The Gentlemen of the Jungle

Summary of The Gentlemen of the Jungle


The Gentlemen of the Jungle” is a storey written by Jomo Kenyatta, a Kenyan politician and the country’s first president. This narrative depicts the Kikuyu people’s attitude toward European laws and commissions in Kenya. In the late nineteenth century, European powers partitioned Africa. This storey begins in a situation where an ‘act of kindness is misunderstood as weakness.’

Once upon a time, an elephant developed a friendship with a man. Due to a severe thunderstorm, the elephant sought cover with his companion. The nice guy volunteered to allow the elephant to place his trunk inside his hut, as he only had room for him and the elephant’s trunk. However, the crafty elephant inserted his head and hurled the man out. The man began grumbling and arguing with his pal. Disturbed, the lion roared and demanded to know what caused the disturbance. The elephant replied that he had been discussing the ownership of the small home with a buddy. The lion desired ‘peace and tranquillity in his domain. As a result, he directed his ministers to convene a Commission of Inquiry and provide a report.


The man was pleased by the King of the Jungle’s kind words. Mr Rhinoceros; Mr Buffalo; Mr Alligator; The Rt. Hon. Mr Fox as Chairman; and Mr Leopard as Secretary to the Commission were appointed. However, no one from the man’s side was present. When he objected, he was informed that no one on his side was educated enough to comprehend the complexities of jungle law. He was also persuaded that he had nothing to worry about because the Commission’s members were chosen by God and endowed with teeth and claws. As a result, they would conduct a thorough investigation.


The Commission convened to hear testimony. Mr Elephant rationalised his actions by stating that he had always considered it his responsibility to protect his friends’ interests, which resulted in the misunderstanding. He stated that a buddy had invited him to assist him in rescuing his hut from being destroyed by a cyclone. The elephant stated that he believed it was vital to repurpose the undeveloped space by sitting in it.

Mr Elephant’s assertion was backed up by the jungle’s elders. The man then began to recount his ordeal. The committee cut him off and inquired as to whether the undeveloped area in his hut had been occupied by anyone else before to Mr Elephant’s appointment. The gentleman was perplexed. Finally, the commission rendered a decision. It was not in the conventional manner of man. They decided that the conflict arose as a result of misunderstandings caused by man’s backward views. They defended Mr Elephant’s actions by claiming he had carried out his sacred duty of safeguarding man’s interests. They believed that the space should have been utilised most efficiently. Due to the fact that man had not yet reached the stage of expansion, they formed an agreement that suited both parties. As a result, Mr Elephant was permitted to remain in his hut, while the man was told to seek out a suitable location for a new home.

The man did as recommended, fearful of the Commission’s teeth and claws. However, the same fate awaited them. Mr Rhinoceros was relocated to a different hut, and a Royal Commission was convened to make the same finding. This technique was repeated until all huts were replaced. By this point, the man had decided on an effective method. When the forest lords’ existing huts began to deteriorate, he constructed a larger and better hut. As soon as the animals spotted it, they arrived in droves and took up residence in the place they discovered. They quickly began squabbling over their penetration rights. The man seized the opportunity and set fire to the cottage, destroying it while the animals were still inside. He was relieved to discover “Peace is costly, but it’s worth the expense”.

Theme of the Gentlemen of the Jungle

The Gentleman of the Jungle is a philosophical storey with animal characters; it is a fable in the vein of Esope or La Fontaine. The parallel between this short narrative and ancient fables is clear, as seen by numerous idioms such as “once upon a time” or “lived happily ever after” The Gentlemen of the Jungle is the storey of a man who lives alone in the jungle surrounded by several creatures. This man is duped by an elephant who claims to be his friend, and a conflict ensues between them. The lion, king of the jungle, provides the man with the opportunity to present his case before an all-animal Commission, whose impartiality is therefore questioned, to the degree that the elephant is judged innocent and the man is forced to abandon his hut and rebuild it somewhere. The same picture repeats itself: the guy constructs further homes that are gradually seized by a rhinoceros, a buffalo, a leopard, a hyena, and other creatures. As a result, he decides to take drastic steps, gathers all the animals into a large hut, then sets it on fire and burns it completely; to the point where he finds himself alone and quiet, having gotten rid of the cruel animals and being prepared to pay a high price for peace. As with all parables, the storey concludes with a moral maxim: “Peace is costly, but it’s worth the expense” The author has written about injustice, power abuse, and racism in a colourful, straightforward, and sober manner, yet the lesson is clear and brilliant.

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Title and ‘The Gentlemen of the Jungle’

A fable is a literary genre that uses animals as characters in a storey with a moral message at the end. This lesson is clearly integrated into the storey, so readers get it right away. The animals must fit the following general requirements: Lions are bold, wolves are harsh, horses are arrogant, and foxes are clever. This genre was inspired by Aesop’s fables, which were passed down orally for years until being written down in the 16th century. Aesop began as a slave and rose through the ranks to become a skilled storyteller in Phrygia, Greece.

‘The parable’ differs from a fable in that it contains a hidden meaning that is hidden in the language itself and is not automatically comprehended in the storey. ‘The Gentleman of the Jungle’ appears to be more advanced than a fable since it demands the reader to comprehend the complexities of the language and its meanings in order to comprehend the moral lesson. In fables, the lesson was sometimes perilous since it addressed contentious social concerns and conflicts. Aesop was most likely killed in the end because of his ability to instruct and inspire others to think for themselves. ‘The Gentleman of the Jungle’ is also a political parable, as it addresses contentious themes in contemporary society. Kenyatta alluded to the fight when he stated, “the relations between Kikuyu and Europeans can be well illustrated by this Kikuyu storey.” The term alludes to the British ‘Gentleman,’ who is always fair, just, and morally upright. The difference between this and ‘the forest’ is primitiveness and a lack of social and political development. The inference is that there is an imbalance between the terms, with one being superior and the other inferior.

Questions and Answers

I

1. What favour did the elephant ask the man on a rainy day?
Ans:- The Elephant asked the man on a rainy day to allow him to put his trunk inside the hut.

2. According to the man his hut had room only for him. True /False
Ans:- False

3. How did the elephant sneak into the man’s hut?
Ans:- As soon as the elephant put his trunk inside the hut, slowly he pushed his head inside and finally flung the man out in the rain.

4. According to the elephant, the man can afford to remain in the rain because
a. the skin of the man is harder than his.
b. the skin of the elephant is delicate.
c. the skin of the elephant is harder than that of the man.
Ans:- The skin of the man is harder than his.

5. How did the lion decide to solve the problem?
Ans:- The lion decided to solve the problem by appointing a Commission of Enquiry.

6. What kind of judgement did the man expect?
Ans:- The man expected that he would get impartial justice and his hut would be naturally returned to him.

7. Why was the man unhappy with the members of the Commission of Enquiry?
Ans:- Because no one was appointed from his side as a member to the Commission of Enquiry.

8. According to the elephant, the man had invited him into the hut
a. to save his skin.
b. to give shelter to his trunk.
c. to save the hut from the hurricane.
d. to fill the empty space in the hut.
Ans:- To save the hut from the hurricane.

9. In whose favour was the judgement given?
Ans:- The judgement was given in favour of the elephant.

10. Why did the man accept the suggestion of building a new hut?
Ans:- He accepted the suggestion of building a new hut because he did not have any other alternative and he was afraid of animals.

11. How did the man ‘buy’ peace finally?
Ans:- Finally the man ‘bought’ the peace by setting the hut on fire.

II


1. Why was the Commission of Enquiry appointed by the king of the jungle?
OR
How did the animals exploit the man each time he built a new hut?

On a rainy day, man’s hut was occupied by the elephant. Hence, the man started grumbling against the elephant and complained to the king of the jungle. The Commission of Enquiry was appointed by the king of the jungle in order to solve the problem between the man and the elephant as the king of the jungle believed in peace and tranquillity. So he wanted to have peace and tranquillity in his kingdom. The lion commanded the high ministers to appoint a commission of enquiry to go thoroughly into the matter. The commission was established to give a fair trial to suit both the elephant and the man. Thus he decided to solve the problem in the right way. The commission consisted of jungle elders and they were all reputed for their impartial justice. So the decisions and final judgment would be considered fair and truly impartial.

2. Why do you think the animals decide not to have anyone from the man’s side on the Commission of Enquiry? Explain.

Answer: The members of the commission thought that nobody from the man’s side was well enough educated to understand the intricacy of the jungle law. They considered it was fair personnel and the members of the commission were all reputed for their impartial justice. They assured him that there would be no place for injustice as they were all chosen by God to look after the interest of the people. However, the animals had planned to occupy the huts one by one as the way the elephant did. Moreover, all the animals were very imperialists and they all wanted to expand their power over others. Having a member from the man’s side would have proved a hindrance to the idea and spoiled their plans. So they cleverly avoided the trouble and chose members from their side.

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3. How did the elephant justify its act of occupying the hut?
Answer:  When the enquiry of commission sat to take evidence they called the accused elephant to state his case. The elephant addressed the committee members and referred to the real incident as just a story. The elephant said that man himself had invited him to save his hut from being blown away by the hurricane. The elephant stated it was his duty to look after his friends’ own interests. So the elephant entered the hut to turn the undeveloped space to a more economic use by sitting in the empty space of the hut. The elephant added that if the members who were in commission would have also done the same with equal readiness in similar circumstances. The members of the commission agreed to elephant justification. Likewise, the elephant subverted the real fact.

4. Do you think the verdict by the Commission of Enquiry was on the expected lines? Why?
Answer: No, the verdict by the commission of enquiry was not on the expected lines. Before they sat to take evidence man was told that the verdict would be in favour of the man who was the real owner of the hut. But the judgement was passed in favour of the elephant. The final judgement would have been in favour of the man, but through cunningness and their well preplan, man could not get. The members of the Enquiry Commission concluded that they heard sufficient evidence from unbiased sources which supported the elephant. As a result, the commission believed in the elephant version of the story. Added to it the man was not given much chance to state his case. Hence the argument became one sided and judgement was partial.

5. What fate awaited the man each time he built a new house?
Answer:  The process of building a new hut is repeated until Mr Boffalo, Mr Leopard, Mr Hyena and the rest of the animals accommodate in newly constructed huts. Many commissions were appointed to look into the matter but the same findings were given. Each time the man would build a new hut. When some animals would occupy them and he could not stop it. Even members of the Commission themselves do not spare the man. Instead, they occupied the hut wherever the man has built new huts. He was also afraid that he would be killed brutally if he had gone against their decision.

III

1. Do you agree with the action of the man at the end? Why?

Ans:- In the beginning, the man was very kind and innocent. He thought that the decisions given by the commission of enquiry were partial. Moreover, the man was not given a single chance to state his case. The members of the commission supported Mr Elephant who bribed and misused man’s kindness. After they heard evidence from both parties, the judgement was given in favour of the elephant. The commission suggested the man build another hut more suited to his need. The man having no alternatives, did as the members suggested he kept silent. No sooner had he built new huts than all animals occupied. Again a royal commission was appointed but it did not seem to be of any use to him. When he got fed up with all these troubles, he decided to end up the illegal actions, so he set fire for a big hut in which all animals were inhabited. Thus all animals burnt into ashes and he justified by saying ‘ peace is costly but it’s worth the expense ‘.

Q. ‘An act of kindness is misunderstood as weakness.’ Discuss this with reference to the story.

Ans:- The man was the real gentleman of the jungle as he always stretched his hand to help his fellow friend Mr Elephant, who was in deep trouble. The elephant requested the man that it would put its trunk inside the man’s hut to keep it out of the torrential rain. But as soon as the elephant put its trunk inside the hut it flung the man out in the rain, who was the real owner of the hut. The man could not do anything rather than grumble. This was the first instance of how the man was deceived by the elephant. To find the solution for both parties, the commission of enquiry was appointed by the king of the jungle, the lion. The members from the man’s side were not included in the commission. On seeing the personnel, the man protested but he was told that it was impossible since no one from his side was enough educated to understand the intricacy of the jungle law. This was the second instance of how the man was cheated. Finally, the commission arrived at a judgement which favoured the elephant. They suggested him to build new hut more suited to his needs. When he built news huts, the animals occupied the huts through threats. This is how the man fooled eventually by his kindness.

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3 ‘Peace is costly but it is worth the expense.’ What is the ironical significance of this statement?

Ans:- Ironically, wars are continuously waged by countries in order to establish peace. It takes a lot of effort from everyone concerned to be achieved peace in a country, and it can happen only when everyone is aware of the necessity for peace and it’s motivated to achieve it through a peaceful way. In the story, “The Gentlemen of the Jungle” the man is the real gentleman and he is portrayed as kind and always willing to lend a helping hand. But the elephant misused the man’s kindness, made him homeless through fear and power. The lion came to know that they disturbed the peace of the kingdom. In order to bring peace, he ordered his members to appoint a commission. But the commission of enquiry did not seem to be of any use. All the animals in the jungle were started to accommodate his newly built hut. Likewise, the man was troubled and suffered by all the animals. Finally, he thought that he wanted to put an end to all and burnt the animals including jungle lords.

In this story, the author tries to convey a strong message to all when the man is free of all exploitation by the animals after he kills them. He feels relieved and says “Peace is costly, but it’s worth the expense”. Here it’s evidently telling that it takes a lot of time and effort to achieve peace, consequently, the man availed the peace.

4. Every fable ends with a moral. What ‘moral’ do you find in this story?
Ans:- The author, Jomo Kenyatta concludes the story ” The Gentlemen of the Jungle ” by quoting ‘ peace is costly but it’s worth the expense ‘. Jomo Kenyatta was not a professional fable writer but he intended to convey the strong message that how Kenya was exploited in the time of colonial period. The author tried to convey a moral message to us through this short story. In society ones, weakness can be misused by the dominant people. Ultimately this would lead the weaker section to leave the society. He is trying to instil the idea in the reader’s suppressed people in a society will eventually rise to seek power. We can understand in the story how the man suffered, protested and reached the achievement. The author stands by his ground by saying that the dominated people can tool the minority for over a period of time but not forever. No one likes to be treated as a slave or homeless in society and equality is what everyone desires. The moral of the story emphasizes to its readers that one should stop colonialism and discrimination. It comes from the old saying “treat other the way you want to be treated”.

5. Do you think the story can be read as a political satire on colonialism?
Ans:- ‘The Gentlemen of the Jungle is a short story which is written by Jomo Kenyatta. The story provides some hidden facts about colonization and it’s an answer to how Kenya was liberated from the clutches of European chief powers. Europeans did not colonise Africa in a single attempt. The Europeans settled down and occupied the countries gradually. Every single attempt by European chief powers was to occupy every patch of land in Africa and turn it into their economic use. The native Africans were so innocent and ignorant that they did not know they were being colonized. Their attitude toward European “expansion” is made clear in the fable ” The Gentlemen of the Jungle”.

The story is actually implicated with a lot of political issues. One can also look at the story from a political satire angle. There is a political reference for each and every character in the story. For instance, if a man symbolically represents native Africans, some significant animals represent chief European powers. A small hut is likely to be represented as a country in Africa. One could draw a parallel line between incidents and their political implications. In the first incident itself, the story unearths how one among the chief European powers occupy the space inhabited by native residents. The elephant flings the man out of a hut who is the real resident of it. A commission of enquiry is appointed in order to give impartial justice. The king of the forest I.e lion assures man to give equal opportunity. But the man is cheated as they didn’t provide an opportunity to state his case and rejects his demand of including a member from his side on the account of poor education. This is how the Europeans brought under their submission and suppressed the natives. Ultimately it was partial justice.

As they suggested he builds another hut, but it is occupied by Mr Rhinoceros and many other animals do so later. Here it is important to note that the occupation of a single hut symbolically outlines how Europeans colonised every country in Africa. The man builds another bigger and better hut for which animals competes with each other. It is an internal struggle among chief European powers to take control over Africa. How Africa got independents from chief European powers is defined by the action of putting fire on a bigger hut in which all animals are burned into ashes. The man also quotes an African proverb “Peace is costly, but is worth the expense”. Literally and ironically means if one wants to have peace, one should meet the expense of violence.

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