Shere Khan The Tiger
'Sher(e)' means "tiger" in Hindi and 'Khan' is a title from the Islamic era in India. His name translates roughly as "Lord Tiger".
quote from Mowgli's Brothers
"His mother did not call him Lungri [the Lame One] for nothing," said Mother Wolf quietly. "He has been lame in one foot from his birth. That is why he has only killed cattle. Now the villagers of the Waingunga are angry with him, and he has come here to make our villagers angry. They will scour the jungle for him when he is far away, and we and our children must run when the grass is set alight. Indeed, we are very grateful to Shere Khan!"
Shere Khan is the main antagonist in all Jungle Book versions, from the movies and TV shows to the original book, although he only appears in a couple chapters and is only mentioned in all the others.
He is a male Bengal tiger over three meters long, and also a renowned man eater. According to character Buldeo in Kipling's book, there was even a reward offered to whoever killed Shere Khan. But he had been smart enough to avoid gunmen, instead attacking isolated villages and fire camps.
It is interesting to note that Kipling did not give Shere Khan a very positive role, even as an antagonist; he is depicted as being crippled and cowardly, and other than Tabaqui, his jackal henchman, no animal in the jungle seems to have a lot of respect for him. It is possible that Kipling chose his tiger to be crippled because a tiger with all his strengths would be too much of a foe for a young boy with no weapons.
Also, in Kipling's time, man eating tigers were common and ate a lot of people; it is to some point understandable that tigers weren't seen in a very positive way back then.
In Kipling's book, Shere Khan attacks a camp and causes the very young Mowgli to run away and wander in the jungle, until he reaches Father Wolf's den. Shere Khan tries to retrieve what he considers to be his prey, but Mother Wolf decides to adopt the child and refuses to deliver Mowgli to the tiger. Furious, and unable to enter the wolf's den, Khan vows revenge and disappears.
From that moment on, Shere Khan becomes Mowgli's arch enemy, always seeking an opportunity to kill him, simply out of hatred, as he states himself during a wolf council meeting.
Khan even manages to turn many young wolves of the pack into his minions and tries to have the wolves to expel Mowgli, but fails. Finally, Mowgli decides to face his enemy and with the aid of a domesticated buffalo herd and two wolves (Akela and Grey Brother) ends up killing Shere Khan.
Movie versions have usually been more benevolent with the tiger; the 1967 Disney movie depicted him as a haughty yet charismatic character, with all his strengths. He was not crippled or cowardly, and was feared by all other animals. Akela even states that not even the might of the entire wolf pack was enough to defeat Shere Khan.
Khan was voiced by actor George Sanders, and his looks were also based on him. He was animated by master animator Milt Kahl, and has became one of the most popular animated villains of all times. Shere Khan's animation was actually the inspiration for another Disney Villain, Scar from The Lion King, animated by Andreas Deja. Funnily enough, in the Latin American Spanish dubbing of both movies, Scar and Shere Khan are voiced by the same actor, Carlos Petrel.
Shere Khan appears only during the last part of the film, but is mentioned all the time. At first, he is seen stalking a deer, but the herbivore escapes after Hathi and his herd pass by. Shere Khan follows the elephants and hears a conversation between Hathi and Bagheera, thus learning that Mowgli is alone and defenseless in the jungle. He immediately starts looking for him, and eventually finds him. However, his attack is frustrated by Baloo the bear and the four vultures Mowgli had befriended earlier. Eventually, Mowgli ties a burning branch to Khan's tail and the tiger flees in panic, as fire is the only thing he fears.
Disney's Shere Khan appeared in the sequel, The Jungle Book 2 (2003), wanting to get revenge on Mowgli. For the sequel, he was depicted as an even darker, more ferocious character, perhaps due to the humiliation he was victim of in the first film. In the sequel, Khan tries to kill Mowgli and threatens his new human friend, the girl Shanti, but fails and ends up trapped under a huge statue of a tiger.
In this movie, Khan is annoyed constantly by the vultures' new friend, Lucky, who finds it very funny that Mowgli defeated the tiger by himself, and keeps talking about it all the time. Khan was voiced by Tony Jay in this movie, for Sanders had died a long time ago.
In 1996, a Disney animated TV series was produced based on The Jungle Book. It was named Jungle Cubs and depicted the main animal characters as cubs, years before Mowgli was even born. Here, Shere Khan is depicted as a bully, but yet a "friend" to the other animals. He was voiced by Jason Marsden, and by Enzo Fortuny in the Latin American Spanish version.
Khan also appeared in another animated TV series by Disney, this time as a much more anthropomorphic character.
In Stephen Sommer's The Jungle Book (1994), Shere Khan is seen, more than as a villain, as a dangerous and feared ruler of the jungle, who targets specifically those who break the Law of the Jungle. In this version, Khan attacks a camp where some men who have been hunting to many animals, and kills Mowgli's father who was guide to the hunters.
He also kills the guard of the camp and another man before fleeing into the jungle. He appears later, and kills a British soldier, and is mentioned during the whole movie, specially by Buldeo, an Indian hunter who is death afraid of Shere Khan. At the end, Shere Khan appears and faces Mowgli, but Mowgli does not retreat and looks right at his eyes. The tiger then understands that Mowgli is a creature of the jungle, and accepts him, instead of killing him.