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Jungle Book (1942)


Warning: screenonline full synopses contain 'spoilers' which give away key plot points. Don't read on if you don't want to know the ending!

Buldeo, an old Indian story-teller, sells an English woman a tale. He tells how the tiger, Shere Khan, brought murder to the jungle and says he will narrate the battle between village and jungle.

Years before; Buldeo is Chief Hunter in a small village. He tells the people they will one day have a city. Soon after, a young child, Messua's son Nathoo, wanders into the jungle. When Messua's husband searches for their child, Shere Khan kills the husband. The child finds a wolves' den, where Rashka, the mother-wolf, adopts him, since Shere Khan has vowed to kill the boy. Now known as Mowgli, the boy grows up under the protection of the jungle animals.

Twelve years later, after escaping Shere Khan, Mowgli discovers the village. After waking the villagers, he is captured. Buldeo believes he is evil, but Messua realises this could be her lost child and takes him in.

Mowgli learns the language and ways of man. He wishes to buy a knife from Buldeo, but instead meets his daughter, Mahala, who is not meant to speak with him. Buldeo threatens Mowgli with a gun, but sells him a knife, hoping he will return to the jungle.

Mowgli has vowed to kill Shere Khan, and demonstrates to Mahala his ability to talk to animals. That night he takes Mahala into the jungle, asking the elephants to warn him if Shere Khan returns. Mowgli and Mahala discover the lost King's Palace, finding a treasure chamber within. After a cobra warns that the ruby brings death, they leave all the treasure except one gold piece, which Mahala keeps.

Mahala tells her father of the treasure; he, in turn, tells the Barber and the Pundit. Shere Khan returns and the elephants sound the alarm. The villagers hide in the temple, but Mowgli goes to face Shere Khan. Buldeo is afraid Mowgli will be killed, taking the whereabouts of the Palace to his death, so, with the Barber and the Pundit, he searches for Mowgli. Mowgli asks Kaa, the python, how he can kill Shere Khan. He lures the tiger into the river and kills him with his knife.

Buldeo finds Mowgli and, with gun aimed, demands to be taken to the Palace. Bagheera, the panther, pounces on Buldeo to save Mowgli. Buldeo believes Mowgli has changed shape and is a witch, telling the village on his return. When Mowgli returns with Shere Khan's skin, he finds the villagers have turned against him. They threaten to burn him, but Buldeo secretly allows Messua to save Mowgli so he can be followed to the Palace.

After tying up Messua, Buldeo and his two companions track Mowgli in the jungle, but Mowgli deliberately leads them to the Palace. They find the treasure chamber, shoot the cobra, and steal the loot. Arguments ensue over ownership of the ruby, but the Barber wins.

Remembering the cobra's prophecy, Mowgli believes the ruby will bring death to the thieves. He is proved correct when, in the night, the Pundit murders the Barber to steal his ruby. Next day, the Pundit tries to kill Buldeo, but is thrown into the river and killed by a crocodile. Buldeo takes the ruby. Swinging across a river, he throws the ruby into the mouth of a crocodile to save himself. He leaves the jungle empty-handed, but vows to return and burn it.

Mowgli tells the elephants to drive the man-pack out of the jungle. At the village, Messua and Durga are tied up for helping Mowgli to escape. Buldeo tells the villagers Mowgli killed his friends. He sets fire to the jungle, but too late the villagers realise they will be in danger if the wind turns. Mowgli returns, telling Mahala to lead the villagers to an island in the river. He saves Messua and Durga, then helps the fleeing animals. Flames devour the King's Palace. After the fire, Mowgli refuses to return with the villagers, and instead returns to the jungle.

Buldeo, the story-teller, concludes his tale admitting he never had his revenge. The English woman wishes to know more, but that, he says, is another story...