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Villain Overview
You can not be leader forever. The day you miss your kill, the man-cub's blood will run down my chin!
~ Shere Khan vowing to Akela that he will kill Mowgli.
I will taste your blood, man-cub!
~ Shere Khan threatens Mowgli.

Shere Khan is the main antagonist of the 2018 Netflix live action adventure drama film Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle. He is a ruthless Bengal tiger with a crippled front leg and the murderer of Mowgli's parents, whom he is obsessed in killing.

He was voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch by motion capture, who also played Khan Noonien Singh in Star Trek: Into Darkness, Smaug and Sauron in The Hobbit trilogy, Dormammu in Doctor Strange, The Grinch in the 2018 film of the same name and William Ford in 12 Years a Slave.

Biography

Killing Mowgli's Parents

Shere Khan & Tabaqui

Shere Khan, along with Tabaqui, demanding Mowgli from the wolf pack leader, Akela.

Shere Khan was first seen breaking jungle-law by hunting down and killing a group of humans for sport after they trespassed in the jungle, during which he killed Mowgli's parents and left him orphaned. He then showed up at the wolves' council meeting after his hyena assistant Tabaqui told him about Mowgli. Shere Khan bragged to them that he killed the man-cub's parents and that his blood was his right. Akela and the wolf pack refused to hand Mowgli over to him, as did Bagheera and Baloo. Akela told Shere Khan that Mowgli was under protection of the pack while he was leader and that their part of the jungle was closed to him. Outnumbered, Shere Khan reluctantly backed down, but warned Akela that the day he missed his kill, he would no longer be leader of the pack and that he would come for Mowgli. Shortly after that, he then left with Tabaqui.

Hunting Mowgli

Shere Khan Sees Mowgli 2018

Shere Khan notices Mowgli hiding in the water from him.

Many years later, Shere Khan returned to the jungle and decided the time was right to act, knowing Akela was getting weaker and more fragile in his old age. Intent on turning the pack on Akela, he started taking man's cattle, slaughtering them and leaving them to be found. One day, Mowgli, who had been raised by the wolf pack, went swimming alone and went underwater, saw Shere Khan taking a drink after another kill. After seeing air bubbles, Khan rightfully suspected that Mowgli was in the water. After Mowgli came out and ram, Shere Khan chased after him. He ultimately fails to kill the man-cub when his attempted victim fell into a pit and was saved by Hathi, a benevolent Indian elephant missing a tusk. As Bagheera picked him up and takes off, Shere Khan was seen watching them.

Shere Khan 2018 My My How You've Grown

Shere Khan reunited with Mowgli after many years.

Later on, when Mowgli failed the wolf pack's final trial that would determine if he could become a full member of the pack thanks to the actions of an unrestrained Bagheera, he was kidnapped by the Bandar Log, a gang of Hanuman langurs, on Tabaqui's orders for Shere Khan while Baloo and Bagheera fought over the issue. Shere Khan attempted to kill Mowgli while he was unconscious, sadistically slicing his arm with a claw on his crippled paw, but was stopped by Baloo and Bagheera. During their battle with Shere Khan's monkey minions, they were overwhelmed, only for Kaa herself to appear and save Mowgli.

Shere Khan Sees Mowgli Again

Shere Khan notices a nearby Mowgli during Akela's fight.

After Mowgli learned that Kaa has been watching him the whole time and that she believes that he has the power to change the jungle, he was then directed by the python to face Shere Khan, who was once again challenging Akela for after Akela missed his kill, putting his position as leader in jeopardy. As he watched Akela fighting other wolves for leadership over the pack, Khan noticed a nearby Mowgli and chased him. Mowgli stopped the tiger and Akela's challengers with fire taken from the man-village, forcing Khan to retreat, promising that he would have his blood. This confrontation, however, shamed Mowgli in Akela's eyes and was forced to leave for the man-village.

Final Fight and Death

Shere Khan 2018 Confronting Mowgli

Shere Khan approaching Mowgli before their final fight.

With Mowgli gone, Shere Khan was free to drive the wolves loyal to Akela to the edge of the jungle. Mowgli met with Baloo, Bagheera and the wolf pack, declaring that Shere Khan must die. The animals felt obligated to remain out of the conflict as it would break jungle law to fight Shere Khan, but Mowgli proceeded with his plan and lured the killer of his parents to the edge of the village, where, with the help of the bull elephants, he severely wounded his nemesis with a knife while Tabaqui fled. However, a British colonial hunter named John Lockwood accidentally injured Mowgli with a bullet while trying to kill the tiger and shot Akela when the wolf sacrificed himself to save Mowgli from Shere Khan. Lockwood was stopped and injured by Hathi, a moss covered elephant (whom he robbed of his right tusk) before he could do more harm and the other animals rallied to Mowgli upon seeing his resolve. Wounded, exhausted and outnumbered, Shere Khan retreated into the jungle.

Shere Khan Breathless

A severely wounded Shere Khan, moments before his death.

Akela gave Mowgli his blessing to lead the jungle's creatures and the wolf pack before he died peacefully. Mowgli decided to leave the village behind and returned to the jungle, where he found a blood-covered Shere Khan lying on the ground, seemingly dying from his wounds. In a final attempt to kill the man-cub, Shere Khan tried to lure Mowgli in by playing dead. However, Mowgli saw through this act and didn't let his guard down and as Shere Khan lashed out at him, Mowgli stabbed and finally killed him with his knife, ending the tiger's reign of terror and avenging Mowgli's parents.

Personality

Shere Khan is known throughout the entire jungle as a tiger without mercy as well as being ruthless, sadistic, psychopathic, arrogant, hateful, power-hungry and hypocritical, who mainly kills for his own pleasure instead of survival. His most defining personality trait is his unbounded hatred towards mankind, possibly due to a previous encounter with them, and was willing to break the law of the jungle to satisfy his thirst for their blood. He always makes grand gestures about the ever-changing nature of the jungle, ranting to Akela how he allowed man to live among the inhabitants. However, he was also incapable to think that perhaps he was also one of the reasons that the humans are cruel towards their environment.

Shere Khan is quite patient, as he waited years before returning to the Jungle, knowing that the only way he could take control from Akela is to wait for him to grow old.

He becomes obsessed with Mowgli, the only human to survive his wrath after killing his parents and goes to great lengths to achieve his one mission to kill him whatever it takes. During their final fight, he would openly mock him for using a man's weapon to kill, asking what Bagheera and Baloo would think of them now; and as he attempted to kill during this, he mocked him about how he killed the boy's mother. In his final moments, he showed no signs of being sympathized with as his final attempt to kill Mowgli led him to his death.

Quotes

His parents are dead. I killed them. There is no one to come looking for him.
~ Shere Khan confronting the wolf pack in his attempt to kill Mowgli.
The cub is mine. I have already tasted its mother's blood. It is my right.
~ Shere Khan bragging to the wolves that Mowgli's blood is his right.
Careful, Akela. You do not want to challenge me.
~ Shere Khan warning Akela not to challenge his strength.
My, my, how you've grown. And how much chaos you've brought upon the pack. So much more... to come. Just a little taste...
~ Shere Khan attempting to kill Mowgli after capturing him.
But you permitted man to live among you! You pretend that he is a wolf! But we both know that is the one thing he will never be! He will always be a man! You poisoned the jungle! But you are no longer leader now, are you? You missed your kill. And by your law, your pack must challenge you.
~ Shere Khan overthrowing Akela.
Look at you, using a man's tool to do your killing. What would Baloo and Bagheera think?
~ Shere Khan mocking Mowgli during their final confrontation.
You know, I can still hear... your mother's screams... the night I took... her life!
~ Shere Khan's last words during his final fight as he taunts Mowgli about killing his mother.

Trivia

  • Like Shere Khan in Mowgli's Story, he's the master of Tabaqui, who was a golden jackal instead of a hyena.
  • Like Shere Khan in The Jungle Book, he is portrayed as being crippled with a deformed leg.
  • Despite having one lame leg, it doesn’t hinder Shere Khan’s hunting or fighting skills. Shere Khan is still shown to be strong, fast and agile, being able to catch several cows, run with hardly any difficulty and at one point being able to climb a tree. According to Bagheera, Shere Khan would have been able to kill Mowgli and "tear the pack apart".
  • Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle and The Grinch (2018), both of which Benedict Cumberbatch starred in, came out in 2018.

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