Unboxed Writers App for Phone and Tablet

Here are more ways to stay at forefront of Unboxed Writers and stay informed and inspired! Download our app for Android Phones and Tablets. Click on the image to Download Now!


Like Us on Facebook

Follow Us on Twitter



Cattitude: Cause We Support


The Cattitude Trust is a Public Charitable Trust started to reach out to cats in distress, particularly in Chennai (India).

To know more about Cattitude, 'Like' them on Facebook.


Creative Commons License
All content displayed here by Unboxed Writers is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://unboxedwriters.com.

Excerpt, Don't Copy: You may not publish an entire post. You may republish an excerpt of not increasing 250 words.

Give Credit: You may not use any material from our site without giving due credit to the individual author and Unboxed Writers. You must hyperlink directly to the post.

Author: Author of the post retains all copyright, and reserves all rights not explicitly granted here.

Review: In the Jungles of the Night



First a sort of disclaimer: I grew up on a steady diet of Corbett’s tales of the man-eaters he had encountered and bested; and later on, I grew to really like Stephen Alter’s accounts of life of men and mountains.  

So this was a double delight for me: Stephen Alter in the voice of Jim Corbett. In the Jungles of the Night contains three stories, rather experiences, that Corbett lived through. All three of them feature big cats, of course, but also delve into the psyche of hunter-hunted, marauder-victim, and indeed, of society at large.

‘The Fern Collector’  alludes to the young schoolboy that Corbett was in Nainital, in 1888. A serious boy with a fondness for solitude, a very keen eye and a sort of fearlessness even then, the young Jim roamed the forests that skirted the St John in the Wilderness church, seeking ferns and suchlike plants and things, and came upon a grave robbery. It was that of the unfortunate Cindy Bertram believed to have fallen prey to a wandering leopard years ago. Why was her coffin now opened and by who? The town is all abuzz with the most unsavoury rumours, a suspect is caught,  a dissolute white man by the name of Murchison,  but the schoolboy Jim is more than a bystander who had just happened to stumble on the opened coffin; he is carrying out his own investigations discreetly, trying to tie up the loose ends.

The story opens out the Naini area of the late 1880s for us, a place of much serenity and beauty, of untrammeled forest and a less rushed pace of life.  It tells us of Corbett’s friendship with the boy who brought milk to the house .

In `The Man-eater of Mayaghat,’  there are two females that sit centre-stage of the story: an old wounded female tiger who has developed a taste for human beings, and the enigmatic forest- dweller Kaiyu with whom Corbett,  a loner like her, forges a curious if necessarily furtive relationship. Into the mix is added a blundering forest officer named Kincaid, a Gandhian, the Banrajis who live deep in the jungles, fear, suspicion, violence.  

In the concluding story ‘Until the Day Break,’  we see Corbett in 1953, an old man whose reputation as a famed hunter and naturalist precedes him in Kenya where Maggie and he have chosen to settle, after leaving India when that country attained its independence from the British in 1947. In the twilight of his life, Jim Corbett looks back: at his days on the frontlines at Artois in France during WW2, his ruminations on leopards and tigers, his meeting QE2, then the Princess Elizabeth,  who turned out to be quite a fan of his.  

The book shows us a more vulnerable side to the intrepid hunter; there is virtually none of the inevitable braggadocio  we came to associate with Jim Corbett. This is a Corbett nervous about ghosts, anxious about the mortality of his loved ones, with a fear of snakes (later on, he converted that fear into a superstition: if he killed a snake before setting out to kill a man-eater, his chances were bright). It tells us once again that Corbett respected the animal, knowing that a tiger unless provoked, would do a human no harm; which is probably why the man who never killed animals gratuitously, later traded his gun for the camera and became one of the first wildlife photographers in India. It gives us a glimpse of the affectionate relationship he shared with his sister Maggie; both of them never having married, they lived together till the end of their days.

Alongside,  we are also shown familiar glimpses: how he could sit still in trees when stalking the tiger, motionless for hours on end; how he liked to set out on a hunt with the mindset of an ascetic, shorn of everything but his purpose. How he came to walk in the steps of the tigers he stalked, recognising that man-eaters played by different rules than the rest of their species, and how this second-guessing stood him in good stead. How pretty much nothing fazed him, not even locking eyes directly with the tiger he was hunting. How sometimes his phlegmatic Englishness slipped away from him, leaving him exasperated by both the obdurate locals and the Englishmen who sought to run roughshod over them.

Sometimes, as in the descriptive passage of how Corbett maps the topography mentally as he sets out in the man-eater’s steps, it’s the voice of Alter rather than Corbett. We see the ring of huge stones, much too heavy for men to have positioned them in a circle thus; we admire the massive pipal tree clearly a hundred years older than the other trees in the vicinity; we notice the barberry shrub, the hill shaped like a kneeling elephant.

Corbett aficionados, and there are so many, will love this volume and thank Stephen Alter for it.

In The Jungles Of The Night-A Novel About Jim Corbett

By Stephen Alter

Aleph Book Company

Rs 499

Pages 193

Sheila Kumar is an independent writer and manuscript editor, as well as author of a collection of short stories titled Kith and Kin Chronicles of a Clan (Rupa Publications). She blogs at bindersfullawords.blogspot.com, themelekatbook.blogspot.com and  bindersfulla.blogspot.com

Similar posts
  • No, we don’t get to tell any woman what feminism should mean to her The generation of women that came before mine had a different view by and large of what abuse and violation represented. I remember being told many versions of “apni izzat apne haath mein hoti hai” (your honour is in your hands) while growing up and in my twenties by women who could not understand why I [...]
  • Me too. Me too. Me too. Me too. No matter how many times I say it, it won’t be anywhere near enough. Strangers on the street, boyfriends, acquaintances at parties, “friendly” uncles, neighbours- the reality that our bodies belong to everyone but ourselves is one that women realize rather early into their lives. The first time I [...]
  • Till We Meet Again… “Dear Calvin we miss u…” I woke up to those words today. Father’s status message on Whatsapp. Five words. They shook my heart and triggered a tsunami. A tsunami of memories. We place Calvin on the cold table. He pants, still gathers some strength to look around. He knows that place and we know he [...]
  • Hope Is The Thing With feathers.. I fear that I might sound ridiculous; I am still throwing caution to the wind and have chosen to relate a profound moment I shared with the Universe. All my life, I was agnostic. Cynical. Bitter. I didn’t believe in looking for signs. I must admit that the cynicism stemmed from my inability to read [...]
  • 300 Things I Hope For…for Us I turned 30 on Friday, and bought myself quite a few amazing books. But I want to tell you about this heartwarming book for now. 300 Things I Hope by Iain S. Thomas In the adorable book, the author hopes for 300 beautiful, moving, simple things for us. Just that. He simply hopes. Each page carries [...]

1 Comment

  1. September 16, 2016    

    Have to get a copy!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Our Authors

Be the first to read the latest on Unboxed Writers!

Subscribe for FREE and get the latest in your Inbox! You can unsubscribe at any time.
Email *


Editor & Founder:
Reema Moudgil
Design Director & Founder:
Vani Bahl
Media Consultant:
Poonam Goel

Mission Statement

Who are we? We are writers. And here, in this space, we put pride and passion back into writing. We give ourselves and each other creative freedom and respect.

* We create an environment where content generation does not entail degeneration of inspiration and spirit.
* We create content that we believe in and identify with.
* We recognise that to create is always of more value than to berate.
*We critique without malice and arrogance.

This site is about us writers, what we stand for but more importantly, about creating something valuable, inclusive, thought-provoking. In this space, we do not just stand for ourselves but for all those who listen to a compelling inner voice that tells them, "Create!"

Unboxed Writers Share

Join the other awesome people who get the new posts right away by email!
Be the first to read the latest on Unboxed Writers.
Enter your email and stay on top of things!