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May 12, 2003

Mr. Nature Man Answers Your Questions

Or, if questions are unavailable, obsessively searches the Internet for tiny nuggets of error to correct. Case in point, Lileks

Gnat watched two movies. She watched “Stuart Little 2” sixty-seven times, and Sunday she went with Mom to a cinema grill to watch “Jungle Book 2.” She sat through the entire show. When she got home I asked her about the plot, which could be boiled down to “scary tiger.” Was there a monkey? I asked her. Uh-huh. Was there a boy? Uh-huh. I remembered seeing the original movie as a ten-year old, and how I enjoyed Baloo, so I asked “Was there a bear?” Uh-huh.

And then I asked my wife the question that had never occurred to me before that moment: what was a bear doing in the jungle?

Living there, of course.

Habitat & Range: The Sloth Bear is found in India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan. This bear likes to live in the low country by forests and in low rocky places.

Behavior: The Sloth Bear often lives by itself unless it is a mother with cubs. The Sloth Bear uses sounds and facial expressions to communicate with others. They have been known to attack people when scared or startled. They have very poor eye sight and their sense of smell is not that keen either. Sloth Bear cubs will ride on their mother's back, the Sloth Bear is the only bear to do this. The Sloth Bears are very good climbers. The Sloth Bear is generally nocturnal, but can be seen during the day eating or drinking. Sloth Bears are usually seen at dusk or right after dawn.

Not that Baloo is necessarily a Sloth Bear. Brown bears are also found in India, though they are not nearly as common. No mention of which species of the Indian bear population are more apt to be misogynistic jazz aficionados in the literature, so that's no help in narrowing down Baloo's species. He's certainly lazy, which is a point in favor of Sloth Bear status, but he's also fairly well groomed, and your average sloth bear appears to have hat head of the entire body. Kipling habitually refers to Baloo as a "brown bear" in his Mowgli stories; presumably they were more common in his time.

“There--there! That was worth a little bruise,” said the Brown Bear, tenderly. “Some day thou wilt remember me.” Then he turned aside to tell Bagheera how he had begged the Master Words from Hathi, the Wild Elephant, who knows all about these things, and how Hathi had taken Mowgli down to a pool to get the and how Mowgli was now reasonably safe against all accidents Snake Word from a water-snake, because Baloo could not pronounce it, in the jungle, because neither snake, bird, nor beast would hurt him.

One wonders why Kipling would go to the trouble of capitalizing "Brown" if the word was merely serving an adjectival role rather than as a species name, but he does the same thing with "Wild Elephant" in the next sentence, so perhaps the Indian Heat made him Capital Happy.

Species aside, there are indisputedly bears in India, so Disney was accurate on that score. Not that the company has much of a track record when it comes to an accurate portrayal of nature. This is the same bunch that hurled lemmings off cliffs, mind you, and made the execrable Pocahontas, which among its many, many other sins, inserts mountain and giant redwoods into Tidewater Virginia. Never have so many hoped so much for the appearance of a few smallpox blankets than during that movie.

In the Jungle Book, Disney stayed fairy close to Kipling's original source material, if by "fairly close" one means "kept most of the main characters and threw everything else away," but that at least ensured that most of the species portrayed are those actually found on the subcontinent, with one glaring error, a character created for the movie by Disney, and one who does not appear in the original stories.

Care to guess which animal it is?

Posted by Bigwig at May 12, 2003 10:43 AM | TrackBack
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