The Law Of The Jungle In The Open Water

Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

When I think of successful ice swims, stage swims, marathon swims, and channel swims – and even DNF’s, it reminds me of British Rudyard Kipling’s poem The Law for the Wolves,” commented Steven Munatones.

Specifically, the lines, ‘For the strength of the Pack is the Wolf, and the strength of the Wolf is the Pack’, indicate an interesting analogy for open water swimmers. The Wolf is embodied by the swimmer who is physically and mentally strong; swimming non-stop, struggling mightily, and inspiring their escort crew or support team who is either escorting them in a boat or supporting them on dryland. The swimmers are the wolves, if you will.

The swimmers are strong in themselves, but even stronger with a good team around them.

Similarly, the pack is embodied by the escort crew and support team. They are the umbilical cord of safety. They guide, they feed, they protect the swimmer. They support the swimmer before, during and after the swim. Without this support, there would be no success.


Even when we see packs in large open water swimming race and professional marathon swims and international races, the swimmer-wolves in the pack – in the lead pack or the chase packs – are supportive of each other. They navigate the course together and pace each other.”

Joe Schertler, Teresa Frias, Frank Reynolds, Jacob Banit, Ed Reynolds, and Paul Reynolds on a Catalina Channel swim

Lead pack during a professional marathon swim

The Law for the Wolves (sometimes called The Law of the Jungle) appears in The Second Jungle Book by Kipling [shown below]. The poem outlines the rights and responsibilities of wolves in the Seeonee wolf pack, which includes the orphaned boy Mowgli.

NOW this is the law of the jungle, as old and as true as the sky,
And the wolf that shall keep it may prosper, but the wolf that shall break it must die.

As the creeper that girdles the tree trunk, the law runneth forward and back;
For the strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack.

Wash daily from nose tip to tail tip; drink deeply, but never too deep;
And remember the night is for hunting and forget not the day is for sleep.

The jackal may follow the tiger, but, cub, when thy whiskers are grown,
Remember the wolf is a hunter—go forth and get food of thy own.

Keep peace with the lords of the jungle, the tiger, the panther, the bear;
And trouble not Hathi the Silent, and mock not the boar in his lair.

When pack meets with pack in the jungle, and neither will go from the trail,
Lie down till the leaders have spoken; it may be fair words shall prevail.

When ye fight with a wolf of the pack ye must fight him alone and afar,
Lest others take part in the quarrel and the pack is diminished by war.

The Lair of the Wolf is his refuge, and where he has made him his home,
Not even the Head Wolf may enter, not even the Council may come.

The Lair of the Wolf is his refuge, but where he has digged it too plain,
The Council shall send him a message, and so he shall change it again.

If ye kill before midnight, be silent, and wake not the woods with your bay,
Lest ye frighten the deer from the crops, and the brothers go empty away.

Ye may kill for yourselves, and your mates, and your cubs as they need, and ye can;
But kill not for pleasure of killing, and seven times never kill Man.

If ye plunder his Kill from a weaker, devour not all in thy pride;
Pack-Right is the right of the meanest; so leave him the head and the hide.

The Kill of the Pack is the meat of the Pack. Ye must eat where it lies;
And no one may carry away of that meat to his lair, or he dies.

The Kill of the Wolf is the meat of the Wolf. He may do what he will,
But, till he has given permission, the Pack may not eat of that Kill.

Cub-Right is the right of the Yearling. From all of his Pack he may claim
Full-gorge when the killer has eaten; and none may refuse him the same.

Lair-Right is the right of the Mother. From all of her year she may claim
One haunch of each kill for her litter, and none may deny her the same.

Cave-Right is the right of the Father—to hunt by himself for his own.
He is freed of all calls to the Pack; he is judged by the Council alone.

Because of his age and his cunning, because of his gripe and his paw,
In all that the Law leaveth open, the word of the Head Wolf is Law.

Now these are the Laws of the Jungle, and many and mighty are they;
But the head and the hoof of the Law and the haunch and the hump is—Obey!


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