Theme is a big idea we take away from a story after reading it. In the short story, “Rikki Tikki Tavi” by Rudyard Kipling, the primary theme of the story is the idea of good versus evil. Above all, Rikki’s character represents good, and the cobras in the story represent evil. In addition, another possible theme for this short story could be courage versus fear. By and large, the story contains action and dialogue that helps us determine what the author wanted to reveal about mankind.
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Rikki = Good
Explain each characteristic of Rikki’s through summarizing and quotations.
Kipling develops the character of Rikki to represent the good in our world. Though Rikki is somewhat of an underdog, he demonstrates protectiveness, courage, and loyalty. Rikki’s protectiveness is evident at the beginning of the story when he went to bed with Teddy, the young boy. He was awake on the pillow as Teddy was sleeping. Teddy’s mother didn’t like it, because she thought Rikki might bite Teddy. But Teddy’s father explains, “He is safer with that little beast than if he had a bloodhound to watch him.” Rikki was motivated to protect the family because he wanted to live with them.
Courage was a trait Rikki showed several times throughout the story, but when Nag came into the house through the sluice, he became very frightened when seeing the size of the big cobra. At that point, Rikki began to reason and ask himself questions about what he should do. Then he says to himself, “It must be the head, the head above the hood; and, when I am once there, I must not let go.” Though he was afraid, he showed courage and never gave up even during the toughest battles. When Rikki interacted with Darzee, he discovered that the tailorbirds were miserable because one of their babies fell out of the nest and Nag ate him. Rikki demonstrated loyalty to his friends by standing up to Nag, the big black cobra, and asking him, “ Do you think it is right for you to eat fledglings out of a nest?” This loyalty helped him gain hero status with Darzee and his wife.
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Nagaina = Evil
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Courage vs. Fear
• Rikki = courage
• Chuchundra =
Kipling used the theme of good versus evil to help us think about what this means for mankind. When we demonstrate protectiveness, loyalty, and bravery we make life better for others not just ourselves. If we are selfish and threatening, and our only goal is survival, then we aren’t contributing and making the world a better place. In conclusion, we learn that our focus in life should be to think about others before we think of ourselves in order to make a difference in the world.
One day, a summer flood washes a young mongoose named Rikki-tikki-tavi away from his family. He's found and revived by a British family living in India. The family adopts the orphaned mongoose—or, more accurately, he decides to stick around. (Their bungalow is pretty swank.)
Naturally curious and adventurous, Rikki-tikki explores the family's garden the next day. There he meets a Darzee, a tailorbird who is mourning his baby bird's death at the hands (er, teeth) of Nag. Rikki-tikki asks who Nag is and is instantly introduced to the big, black cobra. He also meets Nag's wife Nagaina, so that's two cobras for the price of one. Sweet!
Having missed their chance at a surprise attack, the cobras just slither off, and Rikki-tikki goes to hang with Teddy, the British family's son. But Teddy gets a wee bit too close to the poisonous krait snake, forcing Rikki-tikki to fight it. Not that he wouldn't have anyway. That's what mongooses do, after all.
That night, Nag and Nagaina plan a sneak attack on the British family, but they haven't reckoned with Rikki-tikki. In the ensuing battle, Rikki-tikki kills Nag, saving the family but also really ticking off Nagaina. The next day, Rikki-tikki sets a plan into motion to get rid of the cobras once and for all. He has Darzee's wife act as bait to keep Nagaina occupied (classic move). Then he heads to the cobra's nests and goes berserker on the eggs.
But all doesn't go according to plan. Nagaina sets out to kill Teddy, forcing Rikki-tikki to bring one of her eggs as leverage. In the epic clash of mammal-versus-reptile, Nagaina manages to snatch up her egg and flees into her den. Rikki-tikki gives the old girl hot pursuit, while Darzee mourns the loss of Rikki-tikki. No one goes into a cobra's den and lives.
Except Rikki-tikki, of course. He exits all action-hero style, and the family can't praise him enough. He lives with the family from then on, protecting the garden from snakes.