30 December: Rudyard Kipling was born on this day in 1865

In “The Jungle Book” Mowgli is saved by Kaa the snake who frees him from a tribe of apes by hypnotising them. Some specialists trace our ancestral fear of this reptile back to that felt by primates from whom, non-coincidentally, we are said to descend. The fact is that snakes do hypnotise us: it happened to Eve, as well as to those ill-fated mortals who looked at Medusa a split-second before being turned to stone….

Apart from the two interlocked serpents who have become the symbols of doctors and pharmacists, “The Jungle Book” is one of those rare cases in which this animal is presented in a positive light: he’s something of a helper, maybe deaf initially but when he gets going he’s a source of memory. His function will change from the Disney cartoon onwards where he’s a lacklustre character and a secondary enemy (the main one being the tiger).

In spite of these deletions, we prefer the version that is closest to the novel. Zoos (iconographic or semantic ones included) are also beautiful because they are so varied.


Name Day
St Felix I, Pope