The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling and The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman have numerous similarities within the storyline, however, a more significant meaning lies within the differences. Mowgli the frog and Nobody “Bod” Owens, the protagonists of The Jungle Book and The Graveyard Book respectively have similar adventures within their stories, but they differ personality-wise. Mowgli’s defining characteristic is control, while Bod’s is empathy. The emphasis on these qualities highlights the authors’ views on how children should behave based on the authors’ backgrounds and personal beliefs.
Kipling grew up with parents who thought of themselves as “Anglo-Indians”, meaning that they were of British origin living in India. This resulted in identity issues for Kipling throughout his childhood. He experienced intense cruelty and neglect during the 1870’s as he and his sister were taken in by a couple in India (“Rudyard Kipling”). His life lacked control and as a child he lacked power. He highlights the importance of control and power in the youth through Mowgli in The Jungle Book. Mowgli is taught that the Law of the Jungle is to “[s]trike first and then give tongue” (The Jungle Book, 17), emphasizing the importance of having control in the situation and possessing the most power. He also learns that he has power within his family of wolves. He is told that “[t]he others they hate thee because their eyes cannot meet thine; because thou art wise” (The Jungle Book, 17). Mowgli uses his power over other animals to control them and for his personal benefit. Kipling, influenced by his own childhood, makes clear through the use of Mowgli the values and characteristics he believes children should possess.
Gaiman had a very different childhood than Kipling. He could read at the age of four, exposing himself to different worlds and different types of people early on in his life (“Neil Gaiman”). He was happy while reading; he was continuously learning. He learned to put himself into the characters’ shoes, adopting empathy. Gaiman communicates the importance of empathy in children through Bod in The Graveyard Book. Bod feels the witch’s pain in “The Witch’s Headstone” and goes on a mission to help her get her own headstone (The Graveyard Book, 99). He makes friends with her, and she later helps him in tough situations. Bod also feels empathetic to the younger children being bullied in “Nobody Owens’ School Days” and stands up to the bullies to help them (The Graveyard Book, 174). Though he got himself in some trouble by speaking up, he felt good and prevented the future bullying of the younger students. Gaiman saw the effects of empathy in children through himself and the characters in the books he read and uses Bod to exhibit the importance of empathy in children.
Although The Jungle Book and The Graveyard Book have similar storylines, they have different messages. Kipling used Mowgli to express the importance of power and control in children, while Gaiman used Bod to highlight the importance of empathy. They both put their respective characters in situations where control or empathy will shine through. Mowgli and Bod are ultimately influenced from the younger Kipling and Gaiman and their own experiences as children.