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Baloo is a fictitious character that appears in Rudyard Kipling’s 1894 and 1895 books The Jungle Book and The Second Jungle Book. Baloo is a sloth bear who is the harsh teacher of the Seeonee wolf pack’s young. Mowgli, the “man-cub,” is his most difficult student. In several of The Jungle Book stories, Baloo and Bagheera, a panther, save Mowgli from the tiger Shere Khan and try to teach him the Law of the Jungle.
In Kipling’s writings, he is referred to as “the sleeping brown bear.” Although Daniel Karlin, who edited the Penguin reissue of The Jungle Book in 1987, states that, with the exception of color, Kipling’s descriptions of Baloo are consistent with the sloth bear, as brown bears and Asian black bears do not occur in the Seoni area where the story takes place, Robert Armitage Sterndale, from whom Kipling derived most of his knowledge of Indian fauna, used the Hindi word “Bhalu” for several bear species. In addition, the term sloth may be used to describe someone who is sleepy. However, according to Karlin, Baloo’s diet of “mainly roots, nuts, and honey” is more prevalent in Asian black bears than in sloth bears. However, this might be a one-time occurrence; according to sloth bear eating habits, while sloth bears like termites and ants (which are also depicted as Baloo’s special treat in The Jungle Book), honey and fruits are their main sources of sustenance for the most of the year. He is represented as a Sloth bear in the 1967 Walt Disney film The Jungle Book, whereas he is portrayed as an Asian black bear in the Russian version. Baloo is played by a Cinnamon bear in the 1994 adaptation of The Jungle Book, whereas Baloo is frequently portrayed by an American black bear in live-action television programs and movies. Bagheera claims Baloo is a sloth bear in the 2016 adaption, despite his look being identical to that of a Himalayan brown bear. Though there are no historical records of this subspecies of brown bear on Seoni, it may have wandered throughout much of northern India.
Baloo, based on Kipling’s invention, has appeared in a number of Disney films, beginning with the studio’s 1967 feature-length animated film rendition of The Jungle Book. Baloo (voiced by Phil Harris) is shown as a cheerful, even-tempered creature who leads a carefree existence, a far cry from the law professor in Rudyard Kipling’s novel. Baloo is one of Mowgli’s tutors and pals, much as he is in the novel. Baloo is similarly patient and sturdy, with the exception of being ticklish. Baloo is originally adamant about taking Mowgli to the Man Village, believing that he should be raised as a son. When Bagheera reveals that Mowgli is easy prey for the tiger Shere Khan and that he isn’t secure in the forest even with Baloo’s vigilant care, Baloo sees he has a point and agrees to tell Mowgli the difficult truth. Mowgli attacks Baloo and flees, leading Bagheera and him to split up and seek for the youngster. Baloo does not appear again until the film’s finale, when he finds Mowgli ready to fight Shere Khan. Baloo tries to stop the tiger, but nearly dies in the process. Baloo is initially saddened when Mowgli pursues a girl called Shanti into the hamlet and decides to remain, but he is eventually happy that Mowgli is secure at least. He and Bagheera then return to the woods, where they perform a duet of “The Bare Necessities.”
Baloo has a cameo appearance in the animated sequel The Jungle Book 2 from 2003, in which he is voiced by John Goodman. Despite Bagheera’s displeasure and the return of a vengeful Shere Khan, who has been humiliated by Mowgli’s earlier loss, he is anxious to reconnect with him. After dodging Bagheera and Colonel Hathi’s herd to see Mowgli, he slips into the Man Hamlet at night and carries him out into the woods after being captured by Shanti, who felt horrible for bringing Mowgli into trouble and unwittingly protects him from Shere Khan, who had also come to the village.
As a result, Shanti, Ranjan, and a few other villagers venture into the bush in search of him. Mowgli tells Baloo all about the village’s unpleasant qualities while keeping his favorable sentiments about it hidden. Baloo accidentally hurts Mowgli’s feelings and frustrates him when he makes light of Mowgli’s existence in the village and terrifies Shanti as Mowgli requested. During a dispute, Baloo and Shanti continue to detest each other until they both claim to be attempting to defend Mowgli from Shere Khan (who attacked Mowgli when he went after Shanti and Ranjan to apologize).
They start referring to one other as friends after that. Baloo realizes that Mowgli’s position in the community is in the village when he, Mowgli, and Shanti capture Shere Khan behind a statue on a rocky ledge in a lava lake. The next day, however, it is discovered that Mowgli, Shanti, and Ranjan have the approval of the village head to visit the forest whenever they choose (presumably because, with Shere Khan gone, the jungle is now “certified as safe”).
Baloo, Shanti, and Mowgli sing a repeat of “The Bare Necessities” while Ranjan plays with Bagheera at the end of the film.