- “You have the word of Bagheera.”
Bagheera is the wise and respectable black panther who lives in the Seoni jungle in India. His life changes when he discovers the infant man-cub, Mowgli, in a wrecked canoe and dedicates himself to ensure the safety of the young boy by putting him in the care of the wolves and watch over him until he is ready to rejoin humanity.
The Jungle Book takes a lot of creative liberties that deviate from the source material. However, Bagheera deviates the least from Kipling's works out of all the characters in the film. Like in the books, Bagheera is Mowgli's elegant, no-nonsense mentor but does not spoil Mowgli occasionally, nor is he as effeminate as his book counterpart.
Bagheera is presented as a wise figure. Level headed and intelligent, the panther is amongst the most down-to-earth residents of the jungle. When first introduced, he is seen as a selfless and caring individual, rescuing the orphaned Mowgli, and going out of his way to ensure his safety from that moment forward. Although he cares a great deal about the man-cub, Bagheera is also easily frustrated and intolerable of tomfoolery. This would result in rather heated arguments against the two, specifically in regards to whether or not Mowgli should remain in the jungle or return to the Man Village to live amongst his own species. Bagheera's temper can occasionally blind his sense of judgment, resulting in careless behavior such as abandoning Mowgli in the jungle despite the knowing dangers that lurk. Nevertheless, he is quick to reform and repeatedly finds himself by Mowgli's side once again. He is a devoted ally and makes it a crucial objective to protect those he cares about.
Bagheera is also commonly known as the foil of Baloo the bear, whom the former views as a "stupid, jungle bum". The two have opposite personalities, and continuously annoy one another with their need to push their own personal opinions onto each other. Nevertheless, these conflicts mostly centered around Mowgli's fate, and the two generally share a brotherly bond. Following the climax, when it appeared Baloo had met his demise, Bagheera revealed that he truly did care for the bear, and was notably embarrassed to see that Baloo had overheard his heartfelt eulogy. Once Mowgli made the decision to return to the Man Village, Bagheera and Baloo joyfully returned to their lives in the jungle, setting aside their differences and remained together as best friends.
Bagheera is a slender, black panther (Indian melanistic leopard). He has a gray muzzle, a pink nose, and black eyebrows. He has yellow eyes with black pupils, and a pair of numerous whiskers.
Bagheera is the first major character to appear in the film and he narrates the first part of the film too. He discovers an infant amidst the debris of a wrecked canoe. Initially, Bagheera has no intention of getting involved and is about to leave when he thinks for a moment and is unable bring himself to willingly let an innocent man-cub perish. Feeling responsible for the child's safety and knowing that the man-cub is in need of nourishment, he brings the baby to a family of wolves who recently had cubs. The wolves name the baby Mowgli and make him part of their wolf family. There, Mowgli is nurtured for 10 years, with Bagheera often stopping by to check on him and occasionally taking him on walks through the jungle. However, Bagheera admits to himself that as much as he loves Mowgli, the boy must return to his own kind when the time is right.
Bagheera's notion proves right when a man-eating Bengal tiger named Shere Khan returns to their part of the jungle where the wolf pack lives. The alpha wolf, Akela, declares that Mowgli must leave the pack before Shere Khan discovers him, as the tiger will seek to kill the boy along with anyone who protects him. Mowgli's father, Rama, protests as his son lacks a wolf's survival instincts and would die if he was sent to live on his own. Bagheera, an honorary member of the council, settles the debate when he tells them that he has discovered a Man Village where Mowgli will be safe from the dangers of the jungle and live a prosperous life among his own kind and is ready to escort him to the village with the council's permission. Akela, Rama, and the council elders approve of Bagheera's plan and wish him good luck.
Later on, Mowgli rides on Bagheera's back as the two begin the journey to the Man Village. A tired Mowgli finally asks the panther when they are heading back to the wolf den, but is shocked to learn that Bagheera is taking him to live with his own kind. Even after Bagheera explains the danger posed by Shere Khan, Mowgli comes up with naive ideas in hopes of being allowed to stay in the jungle, as it is the only home the man-cub has ever known, but Bagheera dismisses them all. As it is getting late, Bagheera takes Mowgli to a tree branch to rest for the night. Bagheera advises the man-cub to get some sleep as they will continue their journey early in the morning, but Mowgli insists that he is not afraid of any danger and can take care of himself. As the panther is nearly asleep, he is oblivious of Kaa, the python, descending from the tree branches above and hypnotizing Mowgli to sleep while coiling him up as he prepares to eat him. Being too relaxed and comfortable to resist further, Mowgli begins to fall into a trance but not before attempting to call Bagheera for help. Kaa silences the boy by tugging his neck, making him gulp. Fortunately, Bagheera hears this and wakes up just in time to save Mowgli's life and snapping him out of the trance. Angered by this, Kaa hypnotizes Bagheera to a trance but is pushed off the tree branch by Mowgli, who then slaps his mentor's face repeatedly until he wakes up. Kaa vows to capture Mowgli, who laughs at the snake as he slithers away. Bagheera humorously notes the irony of Mowgli being nearly eaten right after insisting he can take care of himself, but the embarrassed man-cub is still adamant on staying the jungle. Not wanting to argue, Bagheera tells Mowgli to go to sleep.
The next morning, the duo are awakened by a platoon of marching elephants led by Colonel Hathi. Although Bagheera is annoyed by this, Mowgli is enthusiastic about what he believes is a parade and investigates. Bagheera believes there is no harm in letting Mowgli satisfy his curiosity and so he does not intervene, though he is quickly proven wrong when Mowgli enters an argument with Hathi. Bagheera saves Mowgli from the elephant's wrath by telling him the man-cub is his responsibility and that he is taking the boy to the Man Village. Hathi calms down and resumes his march while Bagheera and Mowgli continue their journey. However, Mowgli becomes more stubborn and refuses to leave the jungle, leading to an argument between the two and prompts Bagheera to drag the man-cub to the village by force only to accidentally fall into a nearby river. The panther becomes fed up with Mowgli's rebellious behavior and storms off to cool down for a while, leaving the man-cub to wander the jungle alone.
Soon, however, Bagheera realizes his mistake when he hears a loud roar not far from where he left the boy and runs to his aid. He reaches the man-cub, but sees him bonding with Baloo the bear. Thinking Baloo is a bad influence on Mowgli, Bagheera declares that there is no time to fool around as the boy must go to the Man Village as soon as possible. However, Baloo takes Mowgli's side, not seeing why the boy cannot stay in the jungle, and promises to take care of him. Baffled, Bagheera chooses to leave Mowgli in Baloo's care, hoping the bear will see for himself that taking care of Mowgli is easier said than done. Sure enough, Bagheera is called for assistance by Baloo. Although he learns the situation is worse than he thought when Baloo tells him they were ambushed by the bandar-log, who kidnapped Mowgli and are taking him to King Louie as they speak. Baloo and Bagheera arrive at the ancient ruins and witness the mad ape-king trying to persuade Mowgli into giving him the secret of fire. Baloo distracts the monkeys while Bagheera attempts to rescue Mowgli. Unfortunately, Baloo's cover is blown and the bandar-log attacks him, Bagheera and Mowgli. A battle ensues, resulting in a whole building collapsing which gives the trio the time they need to escape, albeit with a few bruises.
That night, once Mowgli is asleep, Bagheera scolds Baloo for irresponsibly putting the man-cub in danger and takes the time to discuss with Baloo that Mowgli must return to the Man Village, as the jungle was never meant to be Mowgli’s home, and why Baloo cannot adopt the boy. Baloo takes full responsibility for the incident, he naively insists it. Baloo remains unconvinced until Bagheera mentions the threat posed by Shere Khan, as he hates all humans, especially Mowgli, and will promise to kill Mowgli. He warns Baloo that if Mowgli remains here with him, he’s in danger with Shere Khan around. Baloo then realizes how irresponsible he has been and reluctantly agrees to take Mowgli to the Man Village the first thing in the morning.
The next morning, Bagheera hears Baloo calling for Mowgli. Bagheera comes to find that Mowgli ran away, having felt betrayed by Baloo. They both rush off the find Mowgli separately. During the search, Bagheera runs into Colonel Hathi and his patrol. After a while, Bagheera is able to convince Hathi to help him search for the man-cub with the help of Hathi's mate, Winifred. Unbeknownst to all of them, Shere Khan was hunting a deer nearby and overheard their conversation. Now aware of Mowgli's presence in the jungle and that he is lost and helpless, the tiger begins tracking him down.
Bagheera spends many hours looking for Mowgli, but does not find him until he hears the battle between Shere Khan, Mowgli, Baloo, and a group of vultures. The panther arrives when the battle has been won and sees Mowgli trying to revive Baloo's motionless body on the ground. Believing Baloo to be dead, Bagheera comforts the boy and eulogizes the bear, who slowly begins to wake up. Mowgli blames himself for Baloo's apparent demise and is about to follow Bagheera to the Man Village when Baloo, touched by the panther's eulogy, reveals himself to be alive when he calls for more. Bagheera is annoyed, going so far as to call the bear a fraud, but Mowgli is overjoyed and the trio head into the jungle.
Upon reaching the edge of the jungle, the trio hears an angelic voice in the distance which catches Mowgli's attention and prompts him to investigate its source, which turns out to be a beautiful young girl collecting water from a river flowing in front of the Man Village. Mowgli becomes fascinated and climbs up the tree above her for a better look. Baloo tries to stop the man-cub but Bagheera gleefully tells him to let the boy go. Once Mowgli is directly above the girl, he loses his balance when a branch snaps and he falls into the river where he is easily noticed by the girl. The curious young maiden lures the boy into the village, hoping to get to know more about the stranger. At the village entrance, however, Mowgli looks uncertain at his guardians. Baloo begs Mowgli to come back to live in the jungle, having convinced himself that Mowgli can survive in it after all, while Bagheera encourages Mowgli to keep following the girl. Ultimately, Mowgli chooses the village and begins his new life. Baloo is noticeably disappointed that Mowgli chose the girl and the village over him and the jungle but Bagheera is not surprised as the boy obviously could not resist his own nature, or his inevitable manhood, no matter how hard he tried and declares that Mowgli is finally where he belongs. Baloo realizes he is right and enthusiastically suggests they head back to where they belong. Having gained respect for Baloo, Bagheera loosens up and the two sing "Bare Necessities" while strolling into the jungle.
In the second film, Bagheera's role is not as big. He is first seen watching in sympathy as Baloo dances with a dummy version of Mowgli. Bagheera's sympathy turns to fury as Baloo makes way for the Man-Village in an attempt to get Mowgli. Bagheera halts him over a fallen tree bridge, telling Baloo that he needs to leave Mowgli in the man village, as his future lies with his own kind, and that it's not safe for him to be in the jungle due to Shere Khan searching for the boy, bent on revenge. Baloo, however, thinks he can protect Mowgli from the tiger and avoids Bagheera having him result to Plan B: Colonel Hathi and his troops. They create a giant wall to block Baloo, but the bear manages to escape through swimming underwater. Bagheera orders the troops to search but they're too bumbling to succeed.
Later on, Bagheera is taking a walk through the jungle when Hathi and his troop come stampeding in his direction. They cram into a cave with Bagheera with them. Hathi informs Bagheera that man is in the jungle. By spying on them in the cave, Bagheera learns Mowgli is missing and immediately finds Baloo guilty. He pays a visit to Baloo but Mowgli is nowhere to be found. Oblivious to Bagheera, Mowgli is hiding in a close range. Baloo convinces Bagheera that he hasn't seen Mowgli and Bagheera departs, suspicious, however. Near the end of the film, Bagheera is continuing his search for Mowgli when he witnesses another man-cub, Mowgli's adoptive brother Ranjan, riding atop Baloo's shoulders. He goes to investigate to find that Mowgli is being pursued by Shere Khan at that very moment.
The follow leads to a hidden temple. While Baloo goes in to rescue Mowgli and his friend, Shanti, Bagheera waits outside and watches over Ranjan. After Khan is defeated, Bagheera reunites with Mowgli and meets Shanti who is actually the girl that lured him into the village in the first film. Mowgli, Shanti, and Ranjan rejoin their village. Bagheera is proud to see Baloo letting Mowgli go but becomes suspicious as Baloo's sorrowful frown turns into a clever grin. Soon after, it is revealed that Mowgli, Shanti, and Ranjan are now allowed to visit Baloo and Bagheera in the jungle. Bagheera is last seen being chased by Ranjan, who enjoys playing with his tail, and rides atop Bagheera's back with his friends as they sing "The Bare Necessities".
A younger version of Bagheera appears in the spin-off series Jungle Cubs. E.G. Daily voices Bagheera in Season 1, and Dee Bradley Baker took over in Season 2. Jungle Cubs shows that Bagheera lives in a clubhouse with Baloo, Shere Khan, Kaa, Hathi, and Prince Louie. Bagheera is stated to be the youngest of the group. Like his older counterpart, he is very serious and solemn, but also has a preoccupation with cleanliness. During the second season, as the result of having a different voice actor and being older, his voice becomes notably more thin. When the cubs had a fantasy of what life would be like if they could have anything and everything they wanted, Bagheera revealed to desire to have all the knowledge in the world. In spite of his adult counterpart, Bagheera can arguably be considered the weakest link in the group, often running away from danger. In a related topic, he appears to be a weak hunter as well. This is often brought up by Shere Khan who taunts the panther because of this.
In Jungle Cubs: Born to Be Wild DVD, Bagheera, as an adult, spends his time trying to get Mowgli to the Man Village, although Baloo would rather keep the man-cub around. This is also the only time in animation where Baggie and Khan interact with each other as adults.
Bagheera makes numerous, non-speaking cameo appearances in the animated series House of Mouse.
His most notable appearance is quite possibly the episode "Jiminy Cricket", where he's seen sitting with the cast from the film during Jiminy's speech.
Bagheera can also be seen in a generic crowd shot shown after cartoons, sitting alongside Baloo near the stage.
In the 1994 live-action movie, Bagheera serves as a jungle animal friend to Mowgli and his pet wolf, Grey Brother. After Mowgli and Grey Brother were separated from civilization, Bagheera found them the next day. Hearing Shere Khan's roar from a distance, Bagheera signaled with his tail for Mowgli to grab onto it so as to lead him out of harm's way; realizing he meant no harm to the boy or cub. It took a bit of a while until Bagheera finally brought Mowgli and Grey Brother to a pack of Grey Indian wolves. Seeing as to how the child was young, friendly, helpless, harmless, and kind to a cub of their species, the wolves accepted them as members of the pack; much to Bagheera's delight. Especially since Grey Brother was already a young wolf without a pack.
Years later, Bagheera is seen spending most of his time in a tree, not doing much, and sometimes running with a fully-grown Mowgli, Grey Brother, a new friend named Baloo the brown bear (who was saved as a cub by Mowgli on the day he was accepted into the pack), and the wolf pack. After Mowgli had been reunited with his childhood sweetheart, Katherine "Kitty" Brydon; antagonized a British officer named Captain William Boone (the main villain of the film); pushed two other officers into a river as with Boone before; and is close to being shot by one of Boone's men, Lt. John Wilkins, Bagheera and Baloo are seen roaring at the soldiers, thus scaring them off as a means of protecting Mowgli. Nevertheless, due to Wilkins' shock, he instead accidentally shoots Mowgli on the right arm.
A few days later, after Mowgli has learned the ways of men and re-entered civilization thanks to Kitty and Dr. Julius Plumford, Bagheera is seen being caressed and introduced to Kitty by Mowgli along with all the rest of Mowgli's jungle animal friends. Bagheera and the other animals watch as Kitty teaches Mowgli some dancing lessons, much to their amusement.
In a later tussle against soldiers working for Captain Boone, Baloo is shot and left for dead. Bagheera is then seen running with Mowgli and the wolf pack to locate Dr. Julius Plumford to save Baloo's life; only to find that the doctor had already left with Kitty and her father, Colonel Geoffrey Brydon, to bring Katherine to the ship to England. So, Mowgli goes out and follows them with the wolves and Bagheera behind. After saving Dr. Plumford from death by an Indian bandit named Buldeo, Bagheera is seen charging along with the wolf pack against the Indian bandits. Dr. Plumford is then taken by Mowgli to save Baloo's life.
After Mowgli (who had no choice: either the treasure the villains are after, or Kitty and her father's death) is captured by the evil British soldiers: Boone, Lt. Wilkins and Sergeant Harley and the remaining Indian bandits: Buldeo and Tabaqui, Bagheera can be seen with the wolves keeping an eye on Mowgli, his friends, and enemies while staring at Boone and Wilkins mostly. When Wilkins asks himself why Bagheera is staring at them, Mowgli replies, "Because to him, you are food." A reply is hinted afterward when Bagheera sticks out his tongue and licks his chops to show his hunger for them. The next morning, Bagheera is seen biting through the ropes restraining Mowgli to a tree, thus allowing him to escape, and then, later on, to rescue the left-out injured Colonel Brydon from death.
In the final scene, after Boone's defeat, Bagheera is seen crossing a bridge with Kitty and a triumphant Mowgli while reuniting with the British Army sent out by Colonel Brydon, who was successfully cured from his injuries by Dr. Plumford (who also managed to cure Baloo too), to find them.
Bagheera appears in the 2016 live-action film, voiced by Ben Kingsley. Kingsley describes Bagheera as having a personality as being analogous to someone in the military, most likely a Colonel, and that "he's instantly recognizable by the way that he talks, how he acts, and what his ethical code is".
Bagheera is the film's narrator, saying that when he found Mowgli in the jungle, he gave him the Seeonee wolf pack, led by Akela to be raised by Raksha, and afterward served as Mowgli's mentor and as a father-figure. Bagheera first appears in the film in teaching Mowgli to hunt. When he catches him, he says that if he can't keep up with the rest of the wolf pack then he'll end up as someone's dinner. He also disapproves of Mowgli's use of human tricks such as creating tools.
When Shere Khan threatens Mowgli and the wolf pack with death if they do not turn the boy over to him during the gathering for water at the watering hole during the drought, Bagheera agrees to take Mowgli to the Man-village where he will be safe. En-route, Shere Khan attacks them while they travel amidst a herd of buffalo, and Bagheera fights him; though the panther is defeated and injured by the tiger, Bagheera gives Mowgli enough time to escape Shere Khan.
When Bagheera finally catches up with Mowgli, he is relieved that Mowgli is alright but he is also angry that Mowgli has decided to stay with the bear Baloo and is using human tricks and innovations when he was not taught to. A heated debate ensues between him, Mowgli and Baloo, with all of them agreeing to sleep on the matter until morning. During the night Bagheera and Baloo witness Mowgli rescue a baby elephant, which the other animals of the jungle reverse and avoids. But when he sees that Mowgli's trick has saved the calf's life Bagheera is speechless. Afterward, He and Baloo talk about Mowgli and his situation, as well as the death of Akela, whom Shere Khan has killed to lure Mowgli to his death. Bagheera then convinces Baloo to lie to Mowgli and say they were never friends in order to make him head for the Man-village. However, monkeys, macaques, langurs, and gibbons sent by King Louie kidnap Mowgli before he can make a decision. Bagheera and Baloo chase after Mowgli and attempt to rescue him, but are discovered just as they are about to escape from King Louie's temple. Working together, the bear and the panther fight off the monkeys while Mowgli hides from King Louie, and the chase that follows results in the Gigantopithecus's apparent death. When Mowgli finds out about Akela's death from Louie, he angrily decides to face Shere Khan to avenge Akela and runs away.
When Bagheera and Baloo find Mowgli, they discover he has stolen a torch from the Man-village, accidentally starting a wildfire. Seeing this, they chase after him to find him facing Shere Khan at the watering hole. When Mowgli throws away his torch and Shere Khan attacks, Baloo, Bagheera, and the wolves led by Raksha all fight Shere Khan. Mowgli at first tries to attack Shere Khan with the wolves, but Bagheera stops him telling him that he can't fight the tiger as a wolf so he'll have to fight him as a man. During the battle, Bagheera faces Shere Khan in combat again and is again defeated after a fierce battle, but before Shere Khan can kill him, the wolves save him by latching onto the tiger. Their fight buys Mowgli enough time to set a trap in the burning jungle and kill Shere Khan once and for all. In the aftermath, Bagheera has accepted Mowgli's inventive ways, and acknowledges him as a human, as well as his decision to stay in the jungle. He is also on much friendlier terms with Baloo, whom he commended when he "stood [his] ground", affectionately licking his forehead and calling him "old boy". In the end, he is last seen relaxing with Mowgli and Baloo in a tree.
In this video game, Bagheera plays a role mirroring that of the film's. However, when Bagheera first takes the tasks to take Mowgli to the Man-Village, Mowgli wishes to stay so Bagheera tests him. Even though he passes, Bagheera continues to make the trip.
A costume of Bagheera is available as an add-on with The Jungle Book pack.
Bagheera appears in the 2015 rendition of World of Color, during the segment celebrating Disney animated films.
Bagheera is featured in The Jungle Book's float in the Flights of Fantasy Parade.
Differences from the source material
- In the books, Bagheera was the opposite of his Disney counterpart. In Kipling's works, Bagheera was sassy, cheerful, reckless, and cunning while Disney's version was strict, no-nonsense, level-headed, and short-tempered.
- In the books, Bagheera was born in captivity. As a cub he was a pet owned by the prince of Udaipur until he escaped into the wild. Because he could relate to Mowgli being an orphan and an outsider, Bagheera quickly befriended Mowgli. Bagheera's origin was a secret that he shared only with Mowgli. In the Disney version, Bagheera was born and raised in the wild.
- In the books, Bagheera was not the one who discovered Mowgli (Mowgli made his own way to the wolves while fleeing from Shere Khan) and they did not meet until word spread of Raksha adopting a man-cub. In the Disney version, Bagheera discovered Mowgli abandoned by a river. Feeling sorry for the child, Bagheera brought him to Raksha and Rama, who agreed to care for him.
- However, in the books, Bagheera sided with Raksha when the wolf council discussed Mowgli's fate and bought Mowgli's life with a hunted bull and gave the man-cub to Raksha.
- Unlike the Disney version, Kipling's Bagheera was not a personal friend of Akela nor an honorary member of the pack. He was, however, a close friend to Mowgli, Grey Brother, Baloo, and Raksha.
- In the books, Bagheera occasionally spoiled Mowgli a bit. In the Disney version, Bagheera took discipline and responsibility very seriously. It should also be noted that in the books, Bagheera was not a parental figure for Mowgli like in the 1967 film, but rather he saw Mowgli like a younger brother and Mowgli looked up to him as an older brother.
- In the original film, Bagheera has a thick British accent, while in Jungle Cubs, he speaks without a British accent.
- In the Soviet animated version of The Jungle Book Bagheera's gender was swapped due to the fact that the Russian word for "panther" is considered feminine. In The Jungle Book: Mowgli's Story, Bagheera is also a female.
- David Tomlinson, Keenan Wynn, and Norman Grabowski were all considered to voice Bagheera.
- Bagheera was an honorary member of Akela's wolf council, in spite of being a panther.
- In the 2016 film, Bagheera and Shere Khan do battle twice. In real life, tigers and leopards are competitors and enemies; tigers will drive leopards from their kills and will kill both adults and cubs to rid themselves of competition. Leopards will also kill tiger cubs if and when they can find them to rid themselves of competition for food and territory.
- Ironically, Bagheera's name actually means "black tiger" in Hindi. (Furthermore, some black leopards have often been mistaken for black tigers, though it is unknown if true black tigers ever existed.)
- In some parts of the first movie, like when he slapped Kaa's mouth to save Mowgli and when he grabbed Baloo's cheeks when he asked the bear to tell him what happened to Mowgli, Bagheera had five fingers and in other parts, like when he was demonstrating a lethal swipe at Baloo in their argument, he had four, whereas in the second movie he had five fingers when he was holding onto Colonel Hathi's tusks.
- Bagheera experiences a lot of bad luck in the film, mainly for the purpose of slapstick. The most notable instances include:
- Being hyponotised by Kaa.
- Falling backwards into a stream and hitting his head on a log when trying to get up.
- Being bellowed at or startled by Baloo and Hathi (causing to comedically vibrate).
- Getting squashed by a door Baloo opens up, leaving him with a black eye.
- Being inadvertently hit on the head by Baloo at one point.
- Having a large chunk of rock fall on his tail while escaping the falling temple.
- Even though he and Shere Khan knew each other since childhood, they never interact or see each other in the first or second Jungle Book. However, they do interact with one another in the cutscenes of Born to Be Wild and the 2016 remake.
- In the DuckTales episode "Nothing to Fear", Duckworth is chased by a panther (although is it just an illusion) that strongly resembles Bagheera.
- While Bagheera himself was left out of the television series, TaleSpin, Shere Khan's team of elite panther pilots bear a striking resemblance to him. It is more than likely that they serve as a homage to him.