The bestselling children’s book The Graveyard Book was published in 2008 and is still being enjoyed by book lovers of all ages. The book is about a toddler who escapes the presence of a killer and finds refuge in a nearby graveyard. He is raised by many different characters and personalities both living and dead in the graveyard. Unfortunately, another topic is creating a buzz about this novel other than its’ awards. The Graveyard Book is being called out because of its many similarities of the much older and equally popular novel The Jungle Book.
The author of The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman, doesn’t deserve all of the credit for his bestselling novel because he took the plot and many key characters from Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book. The Jungle Book was a book that was published around 1900. This book is not to be confused with Disney’s translation of the story in the form of an animated movie. It has many difference especially with specific character traits. The Jungle Book is essentially a combination of several short stories that feature a boy named Mowgli who is raised by wolves and mentored by a bear and encounters multiple problems that include monkeys.
Even in the one sentence of summary of the book someone could find a similarity of the two books. Not to mention the covers of the two book, The Jungle Book and The Graveyard Book seem to be very relatable. The title of the books are nearly identical, Gaiman just switched the word “Jungle” with the setting of his own novel. A boy who is raised by a unique family? That seems to ring a bell. In The Graveyard Book gives the reader a character to rally around with Bod coming up against all odds and being raised by these people of the graveyard both alive and dead.
This sequence is implausible yet interestingly exhilerating. This is the first parallel that Gaiman noticeably take from Kipling. Kipling uses the same fundamentals in his writing with his writings with the idea of Mowgli being raised and mentored by wolves and finding wisdom from a bear. Neil Gaiman has recycles these ideas for his own novel which doesn’t seem right with the amount of awards he has received for the book. One major theme behind The Graveyard Book is “Don’t Fear Death”. This idea is very evident and obvious within the text. Yet it isn’t totally original of Gaiman.
The Jungle Book seems to have similar taste with not fearing the unknown. It could also have the theme to not fear adventure. In a book written by Tara Prescott she talks about the common themes of these two books, “Both authors are fathers writing stories for their children (and for others’ children) based on the same scenario: what happens to a child in danger, separated from his parents, and raised by an unorthodox surrogate family? Both stories ultimately reassure; there will be danger and adventure, but the heroes will endure (Prescott 66)”.
This bit of text from Prescott is talking about the same sort of ideas of similar themes. Now, the fact that The Graveyard Book was written for his children is very sweet, but this doesn’t justify the fact that he doesn’t have original story ideas. He uses the same themes that Kipling based his writing off of nearly a century before Gaiman. Characters of these two books really follow similar character traits. Some more than others, but many do nonetheless. The first character that is fairly akin to Mowgli is Bod.
This is evident because they are the main characters and their roles in both novels are very evident. These characters are both very young and they both created a sort of helpless hero form in their own books. Mowgli is a little more of a forceful figure compared to Bod as he tries to become the king of the jungle. Now having a kid hero isn’t new to children’s books, but other attributes do link these two heros. Mowgli and Bod handle the climax to their respective books very similarly. Shere Khan tries to kill Mowgli by making an attack but Mowgli uses his friends the cows in a pasture to trample Shere Khan.
Bod uses the same idea on the Jack of All Trades when Bod uses different dangers of the graveyard that he became accustomed to growing up to essentially kill the evil trying to kill him. The next character that Gaiman reuses to Silas. Silas follows the same structural traits that Bagheera has in The Jungle Book. The characters are similar because they are the ultimate wild card in the sense that they help link the protagonists to both worlds. The local town to the graveyard for Gaiman and the village to the jungle for Kipling.
These are characters that aren’t necessarily as common in any other books. They are very unique characters that further show the unoriginality of Neil Gaiman. Growing up as a young child outside of their actual family creates a gap in a central caring motherly figure for these two books. Another fairly obvious link of characters is the common ghost of Mrs. Owens in The Graveyard Book and the the wolf mother Lakshi in The Jungle Book. These characters have small roles in these books but are very important for the young protagonists, because they need a central maternal figure in the book.
A very important moment in both of these books is Bod being admitted into the graveyard and given the “Freedon of the Graveyard” and Mowgli being adopted by wolf-pack. These two scenes are very similar in the way either character is admitted. In the meetings of these main characters trying to get into their respective group/pack a voice is speaking on behalf of the child. In The Jungle Book Baloo is trying to convince the wolf pack to allow Mowgli to be apart of the wolf-pack, and in the The Graveyard Book Silas does his best for Bod (at the time an unknown child) to be protected by the graveyard.