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The Parents' Review

A Monthly Magazine of Home-Training and Culture

Edited by Charlotte Mason.

"Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life."
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Jungle Law as an Educational Code

by R.A. Pennethorne
Volume 13, 1902, pgs. 273-276


Those of us whose lot it may be to act as explorers and pioneers and workers for the development of the youthful country, "Mansoul," must have often felt that, though we may hold any number of concessions from the parental directors of the company, we are by no means certain as to what our reception may be by the natives thereof.

It is a great thing to have an ideal for education and a scientific method of attempting realization, but we are not likely to do very much good unless we secure the co-operation of the child to be educated. This need not necessarily be unconscious; in fact, to keep it so is to risk bringing up a generation of fatalists, who rebel against all authority until crushed by its superior force, which they then promptly dub "cruel destiny." Authority should ever go hand in hand with docility, and no obedience or submission is worth having unless it be voluntary. Yet there are many and great difficulties in sharing our educational doctrines with the children whom they most concern. "It is too hard for them," they cannot realize all the factors to be taken into consideration nor all the issues at stake, and to talk them over or to endeavour to explain them is to run the risk of "preaching." Nothing so minimises the good we would fain do as to give occasion to the mental and moral recoil which all feel when they are "preached at." Whatever may be the discourse, the child is apt to believe that the text is found in the last chapter of your "Black Book for Pupils' Deadly Sins," and his sense of justice is offended as what seems to him an unwarranted form of scolding! It is no uncommon thing to find a child wishing that it were its own cat, dog, or pony, that it might be freed from the restrictions and restraints of its educators! The exaggerated love which most children bear to animals is partly the natural instinct of weak creatures to band together, partly in the excess of the development of their own animal natures of the still more immature mental and moral endowments, and partly a sort of envious longing for the apparently more unfettered lot.

The children of this generation need no longer suffer from this perhaps natural deception. A prophet has arisen to prove that "the law is like the giant creeper, because it drives across everyone's back and no one can escape."

This "law" made by the animals from the dim necessity which they felt behind them, is a code both for the "jungle and for the nursery. It provides us with that point approach where child and teacher may meet in agreement. No one can call a delightful thrilling animal story preaching;" neither, having read the same, can they ignore lessons plainly taught them by their beloved animals.

"Jungle law," as set forth in the two Jungle Books, is ideal moral code for children. It does not drive them back to seek for first causes nor encourage bewildering "why's." It is a series of regulations for conduct of the individual which are plainly shown to be necessary because all are members of a community. "The strength of the pack is a wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack."

Jungle law is very clear and plain as to our relationship with the world and ourselves; it does not enter into a relationship with God. But the spirit of submission to something higher than our own wills pervades it, and right or wrong, cause and effect, have their full recognition. The show of "How Fear Came," is only a variant of that first miserable awakening to self-consciousness and sin in the Garden of Eden. "Thou hast killed the buck, and thou has let Death loose in the jungle, and with Death has come Fear so that the people of the jungle are afraid one of the other." That is the picture of the fallen animal world who, having all some cause to be ashamed, must echo each his own fear."

The law is primarily for self-preservation, not for self purposes alone, but because the one is the unit of "the pack." All must learn it, and that while young, for "is there anything too little in the jungle to be killed?" Moreso, they must learn it in a humble and receptive spirit, "For the jungle is large and the cub he is small. Let him think and be still." The law is clear as to the respect we owe to ourselves—

Wash daily from nose tip to tail tip, drink deeply but never too deep,
And remember the night is for hunting, and forget not the day is for sleep.

Every station of life is shown to have its own rights which may be duly claimed, and they are the rights of all the same standing. Duties, namely the recognition of the rights of others, are quite as forcibly insisted on. The cub is to "keep peace with the lords of the jungle," to leave disputes to be settled by his superiors, to remember that "Pack right is the right of the meanest, " and that "in all that the law leaveth open, the word of the head wolf is law." Independence is inculcated. "Remember that the wolf is a hunter, go forth and get good of thine own." But there are right and wrong ways of earning a living. "But kill not for pleasure of killing, and seven times never kill man."

The law not only states general duties and rights, but it particularizes on many points. Two faults it is for ever girding at, openly or covertly, "raw haste half-sister to delay," and unnecessary talk. "What is the law of the jungle—strike first and then give tongue," so runs the saying, and useless objections or any impatience against overruling powers, are all met with "it is the law." Scorn of useless multiplication of words in argument is shown by the good advice—

Feed them silence when they say
Come with us an easy way.

We are told that "the jungle people never hurry unless they have to, for it was haste that killed the yellow snake that eat the sun." But once a matter is in hand, there is to be no shirking and turning back: "it is not good hunting to leave game afoot." For those that break the law, the penalty is severe, "for the wolf that shall keep it shall prosper, but the wolf that shall break it must die." But for those who cannot fairly be held responsible, there is justice, for, "if there be a doubt which is not a killing matter in regard to a new cub, the life of the cub may be bought for a price." The law is strictly just, not nullified by the cruel kindness of a moment's weak pity, for "sorrow never stays punishment." But then, on the other hand, "one of the beauties of jungle law is that punishment settles all scores—there is no nagging afterwards." For those who are banded together by the law, there is brotherhood and fellowship. "Good hunting all who keep the jungle law, " but for the lawless, there is scorn and repugnance. Bad companions are to be shunned and avoided, at great cost if needs be—

When you say to Tabaqui 'my brother,'
When ye call the hyena to meat;
Ye may cry the full truce with Jacala,
The belly that runs on four feet.

As for the Bandar-log, the idle, chattering people, "Grey apes, who have no law," who are always going to be great and powerful, but who never complete anything, they are beyond the pale, "The monkey people are forbidden to the jungle people."

The whole law is opposed to lawlessness and is summed up in one word—

Now these are the laws of the jungle, and many and mighty are they;
But the head and the hoof of the law, and the haunch and the hump is—obey"—

Or as the same writer has elsewhere expressed it, "Keep ye the law—be swift in all obedience."

Nor is the cub left without a mirror with all that obedience and the dutiful keeping of the law is to effect for him. In the beautiful "Out song" the results are expressed—

Wood and water, wind and tree,
Wisdom, strength and courtesy;
Jungle favour go with thee.

The whole song is a reiteration of the main points of the law, not as the rod held above the back of youth, but as counsel to a matured mind. It might be summed up, "Keep the law and go unmoved upon your way; be strong, be straight, be silent."

It is all the more beautiful in that it realizes that "the way" no longer lies in the jungle, the days of animal enjoyment of life are over. The enjoyment remains, but as a recreation, not as life's business. "Man goes to man at the last." That also is the law, and childhood is only a time of preparation and of "law learning." But there comes a time, not to be dreaded, but to be looked forward to as a natural consequence, when, though "the jungle does not cast thee out," it is time to say, "Man is man and master of the jungle." When that day comes let us be ready to step aside with the knowledge that our task as Baloo the teacher is performed, saying, "Good hunting on a new trail."

Proofread by Leslie Noelani Laurio, Feb 2009