Meeting with the Goddess
When Mowgli meets with Kaa in the new Jungle Book, consider it a beat known as “Meeting with the Goddess.”
It’s obviously this story beat, for there is no other wise female presence in the near middle of the story. Temporal evidence aside, Kaa ensnares Mowgli and reveals to him his father, Shere Khan’s motives, and the red flower. Through discussion of his origin, the antagonism, and destrutive future, she’s exploring the creative and destructive forces in the universe, which Campell says is a quality of the Goddess, as “the goddess at once creates, preserves, and destroys.” (Pg. 96) She is a beautiful snake, and beauty is almost always a quality of the Goddess. Finally, by using hypnosis, she brings Mowgli to an outer-jungle place, and she clearly has some sort of outer-jungle wisdom, as a Goddess must “at the conclusion of its exile… [assure] the bliss that once was known will be known again” (Campbell 92). She assures him that a future awaits in man’s village, and perhaps a true father will be there for him, and thus the bliss once known, known again. So this is the Meeting with the Goddess beat, obviously, though it’s wise to make a case throughly as to control doubt.
The hero’s meeting with Kaa in the Jungle book probably has three tiers.
The first tier of the Meeting with the Goddess was to reconfigure the hero’s psychological trajectory. She tells of his father, teaching him what is a “man cub” and so “through this exercise his spirit is purged… and his mind opened to… the law and image of the nature of being.” (Campbell, 95) The relationship between his father, Shere Khan killing his father, and the power of the red flower, opens his mind to his past, present, and future or the image and nature of his being. And with knowledge of his true being, his psychological wants and needs change. Thus, Mowgli must accept his power for tricks and begin his internal struggle with a man’s fate.
Next, it reveals the red flower as the weapon he’ll use to defeat Shere Khan. I don’t remember if the red flower had been explicitly foreshadowed before, but of course water, the tool’s opposite, had been. Now that a new want/need has been created, a tangible manifestation of the want/need can exist. The altered psychological trajectory exists internally. But the red flower is the visible view of the internal struggle. An audience and a character can see internal struggles, but a character can easily interact with visible struggles.
It’s intriguing to watch the progression of his tool use from vines, to improved technique, finally to fire. Perhaps the use of a supernatural aide type thing (Supernatural Aid is an earlier beat in the Hero’s Journey), should always progress over the course of the story as it does in Jungle Book.
And the final tier, I think, comes from a sheer plot structure place. Kaa gears up to eat Mowgli and so Baloo and the hero meet.
Baloo the savior has three levels of plot significance.
First, it introduces Baloo to Mowgli. Next, in both cases the character’s needs are fulfilled by one another. Finally, it’s the introduction of the “Attonement with the Father” section of the story, as Baloo and Bagheera represent the ultimate authority figures in Mowgli’s life, figures he will have to master before he can defeat Shere Khan, a figure beyond authority.
As I see it, the extent of the Goddess beat in the Jungle Book can be summarized.
- the Goddess exposed his nature, past, future.
- the Goddess revealed the tool needed, and changed the character’s psychological trajectory.
- It set up his meeting with the mentor/father figure.
A few other notes on the section:
Kaa would be considered a “hampering, forbidding, punishing mother” (Campbell, 92), as she gears up to eat him right after the revelation, which in this story puts the Meeting with the Goddess in seamless relation to the Woman as Temptress beat.
Kaa was a duplicitous Goddess. Mowgli trusted the revelation because more trustworthy figures validated it later on. I wonder in what other stories duplicitous Goddesses may be found, and how a more complicate hero would have reacted to her deception.
Baloo and Bagheera are a dual Father figure in his life, a sort of odd structural choice, not too common in film, though Bagheera obviously has the more rational and domineering presence.
And not directly related to the Goddess, but Louie, the obese, ugly, desperate to be like you, monkeystrosity represents an ill superego. A human with a superego so desirous and untempered could become a monster just like Louie.