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Character Analysis Of Shere Khan In The Jungle Book By Rudyard Kipling

Provide a detailed character analysis of Shere Khan in The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling.

Character Analysis of Shere Khan

The Jungle book is a compilation of short stories by noted English writer Rudyard Kipling. It was published in the year 1894. It is noted for having most of its characters as animals apart from Mowgli, the lead character, who is a boy or man-cub. Shere Khan, a Bengal tiger, is the main antagonist of the book. He is known to be born with a crippled leg and hence his mother mockingly calls him ‘Lungri’ (Lame being). Despite being disappointed at this, Shere Khan continues to be very arrogant and regards himself to be the king of the jungle. He has no friends or relatives. The only animal that regards him highly in the entire jungle is an old golden jackal named Tabaqui. In the beginning, he only used to kill cattle for his survival. However, the Waingunga villagers got angry with him and set a reward on his head. Left with few other options, he has to shift his hunting base to the jungle and hunt for other creatures. This makes the other animals in the jungle angry at him who suggest that they will have to escape the jungle as the villagers might now kill them too. The father wolf comes to know that Shere Khan would not be hunting for animals anymore and was looking to prey upon humans in his new hunting base. This violated the rules of the jungle which suggested that no human being should be hunted unless he was hunting the animals or teaching other humans on how to hunt. The reason for this was the fear of the aftermath that would be created by the human beings to take revenge on the animals. In the process of hunting a human family, he jumps into the campfire and burns his feet. This attack results in a failed attempt. This failed attempt at hunting a human family is the reason behind Mowgli getting separated from his family. Angry at himself for failing in the hunt, Shere Khan pledges to himself that the boy would eventually be his prey one day. He also refers to him as the ‘man-cub’. After this attack, Mowgli, as he is named by the wolves, is adopted by the wolves Raksha and Father Wolf.  He is accepted into the wolf pack of Akela, who take up the responsibility of protecting him. While Shere Khan tries to enter into a fight with the wolves for taking Mowgli, he realises that there is no chance of him defeating the Mother Wolf or Raksha. Hence, he backs out of the fight against her and suggests that it would not be long before he would kill the man-cub by himself. He is extremely angry for failing at the hunt and starts plotting his revenge against the pack of wolves which disrupted his hunt. Mowgli is mainly protected by Bagheera and Baloo. While Mowgli is growing up, Shere Khan tries to turn the younger wolves of Akela’s pack against him by promising riches and rewards if Akela was dead.  After the young wolves succeed in making Akela miss his kill, there is a meeting between the pack of wolves. They are warned by Shere Khan that he would take over their hunting territory if they do not give up Mowgli to him. Bagheera warns Mowgli about Shere Khan’s plan against him and suggests him to escape from the place. Mowgli becomes alert and attacks Shere Khan with a burning branch and thereby managing to escape from the attack. This also results in Akela getting deposed from the pack of wolves and becoming a lone hunter. Mowgli leaves the jungle for the human village, but swears that one day he will return with Shere Khan’s skin. This incident makes both of them enemies for life. The other story where Shere Khan makes an appearance is “How Fear Came”. In this story, Shere Khan makes an appearance after killing a human being according to his choice and not out of necessity, he brings Hathi, the elephant, along with him. He boasts to everyone around him about that night being his night and makes the elephant explain to others on why tigers were the only animals allowed to hunt human beings for food or for the mere pleasure of choice in the jungle. He also explains to them how tigers got their stripes and also mentions about how human tigers were responsible for ending the peace in the jungle. After this story, Shere Khan is talked about in the story, “Tiger! Tiger!” After fleeing from the jungle, Mowgli is adopted by the human parents Messua and her husband. He begins to acquire knowledge about the human ways. As a part of the stories being told in the village, he hears about a lame tiger which is wanted by the people and about a reward that was available for killing the tiger. They believe it to be the reincarnation of a human money lender who got injured during a riot. Mowgli is amused by these stories and questions the wisdom of the villagers for believing in such stories. They send him to work and make him responsible for herding the buffalos. While herding the buffalos, he happens to meet his wolf friend Grey Brother, who informs him that Shere Khan was still planning to kill him. This situation also clearly indicates the stubbornness and cunning mentality of Shere Khan. It also shows the extent to which people have hatred towards him. Grey Brother also provides Mowgli with the details of Shere Khan’s strike after forcing Tabaqui to reveal everything that he knows about Shere Khan’s plan. After getting the required information from him, Grey Brother kills Tabaqui. Having waited for a long time to take his revenge, Mowgli joins forces with Akela and Grey Brother to plan and kill Shere Khan. He sets up a trap in a narrow canyon and sets the buffalo herd loose on Shere Khan to stampede him to death.

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