Mowgli and Bagheera, illustration by Maurice and Edward Detmold from a 1903 edition of The Jungle Book.

Mowgli is a fictional character created by the British author Rudyard Kipling. He first appeared as a young adult in the 1893 short story "In the Rukh". The stories of his childhood are collected in The Jungle Book and The Second Jungle Book.

According to the stories about him, Mowgli was separated from his parents when he was a baby and brought up by wolves in the Indian jungle.

Mowgli stories by Kipling

Fictional character biography

Becque - Livre de la jungle, p42

Baloo and Mowgli, illustration by Maurice de Becque from a 1924 French edition of The Jungle Book.

Mowgli was a baby when his parents' camp was attacked by a lame tiger. Separated from his parents, Mowgli escaped and made his way into a wolf's den. The name Mowgli, which is said to mean Frog in the language of the jungle, was given to him by Mother Wolf because his hairless naked body reminded her of one. Mowgli was nursed by Mother Wolf along with her own four cubs and soon accepted into the Seeonee Wolf Pack.

Mowgli grew up protected from the lame tiger, Shere Khan, by the Wolf Pack and its wise leader Akela. He was taught the ways of the jungle by his wolf parents, Baloo the bear who taught the Law of the Jungle to all wolf cubs, and Bagheera the black panther. By the time Mowgli was ten or eleven, however, Akela had grown old and the Wolf Pack was facing a regime change. Younger wolves, encouraged by the scheming Shere Khan, turned against Mowgli and Akela. Mowgli subdued Shere Khan and the wolves using fire he stole from a village, but the damage had been done. Mowgli left the jungle and went to the village to join mankind.

In the village, Mowgli was taken in by a woman named Messua whose young son had been taken by a tiger. Mowgli learned the language of men quickly, but he had difficulty adapting to village life and made some enemies. He also learned that his old enemy Shere Khan was plotting to kill him. With help from his wolf brother and Akela, Mowgli drove the buffalo herd into a stampede which left Shere Khan trampled to death. The victory cost Mowgli dearly, however, as the villagers became convinced that Mowgli was a sorcerer who controlled animals. Cast out of the village, Mowgli returned to the jungle and rejoined his wolf brothers.

The Jungle Book 1942

Patricia O'Rourke as Mowgli's love interest and Sabu as Mowgli in a screenshot from the 1942 British-American film The Jungle Book.

Soon after returning to the jungle, Mowgli learned that the superstitious villagers had accused Messua and her husband of being a witch and a wizard and were about to kill them. He went back and, finding Messua bound and bloodied, swore to make the villagers pay. After helping Messua and her husband flee the village, Mowgli recruited Hathi the old elephant and his sons to help destroy the crops and grazing grounds forcing the villagers to abandon the village.

After the destruction of the village, Mowgli settled back into jungle life. He grew stronger and wiser and in time became known as the Master of the Jungle. When he was about seventeen, Mowgli found himself growing restless and unhappy. Venturing out to unknown lands beyond the jungle, he came to a village where he found Messua. Now a widow with a young son, Messua welcomed Mowgli back into her life. Although reluctant to leave the jungle and his friends, Mowgli finally realized it was time for him to return to men.

Mowgli traveled from village to village and eventually found employment as a forest ranger under a British Forest Officer named Gisborne. Mowgli married the daughter of Gisborne's butler, Abdul Gafur, and had a child.