Literary Mixtape: Mowgli


If you’ve ever wondered what your favorite literary characters might be listening to while they save the world/contemplate existence/get into trouble, or hallucinated a soundtrack to go along with your favorite novels, well, us too. But wonder no more! Here, we sneak a look at the hypothetical iPods of some of literature’s most interesting characters. What would be on the personal playlists of Holden Caulfield or Elizabeth Bennett, Huck Finn or Harry Potter, Tintin or Humbert Humbert? Something revealing, we bet. Or at least something danceable. Read on for a cozy reading soundtrack, character study, or yet another way to emulate your favorite literary hero. This week: Rudyard Kipling’s famous feral child, Mowgli.

One of Rudyard Kipling’s favorite characters of his own creation was Mowgli, the boy raised by wolves, who first appeared in his 1893 story “In the Rukh” and then continued to appear in subsequent tales, the whole of which were first collected in 1907 in The Works of Rudyard Kipling Volume VII: The Jungle Book. Kipling’s Mowgli was adopted by a pair of wolves when he was an infant, his parents having been lost after a tiger attack, and grew up in the jungle as a wolf cub (albeit a strange, hairless one), best friends with a panther and taught by a bear. He battles the lame tiger Shere Khan, who wants to eat him, and becomes adept in the ways of the forest, but must ultimately decide which kind of beast he is — man or wolf. We think, as basically a naked hippie child living with animals in the jungle, that Mowgli would listen to some pretty heady grooves, but as a confused warrior child, he’d also partake of some more interesting fare. Here’s what we think Mowgli would hunt, climb, and have staring contests with wolves to.

Stream the mixtape here.

“Hey Mama Wolf” — Devendra Banhart Even though this song isn’t literally about a mama wolf, it’s so smooth and sweet that we don’t think little hippie child Mowgli would mind very much. He’d just make himself a wreath of flowers and sing along.

“Forest Families” — The Knife This ominously beautiful song sounds like the soundtrack to a midnight stake out among the trees. Not to mention that it details the strange life of humans in the forest: “Too far away from the city/ We never heard its noise/ We learned how to stay fit and things like/ Green tones hide the blush…”

“Africans” — Nneka Though Mowgli is Indian, not African, we think that as boy with complicated relationships with the humans in his life, he would relate to this gorgeous song about world awareness.

“Wolf & I” — Oh Land This ethereal track sounds perfect for a midnight swim in the unadulterated moonlight.

“Satta Massagana” — The Abyssinians Any child of the jungle is going to be into some serious reggae. Just saying.

“Jungle Man” — Red Hot Chili Peppers Every young man goes through a Red Hot Chili Peppers phase, and we think Mowgli’s would center around this song, which we can only imagine that he would consider to be about him: “Givin’ bush baby bush baby birth/ The baby was a boy/ But I think what stunned her/ Is that this bare breasted baby/ Was a baby boy boy boy boy wonder…I must let it be known/That through this boy’s veins/ Atomic lava blood flows and flows…”

“Wolf Pack” — The Vaccines A straight-forward rock song about a wild element, we think Mowgli would play some air guitar to this one, shaking that mop of hair of his.

“Mundian To Back Ke” — Panjabi MC This song was so popular in India that we’re pretty sure it has penetrated into even the deepest reaches of the forest. Yep, even Baloo is rocking out to this one.

“Wonder” — Natalie Merchant Though Mowgli probably wouldn’t admit to anyone that he liked this song — young men are often embarrassed to dig sultry lady songstresses — we think the song of the magical child born in wonder is one he would relate to pretty strongly, even if a girl is singing it.

“Lion in a Coma” — Animal Collective This bouncy, breathy track just feels like the jungle to us. Plus, how’s a weird, off-the-beaten-track kind of kid like Mowgli not going to encounter Animal Collective at one point or another? That’s what we thought.