Bagheera becomes angry with Mowgli for his use of "tricks" and inventions during his stay with Baloo. During the night, Mowgli notices a herd of elephants in distress. Their youngest member is trapped in a deep pit, and Mowgli quickly responds by creating a device that rescues the baby, forming a bond with the elephants in the process.
Afterwards, Mowgli is confronted by Baloo (who, on Bagheera's orders to protect him from Shere Khan, lies that they were never friends and that he only used Mowgli to obtain what he wanted) and is then kidnapped by bander-logs and is taken to the kingdom of King Louie. Louie commands Mowgli to teach him the ways of the “red flower”, but Mowgli, not knowing the secrets, is unable to. After Baloo and Bagheera arrive to rescue Mowgli and nearly succeed in sneaking him out of the bander-log temple, Louie and his monkeys attack, with Louie personally pursuing the man-cub. During their confrontation, Louie claims to be Mowgli’s only hope for safety from Shere Khan. Mowgli tells Louie that he’ll return to Akela, prompting Louie to reveal the wolf’s demise. After Louie is defeated and crushed to death by his own temple falling on him, Mowgli confronts Bagheera on Akela’s death and chooses to run away to return to the wolf pack, avenge their fallen leader and end Shere Khan’s tyranny.
Mowgli travels to the Man-Village is mesmerized by seeing other humans for the first time and retrieves a torch of fire from the village's entrance. As he travels to the wolf pack, he accidentally causes a fire to break out, which in turn causes the other animals in the jungle to gather at the Water Truce. Mowgli confronts Shere Khan who informs the former of the danger he’s caused. Ashamed of his actions and discouraged by the fear seen in his family and friends, Mowgli puts out the fire, leaving him devoid of protection. Nevertheless, Baloo, Bagheera, Raksha, and the rest of the wolf pack defy the tiger to protect Mowgli. The animals battle Shere Khan while Mowgli escapes into the burning jungle to set a trap for the tiger. Shere Khan eventually follows behind, and chases Mowgli up a dead tree. Mowgli then tricks Shere Khan into hopping onto a weak branch, goading him by saying that he is not afraid of the tiger, resulting in the tiger pouncing and falling into the inferno below to his death while Mowgli swings away. With Shere Khan dead, Mowgli rallies the elephants to his aid, and with their help, extinguishes the fire by damming the river so that the water overflows into the jungle.
Having proved himself, Mowgli remains a member of the jungle, accepted for his own unique methods of survival, and is last seen relaxing with Bagheera and Baloo.
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.
Mowgli has a spell card known as "Mowgli's Swinging Vine" in the attraction Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom.
In Disney's Animal Kingdom, Mowgli starred in the short-lived live show Journey into the Jungle Book.
Mowgli recently made a comeback at the Disneyland Paris event, Adventureland Celebrates!
- Animator Glen Keane used Mowgli's animation from the original film as reference when he animated Aladdin.
- In the original book, Mowgli makes his own way to the wolves while fleeing from Shere Kahn. As the tiger demands them to give him his prey back, they refuse and Raksha, the mother, angrily states that Mowgli is under their protection and threatens to tear him apart if he comes near him. Shere Kahn, being too large to fit inside the cave, leaves grudgingly. The wolves then adopt Mowgli as one of their own after seeing how well he gets along with their own cubs. However, in the Disney adaptation, it is Bagheera who finds Mowgli abandoned as an infant in the jungle. Bagheera then leaves him by the wolve's cave, who gladly decide to care for him and raise him as their own cub.
- In the original novel, Mowgli's name is pronounced "mau-glee" (the "mau" rhymes with "cow"), while in the Disney film it is pronounced "moh-glee" (the "moh" rhymes with "go").
- Also, in the novel, Mowgli's name means "frog" in the wolf language and is named so by the wolves because of his lack of fur. His real name, however, is Nathoo.
- In the novel, Mowgli is not as stubborn as he is in the Disney version. As he was willing to listen to the advises given to him by Bagheera, Baloo and Kaa. However, both versions of the character share their naïve (although in the book, Mowgli was somewhat more mature) behavior as well as their courage.
- In the book, Mowgli became the lord of the jungle after killing Shere Khan and leading the wolves into battle against the red dogs, following Akela's death. He then decided to rejoin humanity after Kaa convinced him that he belongs with his own kin at the age of 17. While in the 1967 Disney adaptation, Mowgli appeared to be too stubborn to listen to Bagheera's wisdom, and refused to rejoin humanity until he saw a girl whom he was attracted to at the age of 10. The 2016 version of the character, while still somewhat stubborn, is more willing to listen to Bagheera, Baloo and the other animals, and actually stays in the jungle.
- Disney's The Jungle Book is Mowgli's second cinematic appearance. The first being Zoltan Korda's live-action Jungle Book from 1942.
- In the book, Mowgli was described as being athletically built, naked and with black shoulder-length hair. Whereas in the Disney movie, he appears quite slim, with black neck-length hair and wears a red loincloth (for obvious reasons, nudity is not appropriate for a children's movie).
- Mowgli's wolf family is not given a large role in most of the films. This was most likely done so there wouldn't be too many characters in the story and to keep focused on the main plot. However, it is shown that the wolves care deeply for him. Such as when Mowgli's brother and sister lick his face to show their affection. Also when his foster father, Rama, expressed reluctance and great sadness when the wolf council decided that Mowgli must return to humanity. The wolves play a larger part in the 2016 film, Raksha and Akela in particular, in their interactions with Mowgli.
- 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 (Disney was going through financial crisis at the time, forcing them to recycle much of the animation for Jungle Book).
- 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 Huntsman had a similar backstory, raised also by wolves, which is a reference to Mowgli.