Rikki Tikki Tavi Summary

Rudyard Kipling

Rikki Tikki Tavi

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Rikki Tikki Tavi Summary

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The life and work of British author Rudyard Kipling bridge the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.Among his best known novels are The Jungle Book and Kim. His “Gunga Din” is one of the poems that brought him lasting fame in that genre as well.He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1907, when at the age of forty-two, he was the youngest to be awarded the prize and the first writer of English language works to be honored as well.

A mongoose, his friends,and a young boy are the central characters of Kipling’s short story “Rikki Tikki Tavi.”Though a stand-alone work published in many forms,it is also part of The Jungle Book, which originally appeared in 1893.The story is an adventure that includes coming of age themes along with moral lessons that,coupled with the use of animals as characters,give a fable-like feeling to the text. Rikki Tikki Tavi the mongoose is found unconscious near a bungalow where he has washed up after a flood.Teddy, the boy who finds him, brings him home, and he becomes a pet to the British family that is living in India. Rikki Tikki Tavi, so named because of the verbal noises he makes, establishes friendships with other animals that reside in the family’s garden.He has been warned about two poisonous cobras living there; a long struggle is underway as Rikki is not only a pet, but a natural protector of the family against the venomous enemies.

In his literal and metaphoric war against the cobras, Nag and Nagaina, Rikki is aided by Darzee, a small bird, and Chuhundra, a muskrat who offers advice from a safe distance. Rikki does the actual fighting on his own in a nod to heroic tales of antiquity such as Beowulf.When Rikki first arrives, Darzee and his wife are dealing with the loss of one of their babies who was eaten by Nag.Nag, aware that the mongoose is a snake’s most dangerous enemy, attacks Rikki, but the mongoose is able to avoid him, having been warned by Darzee. This gives Rikki confidence in his ability in battle.Next, he sees a smaller snake, but also poisonous, preparing to attack Teddy. Rikki displays eyes of red, the sign that a mongoose is about to attack and kills the snake, further endearing him to the boy’s family.

While guarding the house that evening, Rikki meets Chuchundra. Chuchundra shares that the snakes are plotting against the family. Rikki remains alert and hears Nag and Nagaina planning to kill the family and get rid of Rikki. He discovers that Nag and Nagaina have eggs in a nest.Nag remains coiled up and waiting to attack in a bathroom while Nagaina leaves. Rikki waits until Nag has fallen asleep and approaches him from behind, killing him.When Teddy’s father hears the turmoil, he arrives with a gun.He shoots the snake, but Rikki has already completed the killing.The battle is far from over as Rikki still has to contend with Nagaina and her eggs, which if allowed to hatch, will add more threatening snakes to attack the garden’s residents.

Darzee tells Rikki that the nest of eggs is hidden in a melon patch. Darzee’s wife pretends to have injured her wing in an attempt to distract Nagaina and give Rikki an opportunity to destroy the eggs. Nagaina seeks to avenge Nag’s death by going after Teddy’s father. Rikki is alerted to this plan by Darzee’s wife and arrives just as Nagaina is about to strike the father. Rikki, using the only remaining egg from the nest to get Nagaina’s attention, claims responsibility for the death of Nag. A mighty battle follows within Nagaina’s underground den. Rikki is victorious and remains a part of the family.

The conflicts driving the storyline of Rikki Tikki Tavi are classic.As deadly as cobras are, Rikki’s bravery has win over fear. His incentive is his devotion to Teddy and his family, who have befriended him and to whom he feels he owes protection.There is a metaphoric use of the man versus nature conflict.Even though Rikki is not a human, he clearly represents the family against deadly forces of nature, in this situation, Nag and Nagaina. It is conceivable that Kipling was making a statement about a bigger clash of cultures, having Teddy and his British family live in India.The conflicting values of the powerful British Empire versus the simplicity of the culture of India emerges metaphorically via the family, of which Rikki is a member, battling the cobras.