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In India, the daughter of the British magistrate pays a native storyteller to recite what he calls "the story of India:" Deep in the jungle, wildlife rules with an intricate hierarchy. There is Baloo the bear, who teaches jungle law; Bagheera, the wise panther; the wicked crocodile Mugger; and Shere Khan, a killer tiger whose stripes were whipped onto his hide by the jungle trees. There also exists an ongoing struggle between man and nature, village and jungle. One night, the people of a growing village work through the night, hoping to create a great city. Masu places his young son Natu away from the builders, and moments later the baby wanders off into the trees. When Masu runs after him, he is killed by Shere Khan, and the rest of the men are too frightened to enter the jungle. While Natu's mother Messua grieves, a family of wolves, headed by father Akeda and mother Raksha, take Natu in and treat him as one of their own cubs. Twelve years later, the boy, now called Mowgli, is as much a part of the jungle as the rest of the wildlife, with Shere Khan his only enemy. One day, as he is fleeing the tiger, whom he can easily outwit, Mowgli spots the "man-village" and sneaks in to get a closer look at the humans. He burns his hand on the unfamiliar fire, however, and begins barking, prompting the village men to surround him. Realizing that he is feral, the men want to release him, but Buldeo, a superstitious merchant, insists he has the evil eye. Messua, who does not realize he is her son, offers to rear him and leads him to the safety of her home, and Buldeo predicts that the curse of the beast will now rain down on them all. Over the next weeks, Messua teaches Mowgli to speak and instructs him in the ways of her people. When he declares that he wants a "man tooth" to keep him safe from the tiger, Messua sends him to Buldeo's store to buy a knife. There, Buldeo's daughter Mahala shows him a bear rug that her father killed, and Mowgli replies that he knew the bear, who was very old, and that hunters must be very cowardly. Buldeo hears and calls Mowgli an animal, but hoping he will return to the jungle, sells the boy a knife. Outside, Mahala sneaks off with Mowgli to hear the sounds of the jungle, and that night, they are welcomed into the jungle, where the wolf pack surrounds Mowgli joyously, and Hati the elephant warns him that Shere Khan is just returning from a long trip. Mowgli then leads Mahala to a lost empire deep in the jungle, where she falls into a treasure chamber full of precious jewels and gold. The python guarding the treasure terrifies Mahala, and although Mowgli recognizes that it has long lost its venom, he heeds its warning that the jewels hold more death than his fangs ever did. Mahala returns to her home with one piece of gold, which Buldeo finds the next morning. Realizing that only Mowgli can lead him to the lost city, he begins to court the boy, joined by the barber and the pundit, who also see the gold piece. Soon after, Mowgli learns that Shere Khan is near, and returns to the jungle in spite of Messua's pleas. He invokes the rule of the jungle, "we be of one blood, ye and I," to gain advice from the wise python Kaa, who tells Mowgli to lead the tiger into the water. Mowgli then provokes Shere Khan until the tiger leaps into the river with him, and there stabs the beast while under water. Buldeo and his friends have tracked Mowgli to the river, and when Bagheera attacks them, Buldeo believes Mowgli can shape-shift and races home. When Mowgli proudly returns to the village with Shere Khan's hide, he learns that Buldeo has convinced them all that he is a witch, and he is captured and whipped in preparation for his burning. After Mowgli tells Messua that both the jungle and the man pack have cast him out, Buldeo and his cohorts watch as she slips Mowgli a knife to escape. Buldeo's group then trails him into the jungle, where Mowgli intentionally leads them to the lost city. They discover the treasure and load huge piles of gold into sacks, but hearing Mowgli's disembodied voice warning them to flee, they race into the trees and quickly become hopelessly lost. At night, the pundit kills the barber in order to steal the massive ruby sword he has taken from the treasure. Buldeo, who also wants the ruby, then pushes the pundit into the river and watches Mugger eat him. When Mowgli asks his animal friends to gather around Buldeo and frighten him, Buldeo loses his mind, convinced that Mowgli has transformed dozens of times. Although the elephants favor killing the merchant, Mowgli insists on returning him to his village, asserting that only humans kill for sport. Back at the village, Buldeo starts a fire and Mowgli instructs Mahala to lead the villagers to a jungle island where they will be safe. He then gathers the jungle animals into the same lake for protection, and all the creatures watch as the lost city burns to the ground. Messua begs Mowgli to return to the village with her, but he declares that he is of the jungle. Back in the present, the storyteller reveals that he is Buldeo, who never avenged himself. When the magistrate's daughter inquires how he escaped the fire, he replies that that is another story, for another day.