Bear Necessities: drawings from and thoughts on The Jungle Book, old and new

Even as a little girl, I harbored severe doubts about the veracity of Doctor Dolittle. I don’t know, but the idea that some guy’s pet parrot decided she could teach him the languages of all the animals, which conveniently no parrot had ever revealed to a human in the history of humans owning parrots—just seemed a touch fishy to me.

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Bill Murray’s Baloo from the 2016 Jungle Book; a pencil sketch

But The Jungle Book! Now there was a masterpiece. Secretly I wished I’d been found as a baby by a benevolent panther, too, to be turned over to a pack of wolves. Because if you were raised by wolves, nurtured in the heart of the jungle your whole childhood, not only should you certainly be able to speak with animals, but—well—how could you not be able to speak with animals?

The very foolproofness of the story was its beauty. Mowgli was my hero. The wolves were my champions. Bagheera was kind of a killjoy but honestly a hero too, because he was pretty crucial to saving Mowgli’s life and whatnot.

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a pen drawing of Hathi, Jr., the little elephant form the 1967 Jungle Book

And Baloo! Super fun but also startlingly fierce when rubber met proverbial road—he was the whole package. Plus he seemed like he’d be the best to cuddle with, and Mowgli would never have to worry about being chilly in the rain wearing nothing but those red underwear, because he could just curl up with a giant bear, warm and furry and his best friend.

Man, I wished so hard I could live in the jungle and be brave enough to fight Shere Khan.

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a pen sketch of Bagheera from the 1967 Jungle Book

A couple days ago, as I sat in a cinema watching The Jungle Book, I felt myself wishing that again in spite of myself. In spite of adulthood, in spite of the knowledge that, sadly, even growing up with wolves wouldn’t allow a person to actually engage in rational conversation with animals (…right?).

And that’s why I think the new Jungle Book is a masterpiece, too.

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a rough sketch of Shere Khan from over a year ago, when I was still signing my drawings as Randi Bouck

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