After the wild footsteps of Mowgli, inspired by an Indian 'wolf child' | Culture

After the wild footsteps of Mowgli, inspired by an Indian 'wolf child' | Culture


The lack of adaptation and confrontation between civilized society and wild nature were reflected in The book of the jungle, classic of universal literature. Published in magazines between 1893 and 1894, that set of fables disguised as children's stories both the psychological effect called black sheep and the philosophical clash between natural goodness justified by Jean-Jacques Rousseau and the idea that man is a wolf for the man defended by Thomas Hobbes.

Oblivious to Disney's sweetened interpretation, both paradoxes have returned to the screen with Mowgli: The Legend of the Jungle. The recent and sinister version distributed by Netflix it also re-emphasizes its author; whose childhood in colonial India marked his best known work. In addition, the publisher Edelvives has just published in Spanish (Baula, in Catalan) a careful facsimile edition of the book, with illustrations by Stuart Tresilian, the, the originals of J. Lockwood Kipling, art teacher and father of the writer, and new images color based on the drawings of the first.

First British to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, the poet and writer Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936), however, was born in Bombay and dressed his most famous work with references to the colonial society in which he grew up. A) Yes, The book of the jungle not only developed in Seeonee (now Seoni), heart of India, but its popular characters are also indigenous to the subcontinent: from the severe Bagheera (bagh is a panther in Hindi) to the tyrant Shere Khan (sher means tiger), passing by the affable Baloo (bear in the national language). The protagonist of the book is also believed to be inspired by the cases of wild children registered at the end of the 19th century in India and whose dramatic stories shaped the social criticism behind the Mowgli legend.

A colored drawing of Mowgli based on the illustrations by Stuart Tresilian for the new edition of 'El Libro de la Selva' by Edelvives Baula.
A colored drawing of Mowgli based on the illustrations by Stuart Tresilian for the new edition of 'El Libro de la Selva' by Edelvives / Baula.

14 children were found outdoors in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, between 1841 and 1895; seven of which were documented by General W. H. Sleeman in A Journey Through the Kingdom of Oude, 1948-50 (1858): "The wolves are numerous in Sultanpoor, in the vicinity of the Goomtree River and its gorges; and a large number of children are brought there from cities, towns and fields. " According to the story of the English general, all the children captured had savage characteristics such as a predilection for raw meat and "aggressive" attitudes for which they had to be tied. "There were obvious signs, on knees and elbows, of having walked on all fours […]and when he was asked to run[ASÍ], he did it so fast that nobody surpassed him, "he wrote about the first child captured.

The administration of the British Empire did not get the children to adapt to society or learn a single word after being raised by animals-unlike later cases of abandoned children when they could talk, as Marcos Pantoja, the wild child of Sierra Morena , found in 1953 after 12 years in the bush, as documented by GJ Manila. Incommunicado and in captivity, the Indian wolf children only related to those that had been their species until then. "The next night, three wolves arrived and four the next day, to play with him", described Sleeman of one of the wild children who escaped a few days later. Returned to their natural environment or killed shortly after being imprisoned, only one survived decades among humans after having spent all their childhood in the jungle.

The 'wolf child' Dina Sanichar in 1875, three years after being discovered.
The 'wolf child' Dina Sanichar in 1875, three years after being discovered.

In 1867, an expedition of hunters captured a child from a den near Bulandshahr, outside of the old Delhi. Taken to the Sikandra Orphanage in neighboring Agra on Saturday (sanichar, in Hindi), the child was Christianized as Dina Sanichar. "He had acquired the habit of gnawing the bones to sharpen his teeth and rejected initial attempts to be dressed. The only thing he came to learn during the twenty years in human company was to stay erect, to dress with difficulty and to take care of his plate and his glass ", said the French sociologist Lucien Maison in his essay Les Enfant Sauvages (1964), based on the research of the Irish Valentine Ball.

Pioneer of the team of the Geological Survey of India and later director of the National Museum of Ireland, the anthropologist Valentine Ball described Dina Sanichar as the "perfect wild animal from all points of view". His studies Jungle Life in India (1880) and Jungle Trails in Northern India (1938), however, describe how the training of the wild child in the hospice of the city of the Taj Mahal never had an effect and Dina Sanichar did not vocalize "nothing more than the melancholy moan that the young puppies make.[LOBO]" Thus, his caregiver, Father Erhardt, failed to acquire any human behavior except the love for tobacco until he died of tuberculosis when he was about 30 years old.

The perversion of more than 20 years of social imposition to Dina Sanichar is closely related to the legend of Kipling's Mowgli, who admitted in a correspondence in 1895 that he had used various sources of inspiration, not just his imagination. As in the real story, The Jungle Book shows the danger of the clash between two opposing worlds. Although a confessed defender of British colonialism and branded by George Orwell, of "imperialist" and "morally insensitive", Rudyard Kipling captured in a unique literary parable the struggle between two civilizations, the differences of classes and castes, and his personal lack of adaptation to an India that was always foreign to him.

The female version of Romulus and Remus

Another case of wild children in India is related to the Latin myth that nourishes the fable of the birth of Rome. In October 1920, villagers on the outskirts of Calcutta captured two girls after shooting their wolf mother. The sisters of 8 and 10 years were baptized Kamala and Amala by the Anglican missionary Jal Singh, who described his "deformed jaws, long canines and eyes that shone in the dark with the peculiar flash of cats and dogs". Amala died the following year. Kamala survived until 1929, domesticated not to eat carrion, walk upright and reproduce half a hundred words.

The version released this month by Netflix platform and producer underscores the cultural shock that is very present in Kipling's original. Taking a license, he baptizes the English soldier who welcomes Mowgli with the name of John Lockwood, father of Kipling in real life and illustrator of the stories in The Jungle Book. The edition of Edelvives includes some drawings of this one and offers a complete version with the second book of the forest, besides the poem of the author Si .. and other stories.

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