While the Borneo branch of the family has been staying with us, Hoggy has been reading The Jungle Book as a bedtime story to the children. I have been curling up with on the sofa-bed and listening too. Much as I love reading myself, there is a certain pleasure in hearing a story read by someone else.
Of course Hoggy is at pains to provide different voices for all the characters, but he does not wish to be overly influenced by the Disney film. Naturally, this is very difficult as it is an excellent film (and my favourite from the Walt Disney animation stable). Neverthlesess, Hoggy brings his own translation to the tale.
Mowgli is a cheeky cockney character and the wolf brothers bear an uncanny resemblance to Citizen Smith (Wolfie is more than just an urban guerilla). Shere Khan, the Royal Bengal Tiger is posh and low spoken with outbreaks of potentially psychotic rage – strange how baddies often seem to come from the Home Counties (I blame the Tory Party).
Bagheera the black panther has 'a voice as soft as wild honey dripping from a tree' which is deep and mellifluous. Kaa, the Rock Python is a touch on the whiney side – he is a bit tricky, apparently because he doesn’t actually hiss as much as one might like and, according to Hoggy, it’s hard to read in a lisp without sibilants.
But the main problem is what to do with Baloo? Night after night, Hoggy was ‘not happy with my Baloo voice’. It caused him deep consternation. We tried to help him out by suggesting accents. I favoured a Brummie Baloo although that was turned down on two accounts. Firstly, that accent has never been taken seriously (sorry, mum, but even your beloved Jane Austen wrote ‘one cannot expect great things from Birmingham’). Secondly, Hoggy can’t do a Birmingham accent.
After much deliberation, his Baloo was a gruff Yorkshireman. If you set aside for a minute the fact that this is slightly unfeasible in the middle of an Indian jungle, it actually works surprisingly well. He is a big, serious, sloth bear with more than a touch of pomposity and a slight victim complex. He speaks in thee and thous and says things like, ‘No one is to be feared.’
I think at last Hoggy was happy too and we could all sleep soundly!