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Bagheera
The Jungle Book character
KiplingIllustrationofBagheera.jpg
Bagheera (on the tree) with Mowgli and Baloo
First appearance "Mowgli's Brothers"
Last appearance "The Spring Running"
Created by Rudyard Kipling
Information
Species Black panther
Gender Male
Relatives Yusaf (ex-Owner) and Ameena (friend) and Ghargisht

Bagheera is a fictional character in Rudyard Kipling's Mowgli stories in The Jungle Book (coll. 1894) and The Second Jungle Book (coll. 1895). He is a black panther (melanistic Indian leopard) who serves as friend, protector and mentor to the "man-cub" Mowgli. The word bagheera is Hindustani for panther or leopard, although the root word bagh means tiger.

Disney adaptations

1967 animated film

Bagheera appears in the 1967 animated adaptation by Walt Disney Productions. His voice is provided by Sebastian Cabot. As in the Kipling books, Bagheera is Mowgli's intelligent guardian; however, while developing the film, Walt Disney chose to omit Bagheera's past and scars. Baloo in the film often calls Bagheera "Baggy" as a nickname.

Bagheera finds Mowgli as a baby and brings him to a pack of wolves to ensure his survival, knowing Mowgli will eventually need to return to the human world. When Shere Khan returns to the jungle, Bagheera offers to take Mowgli to a nearby human village for his safety. Bagheera conflicts with Baloo regarding Mowgli, but Bagheera reminds him of Shere Khan and convinces him to help him. When Mowgli runs away from Baloo, Bagheera tries to gain help from Hathi and his herd of elephants in finding him. Bagheera consoles Mowgli when he thinks Shere Khan has killed Baloo trying to defend him, but Baloo wakes much to Bagheera's anger, having thought him dead. When Mowgli follows a human girl into the village, Bagheera encourages him and consoles Baloo, assuring him of Mowgli's safety. He and Baloo walk off afterward singing "The Bare Necessities" as the film ends.

Though Bagheera is absent from the series TaleSpin, which uses several characters from the 1967 film, many of Shere Khan's employees and military personnel are black panthers strongly resembling him.

Bagheera appears as a cub in the prequel series Jungle Cubs, where his friends often make fun of him. Like Shere Khan and Hathi, Bagheera has an American accent as opposed to his English accent in the 1967 film. Bagheera is voiced in Jungle Cubs by Elizabeth Daily and Dee Bradley Baker as a cub and by Bob Joles as an adult on special animated segments.

Bagheera appears in The Jungle Book 2, voiced by Bob Joles. When Shere Khan returns to take revenge on Mowgli, Bagheera tries to stop Baloo from helping Mowgli, suspecting he wants to bring him back to the jungle. Bagheera fails despite gaining the aid of Hathi, and Baloo tricks him into thinking Mowgli is not with him, though Bagheera is unsure. Bagheera rushes to help Mowgli and his friend Shanti after Shere Khan attacks them but has to wait outside the temple where they are trapped, warning Baloo to be careful as he travels inside. Mowgli manages to trap Shere Khan, after which he introduces Shanti to Bagheera. At the end of the film, he is shown playing with Mowgli's adoptive brother Ranjan.

1994 live-action film

In the 1994 live-action film, Bagheera is portrayed by a black leopard named Shadow. As opposed to other adaptations, Bagheera and the other animals in the 1994 film do not speak.

Bagheera finds Mowgli and his pet wolf, Grey Brother, after they are separated from civilization. Hearing Shere Khan's roar, Bagheera leads them by his tail to a pack of wolves, who adopt them as Mowgli is kind to one of their species. When Mowgli is an adult and has learned the ways of men, he introduces Bagheera to his love interest Kitty Brydon, though he is hostile toward Kitty's fiancé Captain Boone and his soldiers. Bagheera saves Mowgli from being shot by soldiers working for Boone, and later saves their friend Dr. Plumford from being killed by Buldeo and a caravan of bandits. When Mowgli is tied to a tree, Bagheera arrives and chews through the ropes, freeing him. At the end of the film Bagheera is seen crossing a bridge with a triumphant Mowgli and Kitty.

2016 computer-generated film

Bagheera appears in the 2016 remake of the 1967 film as a computer-generated character, where he is voiced by Ben Kingsley. Bagheera's role in the 2016 film is largely similar to the 1967 animated version, serving as a mentor to Mowgli and a voice of reason to him and Baloo.

Bagheera rescues Mowgli after Shere Khan kills the boy's father and raises him to be a creature of the jungle as part of Akela's wolf pack. When Shere Khan threatens Mowgli's life, Bagheera agrees to guide him to a human village, but Shere Khan ambushes them en route. Bagheera fights Shere Khan, buying Mowgli enough time to escape. He reunites with Mowgli after Baloo saves him from Kaa, and tries to have Baloo lie to Mowgli in order to ensure he stays in the village. Bagheera and Baloo help Mowgli escape King Louie and his gang of monkeys, but Mowgli is furious with them for failing to tell them Shere Khan has killed Akela. Bagheera helps Baloo and the wolf pack fight Shere Khan long enough to allow Mowgli to lure the tiger over a pit of fire, into which he falls to his death. Bagheera is seen sitting with Baloo and Mowgli as the film ends, Mowgli having found his true home in the jungle.

Kingsley described Bagheera in an interview as an adoptive parent to Mowgli whose personality was somewhat militaristic, saying "he's instantly recognizable by the way that he talks, how he acts, and what his ethical code is." Kingsley's voice acting was praised by Rotten Tomatoes as "[bringing] the appropriate level of gravitas to the strait-laced Bagheera," and was ranked as the best animal performance in the film by Vox, who called Bagheera "the concerned parent, worried about what his child will find around the next corner, the big cat who knows he has to let go just a little but can't find it in himself to do so".

Other media

  • In the 1967 animated Soviet film, Adventures of Mowgli, Bagheera is portrayed as female. This may be related to the fact that the Russian word for "panther" is a feminine noun, and a name ending with 'a' is considered to be a female name in the Russian language (a male panther would have been named Bagheer. As a matter of fact, Russian translators sometimes accidentally sought gender balance by changing the gender and name of fictional animals if they were behaving similar to local folklore trickster, e. g. there's a female fox character in an adaptation/translation of Italian The Adventures of Pinocchio made by A. Tolstoy). Additionally, in the Russian translation of the book, Bagheera is female. In this version, she has three cubs, one black and two yellow with rosette patterns. Bagheera is portrayed as friendly, loyal, trustworthy, and protective, yet somewhat cunning and tricksy. She is voiced by Lyudmila Kasatkina in the original Soviet Russian-language version, and by Dana Delany in the 1996 American English version.
  • In the Japanese anime Jungle Book Shōnen Mowgli, Bagheera is one of Mowgli's closest friends and strongest allies. Voiced by Hiroya Ishimaru in the Japanese and Arthur Grosser in the English Dub. Like in the literature, he was formerly a pet panther, but instead of breaking free on his own, he is set free on purpose, mainly to protect him as his owner was a cruel man, though the man's daughter Linda was compassionate to him and even went as far as taking a gunshot for him to ensure his escape. Bagheera later told Mowgli about her and also mourns her.
  • In the 1991 song "Bagheera" by Blues Traveler, Bagheera is depicted with blood-stained fur drinking at the bar, counseling a young man-cub about his choice to live as man or as a free creature. Mowgli remembers when he was in the midst of his decision to live with the world of Man or to return to the jungle and be free. The line says "some say if you could have seen him then, you would have noticed a tear fall from his majestic eye."
  • In the 1996 Hungarian play version, Bagheera is again a female panther. Her main role is bribing the wolf pack with a bull, so they accept Mowgli as Akela's cub, teaching Mowgli with Baloo about the Rules of the Jungle, and advising him throughout the play.
  • In the 1998 film The Jungle Book: Mowgli's Story, Bagheera is portrayed as a female, voiced by Eartha Kitt.
  • In the 2002 comic book series Fables, Bagheera appears as one of the characters living in exile on the Farm in upstate New York. He participates in the farm uprising and, along with the other "Kipling" fables, he assists Goldilocks in tracking down Reynard the Fox. Bagheera actually succeeds in tracking down Reynard, though the Fox manages to escape from him. It is implied that Bagheera's primary motivation for capturing the Fox is to show up Shere Khan after Khan arrogantly rejects Bagheera's offer of help. After the uprising is defeated, a remorseful Bagheera agrees to imprisonment rather than forced labor.
  • In the 2018 Netflix film Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle, Christian Bale voiced Bagheera.
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