Ever since I saw The Jungle Book twenty years ago or so, I was really enamored of the giant, hypnotic snake. I wanted powers like that, too! It would be so cool to be able to put a spell on anyone I chose with my eyes and/or my singing. Especially since it meant, once I started school, that no one would dare spit on me ever again. Seriously, what is it with people and that?
But as I got older and realized I would never develop Kaa-like powers, I still loved the character. Black leopards like Bagheera are pretty tough and dangerous (that’s in British understatement, by the way), so it’s pretty amazing that Baggy is as afraid of Kaa as he is. Yet Kaa is fallible. Mowgli can push him off a tree, he has sinus issues (if you listen when Baggy smacks him into a branch he whines “Oh… my sinussss….” before turning his hypnotic powers on the panther), and his tail frequently gets tied up in knots. He’s also afraid of Shere Khan.
This food chain effect is interesting, to say the least. Kaa also has the movie’s villain song– “Trust in Me”– which was back in the day of a villain song being rather rare.
The last time we see Kaa, after he’s threatened by the hypnosis-immune tiger, he seems to be getting a twinge of conscience about trying to eat Mowgli. The boa says, “Oh, who does he think he’s fooling? ‘The helpless little lad?’ Ooh, he gives me the sssshivers! Picking on that poor little helpless boy? Yes….” Then Mowgli wakes up and pushes his coils off the tree, and the big snake decides the boy is not worth eating anyway. But that twinge when he calls Mowgli “that poor little helpless boy” gives him some depth.
Like they’d later say in Finding Nemo he’s “not a mindless eating machine.” It’s even plausible that he’d give up without his moral musing. Both times he tried to eat Mowgli, he wound up getting smacked around, and most lately, threatened and searched by the jungle’s top predator. Much better to go after safer prey.
Oh, and he’s voiced by Sterling Holloway– best remembered as Winnie the Pooh. Think about that next time you watch the silly old bear and try not to laugh.