“How many lives is a man-cub worth?” ~Shere Khan
After I saw it was nominated for a number of awards, I watched the live action version of The Jungle Book that was released this year. I can’t help but think about what a powerful allegory it is for our times. A community of wolves, loving and faithful to one another, protected a member of their pack, Mowgli, who was different. All they wanted was peace and acceptance for everyone. The member of their community who was different posed no threat to anyone, and yet a dictatorial tiger, Shere Khan, demanded that Mowgli be turned over to him to be destroyed. Mowgli left of his own volition for the sake of the pack, and still he was pursued by Shere Khan. On his way to the man-village where he will supposedly be protected and accepted, Mowgli makes friends who help him defeat Shere Khan.
Would we have the courage to protect someone who was different? Would we have the courage to standup for ourselves when faced with bigotry? When the moment comes to fight for what we believe in, would we back down in fear or would we rise and stand tall against injustice?
The Jungle Book is a story written for children, but its lessons have far-reaching implications for all of us. Literature is both a mirror and a teacher. It shows us what we’re made of. It gives us something to aspire to. It inspires us to become greater than we think we can be.