Mowgli is a “man cub” raised by the Seeonee Indian wolf Raksha and her pack, led by Akela, in an Indian jungle ever since he was brought to them as a baby by the black panther Bagheera. Bagheera trains Mowgli to learn the ways of the wolves, but the boy faces certain challenges and falls behind his wolf siblings while Akela disapproves of him using human tricks like building tools instead of learning the ways of the pack.
One day, during the dry season, the jungle animals gather to drink the water that remains as part of a truce during a drought that enables the jungle’s wildlife to drink without fear of being eaten by their predators. The truce is disrupted when a scarred tiger named Shere Khan arrives detecting Mowgli’s scent in the large crowd. Resentful against man for scarring him, he issues a warning that he will kill Mowgli at the end of the drought. After the drought ends, the wolves debate whether they should keep Mowgli or not. Mowgli decides to leave the jungle for the safety of his pack. Bagheera agrees with the decision and volunteers to guide him to the nearby man village.
En route, Shere Khan ambushes them and injures Bagheera, but Mowgli manages to escape. Later, Mowgli meets an enormous python named Kaa who hypnotizes him. While under her influence, Mowgli sees a vision of his father being mauled while protecting him from Shere Khan. The vision also warns of the destructive power of the “red flower” (fire). Kaa attempts to devour Mowgli, but she is attacked by a sloth bear named Baloo, rescuing an unconscious Mowgli. Baloo and Mowgli bond while retrieving some difficult-to-access honey for Baloo and Mowgli agrees to stay with Baloo until the winter season arrives. Upon learning that Mowgli has left the jungle, Shere Khan kills Akela and threatens the pack to lure Mowgli out.
Bagheera eventually finds Mowgli and Baloo and is angered that Mowgli has not joined the humans as agreed, but Baloo calms him down and persuades both of them to sleep on it. During the night, Mowgli finds a herd of Indian elephants gathered around a ditch and uses his vines to save a baby elephant from the ditch. Although Baloo and Bagheera are both impressed, Baloo realizes that he cannot guarantee Mowgli’s safety after learning that he is being hunted by Shere Khan. Baloo agrees to push Mowgli away to get him to continue onward to the man village.