Ode to Shere Khan
We all know the story a sweet little boy is raised by wolves after his family are savagely eaten by a tiger, only for that tiger to stop at nothing to kill the boy as well. Shere Khan is one of the cruellest of villains in Disney. Yet the original Mowgli stories depict a different side to the infamous beast. If anything after finishing Rudyard Kipling’s original work I no longer see little Mowgli as a mischievous child fighting against an oppressive tiger, but instead as the villain.
Shere Khan is just a simple disabled tiger going about his tiger business. He is hated by all the main animals even before the story begins. The only real justification for this is his eating habits. Why should we judge him for eating differently from wolves? Bagheera does but no one judges him.
Shere Khan was never given a chance, throughout the stories he is bullied and denied a voice. From the start, Baloo and Bagheera named him the villain and all followed in their lead. Shere Khan knew those who were raised with this notion would never come to see him as anything. Hence why when a new generation of cubs is born, he befriends them, helps them hunt, he does nothing to harm any of them, but in this too he is considered evil. Mowgli’s parental figures had named him the villain and so he had no choice but to fulfil the role he was given.
The wolves and the elephant Hathi, wrote the laws of the Jungle and anyone who does not follow them is deemed bad. But how can you expect a tiger to behave the same way as a wolf let alone an elephant? The monkeys do not follow these ‘laws’, and though Bagheera and Baloo consider them stupid, they are not deemed evil. Hathi never says anything against them, yet goes on a mythological monologue about how the tiger created evil and fear. The lone tiger, the only tiger known in the jungle, he is targeted, in his solitude he is vulnerable. And like any society, the wolves have found in him their scapegoat.