Jungle Book Baby Names
Now is an exciting time for fans of The Jungle Book. The live-action remake of the classic Disney film has been a box-office hit, and there’s news that another film from Warner Brothers is due in 2018.
The Jungle Book is Kipling’s best-known work, thanks both to the film adaptations and to its long-running connection with the Cub Scouts. It’s actually a collection of short stories and poems, inspired by the years Kipling spent in India as a child and a young man. It includes more besides the familiar story of Mowgli and Shere Khan, and it’s darker and more serious than the Disney version.
Besides The Jungle Book, Kipling wrote a great many poems and stories, including the Just So Stories, which he originally invented for his daughter Josephine. Thanks to these, generations of children have grown up in no doubt as to how the camel got its hump or the leopard its spots.
His writing is very much of its time – the British colonial era – so some of his works can be rather uncomfortable and controversial nowadays. But there’s much in them to enjoy, not least the names.
Many Jungle Book characters’ names are Hindi words, often simply the name for that animal (Bagheera means “panther”, Hathi means “elephant”) or a description (Akela, the wolf pack leader, means “alone”). This means they could be used as subtle animal or word names – subtle to non-Hindi speakers, that is – as well as in reference to the book characters.
Here are ten names from the jungle and beyond that could be useable even in the urban jungle:
To name nerds, Mowgli isn’t just The Jungle Book’s young hero, but also Pete Wentz and Ashlee Simpson’s son Bronx Mowgli. He hasn’t inspired a huge wave of Mowglis, but with six boys given the name last year it’s not completely unheard of. Kipling invented the name, saying it meant “frog” in the language of the jungle. You might find it more meaningful to connect it with the character’s qualities: he’s playful, spirited, independent, and proud to be different.
If you’re looking for a subtle animal name that’s easy to pronounce, Shere could be a good choice. It means “tiger” in several Indian languages and Persian, so it’s an apt first name for Shere Khan, the big bad tiger who fears nothing but fire. Shir is an alternative spelling.
Another straightforward animal name: the Hindi word bhalu means “bear”. The similar-sounding Indian boys’ name Balu is a diminutive of names beginning with the element Bala (“young”). Baloo would be a bold choice, but he’s a great character to be named after: a strict teacher of the Law in the book, jolly and carefree in the films, and either way much better to have as a friend than an enemy.
The mother wolf who raises Mowgli is fiercely protective of her cubs, so it’s appropriate that her name is a Hindi word meaning “protection”. It’s used in India as a girls’ name, and like Asha and Shanti it has potential for wider use in the English-speaking world.
A helpful kite in The Jungle Book, Chil simply means “kite” in Hindi. It’s a less obvious literary reference than most of the names here, it’s a great bird name, and it has a breezy and, well, chilled feel to it.
Rikki-Tikki-Tavi is a brave mongoose who fights off cobras to protect a human family. Kipling invented his name from the chattering sound a mongoose makes. Rikki as a girls’ name had its heyday in the 1980s and 90s, but for a boy it could be a snazzy modern nickname for anything from Richard to Maverick. Tavi, on the other hand, is a stylish choice for girls – either on its own like writer Tavi Gevinson, or short for Octavia.
We move from the jungle to the Arctic sea. Kotick is a white seal who leads his fellow seals away from hunters to safety. His name simply means “fur seal” in Russian, and it’s also a diminutive for a cat (like “kitty”). It would be a very rare name, but with that cool -ick ending it fits in with boys’ names like Finnick and Kendrick.
The title character of Kipling’s novel Kim – full name Kimball O’Hara – transforms from street orphan to Tibetan lama’s disciple to trainee spy. He gives his name to “Kim’s game”, the game where you have to recall a number of objects from memory. Kim as a girls’ name is old news, but – like Kelly – it sounds fresh on a boy.
This mischievous fairy (who you might recognise from A Midsummer Night’s Dream) appears in Puck of Pook’s Hill and Rewards and Fairies, telling myths and legends of ancient England. Besides the fairy credentials, it may appeal to hockey fans. Puck has come to public attention recently through characters in the television shows Glee and Gotham. In the Netherlands it’s a fairly common unisex name, used more for girls than boys.
According to the Just So Stories, the young stone-age girl Taffimai Metallumai (Taffy for short) invented letters and writing. Kipling wrote that her name means “small-person-without-any-manners-who-ought-to-be-spanked”, but since he invented it we needn’t worry too much about that. It’s a blank slate of a name, used so rarely that a girl called Taffimai would be virtually unique.
Would you consider naming a child after Rudyard Kipling himself? Kipling leads to the cheerful nickname Kip, and in the UK it has a bonus tasty association with the Mr Kipling cake brand. Actress Kim Raver gave it as a middle name to her son Leo. Rudyard – the author’s middle name, after the lake where his parents met – has a down-to-earth vibe and good nickname potential but also its fair share of issues.
And if both of those are too out-there for you? There’s always his first name, Joseph.
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