Rikki-Tikki-Tavi The War Story

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Kipling's Rikki Tikki Tavi has all the necessary parts of a battle story. It is full of battles, war tactics, good, evil, motive, song, and drama.


A battle story needs a gripping introduction, one that hints at the battles to come and one that brings the reader in with an exciting anticipation. This story first begins with a poem of the brave Rikki Tikki angrily chasing death with a lust to kill. It right away shows the necessary bravery and strength of the protagonist/hero and the might and evil of the antagonist. The lines like…
Eye to eye and head to head
This shall end when one is dead

…start the book with the promise of great fights between two great forces. The first paragraph is also cleverly written to further exaggerate the greatness of the hero and the battles that he has won.


This is the story of the great war that Rikki tikki tavi fought single handed, through the bathrooms of the big bungalow in Segowlee cantonment

After the introduction the plot begins by bringing the hero Rikki to the setting by a coincidental occurrence.

His home is flooded and he is washed away and near death when a family finds him and nurses him to health. Again here Kippling shows the bravery of the hero, "It is the hardest thing in the world to frighten a mongoose." Rikki Tikki is thankful to the family and like all good heroes he is loyal and decides to protect them.


Then enters evil, which creates the conflict for which all battling and killing takes place in battle stories. Rikki is exploring the yard one-day and discovers two birds mourning the loss of an egg that was eaten by the evil snakes ruling the jungle. Just then the head snake Nag appears. Rikki already dislikes him as he is good-natured and loyal like all good heroes and Nag ofcourse has eaten his friend's egg. This is a very important scene, the introduction of the antagonists. Nag is introduced with a boisterous "I am Nag. The great God Brahm put his mark upon all our people, when the first cobra spread his hood to keep the sun off Brahm as he slept. Look, and be afraid!" And Rikki was afraid, "for the minute; but it is impossible for a mongoose to stay frightened for any length of time." Then out of no where the first real action of the story takes place, "'Behind you! Look behind you!' sang Darzee" as Nagaina, Nag's equally evil wife attempts to strike, but ofcourse the hero is too swift. He leaps out of the way and then returns with an attack of his own, "he came down almost across her back" The surprise attack and descriptive suspenseful battle are gripping to the reader. The mongoose, though young and inexperienced, has already proven himself in battle for living through an attempted kill by a lethal cobra.


The conflict here, is that the snakes know "that mongooses in the garden meant death sooner or later" and so must protect themselves, their children, and their land by killing the mongoose. It is a common conflict, one where both sides are simply trying to survive and must kill to do so.


Another battle is then started; a slightly larger battle than the last, as it is customary for all battles to increasingly become greater and greater until the climax. The karait attempts to kill the boy who has taken such good care of Rikki Tikki and once again Rikki is unselfishly loyal and strikes out to defend the boy. The family is very grateful and Rikki is deemed a hero.


Rikki has already made many friends and informants. One such informant is muskrat, who tells him of the snakes' plans to invade the house. Rikki instantly goes to work patrolling the house, caring not for his own safety but bravely protecting those whom he loves. He finds Nag in the bathroom and waits for the right time to strike. When Nag is finally asleep he courageously leaps and grabs hold of nag's head.


Then he jumped. The head was lying a little clear of the water-jar, under the curve of it; and, as his teeth met, Rikki braced his back against the bulge of the red carthenware to hold down the head.



Kippling uses excitingly descriptive action words to portray the battle scene. He pulls the reader in to experience it himself. Before he strikes, Rikki the wise hero, uses battle tactics and logic to plan his attack. He ponders, "If I don't break his back at the first jump he can still fight; and if he fights-O Rikki!"
After Nag is killed, like after all battles that are won on the side of good, there is a celebration and music. Darzee, the misfortuned bird sings a war song of Rikki's success and praises him for his great deeds. However, the celebration is premature, as all the snakes have not been killed.


Kippling then follows the guidelines of a battle story in plotting the climax and the events leading to it. The climax must be a series of progressing battles and progressing suspension. The hero must be in danger, or in dangerous territory doing brave acts to attempt to foil the antagonist's plans. Rikki Tikki decides to find the Cobra's eggs and destroy them. To do this he uses more battle tactics and devises a plan to use a sidekick to distract Nagaina so that he can go to work. This is very dangerous if Rikki gets caught, as Nagaina will be very angry. The plan works however, Rikki is able to devour all the eggs except one before his side kick, Darzee's wife returns with the horrible news that the family is again in danger. Rikki, showing his heroic quality of being clever, then rushes to the house being sure to take the remaining egg with him. He then smartly uses the egg to distract Nagaina away from the family. The plan works, but Nagaina is able to grab the egg and run off into the grass. Rikki chases and the race is on. They reach the hole and Rikki grabs her tail and goes down with her. This is the climax of the story; it is very suspenseful. Using phrases like "and very few mongooses, however wise and old they may be care to follow a cobra into its hole;" Kippling lines the hole with exaggerations and depictions to increase this already thick suspense. All the animals assume he is dead, similar to countless action movies where there is an explosion and the hero is thought dead, but like in those movies the hero comes out to the amazement and joy of all and there again is much celebrating. And so the book ends on the happy note of Darzee's glorious battle song of Rikki's tale.


The story followed exactly the guidelines of a battle story; its plot, descriptions, characters, motives, and action are all proof of this. While reading I noticed that the story, if edited slightly could be confused as a story of humans fighting in the jungle. The names mongoose, snake, and bird sound like the code names we give our pilots and fighters. Also Rikki has special training and tactics in killing snakes as if he were a trained soldier.


In conclusion, Kippling's Rikki Tikki Tavi can possibly best be described as a classic war tale of good vs. evil.