Rikki-Tikki-Tavi is a short story from Rudyard Kipling’s “The Jungle Books, Volume two” which narrates the escapades of Rikki-tikki, a mongoose who, by a stroke of luck, lands up in an Englishman’s bungalow and spends an adventurous time with the other occupants of the house, as he helps them fight a battle against a family of cobras that had been causing havoc in their life.
Rikki Tikki Tavi | Summary
The story follows the adventures of a small mongoose, named Rikki-tikki owing to the his chattering sound, who after becoming a pet in an English household in India, befriends several of the bungalow’s other residents and upon discovering the troubles faced by them due to the cobras, Nag and Nagaina, sets out to eliminate them permanently from the house to ensure the safety and security of the human family who had adopted him lovingly as well his fellow inhabitants- Darzee, the tailor-bird, and his wife, and Chuchundra, the musk-rat.
Whisked away from his family and home due to a flood, he finds himself lying, in a frazzled state, in the middle of a garden path, where he is found by Teddy and his father, the owner of the bungalow. The family then takes him into the house, gives him a comfortable shelter and good food, and showers him with affection and care. Owing to his inherent curiosity, he roams all around the house, exploring all nooks and corners. Upon reaching the garden, he comes across Darzee and his wife and on seeing them crying in immense sorrow, inquires about the cause of their grief. This is when he learns about Nag, Nagaina and their family and the danger they pose to all the people and creatures in the house. Actually, the cobras are displeased by the human family’s encroachment upon what they believed to be their territory and wanted to drive them all out by hook or crook. They were malicious and evil, and wanted to leave no stone unturned in their pursuit of the same.
Although upon seeing the mongoose, their arch-enemy, they are initially a little frightened of their seemingly certain death at it’s hands, they soon regain their composure and unleash their fury on him, and thus, ensues an action-packed war between these two creatures. While Rikki-tikki was fighting for the safety of all others, Nag and Nagaina were fuelled by their anger against all those who occupied the house which they considered to be their property. In the battle, Rikki-tikki, despite his lack of experience, manages to gain an upper hand, aided by Darzee, his wife and the big English man,even managing to kill Kairat, the snakeling who tried to harm Teddy to seek revenge of his parent’s defeat against Rikki-tikki.
Although the cobras had to accept defeat this time, they swore revenge against the humans, especially angered by the brutal killing of their offspring. So, to carry out their evil plan, Nag sneaks into the Englishman’s bathroom at night with the intent of killing him as he comes in to bathe the next morning. However, all his attempts are thwarted by the arrival of Rikki-tikki, who after being informed about the danger posed by Nag and Nagaina on his masters, is determined to protect them at all costs. His efforts and determination bears fruit, and after a long and tiring struggle, he manages to bring Nag to his end, helped by the big man. While Rikki-tikki emerged as a hero for all, Nagaina, angered by Nag’s killing, swears revenge upon the humans. Already apprehensive of her reaction, Rikki-tikki strives to ensure everyone’s safety and with the help of Darzee’s wife, manages to first destroy all of Nagaina’s eggs and then goes on to save Teddy from her vengeful attack. Eventually, after lots of struggle and a very intense fight and chase, he finally manages to kill her and rid the bungalow from the menace of the evil cobras forever. Content with himself for having successfully saved everyone, and slightly proud of his feat, he is finally happy to have found himself a lovely family, lots of friends and a home with a garden for him to protect and guard with utmost dedication and sincerity.
Rikki Tikki Tavi | Analysis
Like most of Kipling’s stories, this thrilling short story too has colonial India as its setting, with its lush landscape and big bungalows which were occupied by the English men and their families. Most of the characters in the story are animals and birds, with the protagonist being a mongoose and the antagonist being the cobra, believed since ancient times to be enemies owing to their predator- prey relationship.
The characters, like in all other stories of the Jungle Book, are anthropomorphized and endowed with human traits and distinct temperaments. The determination and sheer bravery displayed by them in the face of adversity, leading to their ultimate triumph over the forces of evil, forms the central theme of the story. Through Rikki-tikki’s character, Kipling aims to inspire the readers, especially children, to imbibe the qualities of courage, dedication and a relentless spirit along with will-power and belief in one’s own capabilities.
Through his detailed imagery, sprightly colloquial dialogues, intricately developed characters, endowed with varying shades and personalities, Kipling presents before us an enthralling work, guaranteed to keep us hooked till the very end. He has also peppered the story with bits and pieces of satire, as can be seen in his description of the feather-brained bird- “Darzee was very like a man in some ways”- making a comment on man’s stupidity and lack of sensibility, especially during situations that demand utmost responsiveness from them.
Through the character of Darzee and Chuchundar, Kipling manages to add quite some humor in this otherwise action- packed story, interspersing the seriousness and warfare of Rikki-tikki’s battle with the cobras with some light-hearted and funny scenes. The song sung by Darzee, as mentioned both at the beginning and the end, is appreciable for its aptness in describing almost the entire fight in a concise, lyrical and emotionally charged manner, almost reading like a war-poem that sings of the glories of warriors.
Overall, this classic tale, packed with adventure and excitement, has a timeless, universal appeal and is sure to win the hearts of the young and old alike.
rikki tikki tavi