Feral Dreams: Mowgli and His Mothers

More than a century after it was first published, Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book remains one of the world’s favourite collections of stories. Mowgli, the human child brought up by wild animals in the jungles of India, has imprinted himself on the minds of readers as one of the most-loved literary characters of all time. In this fascinating novel, award-winning author Stephen Alter takes Mowgli’s story forward in time, transposing the classic jungle tale into unexplored terrain, where animated movies and other adaptations have never gone before.


The talking animals, the happy adventures and the innocence of Kipling’s book is not the way Alter envisages the world of his protagonist. This child lives in the 60s, in a Rohilkhand where poachers and dacoits strike terror. And predators of another kind masquerade as ‘good’ people… it is the way Alter evokes the jungle, as well as the world outside, that is remarkable about this book.

Madhulika Liddle, The Indian Express

Alter allows the forest and its denizens to remain true to their animal selves… he has spent much of his life in Indian forests, and his own background allows him to imagine Mowgli’s sense of belonging everywhere and nowhere. Feral Dreams returns you to Kipling’s Jungle Books, but it has its own pulsing, unforgettable heartbeat.

Nilanjana Roy, The Financial Times (London)

This little book, numbering barely 200 pages, in the guise of a simple story of a child rescued from a forest in India in 1960 touches on large themes such as identity, colonialism, religious imposition, caste, displacement, rebellion and reconciliation… Stephen Alter’s voice is a counterpoint to that of Kipling.

Rohit Mahajan, The Tribune

Stephen Alter’s Feral Dreams gives The Jungle Book a thorough shake-up. It trails no cloud of candyfloss sentimentality about man or beast: instead, it takes a hard look at some pressing and persistent concerns through Mowgli’s story — loss of fauna through poaching, our presumptions in trying to think and feel with animals, caste prejudices which never go out of fashion in India, and the power structures which must colour all claims of love…Feral Dreams is a post post-colonial, post post-modern novel if there ever was one, but without the pyrotechnics that tend to accompany such experiments. It is oddly convincing in its understatedness.

Anusua Mukherjee, The Hindu

In his novel Feral Dreams: Mowgli & His Mothers, Stephen Alter… updates the story to what it might read like had it been written today. If you think this book is just a rewrite of Jungle Book, be prepared to be surprised… It is an unusual, somewhat strange tale, seriously written, mysterious till the end.

Ranjit Lal Open, The Magazine

One big jungle treat…The book has so many breathtaking scenes that a reread is a must. I fell in love with Alter’s mastery of his craft and his firm grip over the story held my attention till the end.

Rachna Chhabria, The Asian Age

In a series of nested narratives… Alter recreates the forests and habitations from what is clearly a lifelong understanding, and the characters are drawn with emotion.

Latha Anantharaman, India Today