The panther Bagheera is on a quest – to get Mowgli back to his man-tribe. The young man-cub has lived in the jungle until now, but Shere Khan the tiger is after his blood, and Bagheera has taken it on himself to get the child to safety. This means crossing the jungle to the man-cub settlement, along the way bumping into Kaa the huge, hissing, hungry snake, Baloo the cheeky, honey-loving, bare-necessity-singing bear, and Louie, the colossal, fire-loving, king of the swingers Gigantopithecus (great ape).
At one point Baloo the bear starts humming a tune, The Bare Necessities no less, and Mowgli asks him what he’s doing. Baloo tells him it’s a song, but Mowgli has never heard a song before. The only thing he knows is the law of the jungle. ‘Now this is the Law of the Jungle — as old and as true as the sky; And the Wolf that shall keep it may prosper, but the Wolf that shall break it must die…’ Mowgli can recite this, but he doesn’t know any songs. So the fun-loving Baloo teaches him to sing. A whole new experience for the little man-cub.
Way way back in the 1970s singer Larry Norman created a piece he called The Tune, a tale about life, and a tune that had been around since creation, but then got forgotten as the world fought against itself. One day a man appeared singing The Tune, and people listened for a while, and some learnt it, but the man was put to death for singing it. As I thought on Baloo’s song it reminded me of this a little. In The Jungle Book Mowgli only knows the law, the rules, but there is more, there is music and singing too. Another dimension. When Jesus arrived he knew the rules, the people called it The Law, and he knew those rules were in essence good, but he also brought something else. A tune, a God-song, a dimension of life and reality that was missing. A song of hope, compassion, laughter and welcome. And he taught other people how to sing along. He got in trouble for it, those obsessed with rule-keeping saw him enjoying life too much and berated him, they figured he could not be a man of God if he brought such enjoyment to so many outsiders. But Jesus’s reply to them was this, ‘The bridegroom is in town, how could we not celebrate?’ If Baloo had been around I’m sure they would have dueted on The Bare Necessities.
If you’d like to hear Larry Normal’s The Tune it’s here in its entirety, quite long, but if you skip the 4 ½ minute intro you then get to the story.