Dare to be a Mowgli image

Dare to be a Mowgli

The Jungle Book is one of those classics that has, until recently, passed me by. I've seen the Disney cartoon version, of course, but the following scene isn't in it - though the wily tricks of Kaa appear elsewhere. This is how the book tells it.

It comes after Mowgli has been captured by the Bandar-log monkeys, and Baloo, Bagheera and Kaa have formed an unlikely alliance and rescued him:

The moon was sinking behind the hills and the lines of trembling monkeys huddled together on the walls and battlements looked like ragged, shaky fringes of things. … Kaa glided out into the centre of the terrace and brought his jaws together with a ringing snap that drew all the monkeys’ eyes upon him.

“The moon sets,” he said. “Is there yet light to see?”

From the walls came a moan like the wind in the tree-tops: “We see, O Kaa!”

“Good! Begins now the Dance—the Dance of the Hunger of Kaa. Sit still and watch.”

He turned twice or thrice in a big circle, weaving his head from right to left. Then he began making loops and figures of eight with his body, and soft, oozy triangles that melted into squares and five-sided figures, and coiled mounds, never resting, never hurrying, and never stopping his low, humming song. It grew darker and darker, till at last the dragging, shifting coils disappeared, but they could hear the rustle of the scales.

Baloo and Bagheera stood still as stone, growling in their throats, their neck-hair bristling, and Mowgli watched and wondered.

“Bandar-log,” said the voice of Kaa at last, “can ye stir foot or hand without my order? Speak!”

“Without thy order we cannot stir foot or hand, O Kaa!”

“Good! Come all one pace nearer to me.”

The lines of the monkeys swayed forward helplessly, and Baloo and Bagheera took one stiff step forward with them.

“Nearer!” hissed Kaa, and they all moved again.

Mowgli laid his hands on Baloo and Bagheera to get them away, and the two great beasts started as though they had been waked from a dream.

“Keep thy hand on my shoulder,” Bagheera whispered. “Keep it there, or I must go back—must go back to Kaa. Aah!”

“It is only old Kaa making circles on the dust,” said Mowgli; “let us go”; and the three slipped off through a gap in the walls to the jungle.

“Whoof!” said Baloo, when he stood under the still trees again.” Never more will I make an ally of Kaa,” and he shook himself all over.

“He knows more than we,” said Bagheera, trembling. “In a little time, had I stayed, I should have walked down his throat.”

What a powerful picture of the wiles of the enemy and the importance of Christian community when temptation is luring us closer and closer to our doom.

I love that it wasn’t powerful rhetoric, reasoned argument or a carefully-worded tweet that brought Baloo and Bagheera back, but the touch of a clear-sighted friend.

And I love Mowgli’s confident, scornful assessment of the evil one’s ploys, “It is only old Kaa making circles on the dust.” It reminds me of the story of Smith Wigglesworth who, on being woken in the middle of the night to see the devil sitting on the end of his bed, reportedly said “Oh, it’s only you!”, then turned over and immediately went back to sleep.

When we’re being lured from the path of righteousness, or subjected to spiritual attack, we all need a friend who will lay a hand on our arm, remind us it’s only that old snake, who has been defeated already, and lead us away.

Who needs you to be a Mowgli for them today?

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