The Storybook Jungle

Edward Julius Detmold (British painter) 1883 - 1957, The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad The Sailor

Symbolically the jungle is the domain of the savage. In contrast, the forest/woodland is the domain of the wild. Both are ruled by appetites. In children’s literature, the jungle is often a carnivalesque arena, just scary enough to provide a thrill.

Sometimes the jungle is brought into the home.

The Tale of the Golden Cockerel (1834) by Alexander Pushkin (1799-1837), illustrated by Bogatov Nikolay Alekseyevich (1854-1935). 1911
The Tale of the Golden Cockerel (1834) by Alexander Pushkin (1799-1837), illustrated by Bogatov Nikolay Alekseyevich (1854-1935). 1911
F. Baldi - Original illustration for Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories, published by Capitol publishing house in 1958 jungle
F. Baldi – Original illustration for Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories, published by Capitol publishing house in 1958
JASPER GIRAFFE a Whitman Tell-A-Tale Book
Walt Peregoy (1925 ~ 2015) 1967 concept illustration for Disney’s The Jungle Book
jungle animals at night by mary blair
Mary Blair
DIE WUNDERFAHRT (1929) Sándor Bortnyik jungle carnivalesque
DIE WUNDERFAHRT (1929) Sándor Bortnyik, a carnivalesque example.
The animals in this image fit together beautifully, almost like a jigsaw puzzle or sheet of stickers. I call this kind of composition ‘collage sheet‘ illustration. This is Kapitan Animuk Lovi v Africe, published 1971, by Ondrej Sekora
Explorers don’t visit, they don’t travel, no: They explore! Going deep into the jungle, it’s dream … or a nightmare: It depends on the day and the pages!
The Calico Jungle, written & illustrated by Dahlov Ipcar, 1965. The jungle is especially well-suited to the collage/folk art treatment.
1965 cover of The Calico Jungle, written and illustratrd by Dahlov Ipcar
ıllustrated by Maurice de Becque from The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling, 1924
1948 Illustration by Ruth Chrisman Gannett
The Tyger Voyage illustrated by Nicola Bailey 1976
The Tyger Voyage illustrated by Nicola Bailey 1976
Illustration by Gyo Fujikawa, from the A to Z Picture Book, published in 1974
DE VERLIEFDE ZEBRA (1963) Cornelius van Velsen riding through the jungle
DE VERLIEFDE ZEBRA (1963) Cornelius van Velsen
Jane Werner (1914-2005) and Cornelius De Witt (1925-1970) collaborated and produced this 1949 book called- Words How They Look and What They Tell animals in forest
Jane Werner (1914-2005) and Cornelius De Witt (1925-1970) collaborated and produced this 1949 book called- Words How They Look and What They Tell
Brian Wildsmith Professor Noah’s Spaceship 1980

THE JUNGLE AND DEATH

Missionary being eaten by jaguar by Noé León, 1907
Missionary being eaten by jaguar by Noé León, 1907
Fantastic Adventures for November 1941
Fantastic Adventures for November 1941
Vert une historie dans la jungle, Stephane Kiehl

THE EROTIC JUNGLE

The jungle is wilderness, full of wild creatures. Humans lose artifice and control over base instincts when entering this symbolic space. The rules and etiquette of civilisation no longer apply. The forest also functions in this way.

The Conservatory by Phyllis Hastings
Bagheera and Kaa, Illustration for The Jungle Book, Maurice de Becque, 1924
Bagheera and Kaa, Illustration for The Jungle Book, Maurice de Becque, 1924

THE SCIENCE FICTION JUNGLE

Before we were obsessed with colonising Mars, we were interested in Venus. The 1960s changed everything, but pre 1960s science fiction depicts Venus as a planet covered in jungle:

Before radio observations in the 1960s, many believed that Venus contained a lush, Earth-like environment. This was due to the planet’s size and orbital radius, which suggested a fairly Earth-like situation as well as to the thick layer of clouds which prevented the surface from being seen. Among the speculations on Venus were that it had a jungle-like environment or that it had oceans of either petroleum or carbonated water.

Wikipedia, Explorations and Observations of Venus
Mitochondrial Eve Interzone Magazine sci-fi jungle
Simulcrum January 2005 sci-fi jungle

ARK AS JUNGLE

We remain fascinated by the mythology of the ark full of animals. Children’s illustrations of the Biblical ark focus on animals of the savannah and jungle (and not on mosquitoes, for some reason).

for ‘Overcome by Mosquitoes’, a short story by W.M. Elkington in an 1899 edition of The Wide World Magazine. This illustration shows men around a campfire dealing with mosquitoes.
for ‘Overcome by Mosquitoes’, a short story by W.M. Elkington in an 1899 edition of The Wide World Magazine. “He waved his arms”

The animals on the ark therefore seem like a microcosm of a much bigger place, condensed into something unlikely.

CITY AS JUNGLE

In many stories, the jungle is utilised as a metaphor for the city. We see this across many genres, especially noir, action, thriller and even in children’s picture books.

Alice and Alex, a love-at-first-sight story. The cover illustration is literally a city in the middle of a jungle.

Gorilla by Anthony Browne shows a gorilla swinging through trees with a city as backdrop. This is a carnivalesque night-time adventure in which a girl imagines her father as a more involved gorilla.

In some ways, Chris Van Allsburg is the Anthony Browne of America. Jumanji brings animals of the jungle into the living room.

FURTHER READING

The Jungle by Upton Sinclair at Project Gutenberg

Jumanji by Chris Van Allsburg — my analysis

Header illustration: Edward Julius Detmold (British painter) 1883 – 1957, The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad The Sailor