Wild at HeartThe Jungle Books by Rudyard Kipling
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“THE BEAUTIFUL
STATUE-LIKE GROUP”

In The King’s Ankus (1895), Rudyard Kipling describes a wrestling bout
between Mowgli the jungle boy and Kaa the python:

They would rock to and fro, head to head, each waiting for his chance, till the beautiful, statue-like group melted in a whirl of black-and-yellow coils and struggling legs and arms, to rise up again and again. “Now! now! now!” said Kaa, making feints with his head that even Mowgli’s quick hand could not turn aside. “Look! I touch thee here, Little Brother! Here, and here! Are thy hands numb? Here again!”

Could Kipling’s 1895 description of Mowgli and Kaa as a “beautiful, statue-like group” have been inspired by Lord Leighton’s 1884 statue of a nude athlete wrestling with a python? Judge for yourself....

Mowgli wrestling Kaa
Mowgli wrestling Kaa (from The King’s Ankus)
Gilt spine illustration from The Second Jungle Book First Edition (1895)
Athlete Wrestling a Python by Lord Leighton
Athlete Wrestling a Python
by Lord Leighton
(1884)
Life-size bronze owned by the Tate Britain Gallery;
photographed while on loan to the Victoria & Albert Museum in 2007.

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