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Themes

Rikki-tikki starts the story as a young and inexperienced mongoose, which this means he has only one place to go from there: up. Yes, like many coming of age stories, "Rikki-Tikki-Tavi" is about a boy who grows into manhood by having himself an adventure. The adventure tests him every step of the way, and by overcoming the trials, the boy mongoose learns about himself, develops his skills, and discovers his reason for living to become a man mongoose. Sure, Rikki-tikki is a little furrier than our usual coming-of-age hero, and his journey only takes him as far as the backyard. But trust us. There's some major maturation going on.

Questions About Coming of Age

  1. Do any characters other than Rikki-tikki come of age during the story? If so, who and why do you think this character comes of age? If not, why do you think it's important for the story to only have one character come of age?
  2. Think of another coming of age story—anything from another Jungle Book story to something like, say, Harry Potter. Any similarities between this story and Rikki-tikki's? Any differences? What does this comparison tell you about the theme in "Rikki-Tikki-Tavi"?
  3. Are there any ways where Rikki-tikki seems to lessen in maturity during the story? If yes, where and why is this scene important? If not, why do you think the story characterizes Rikki-tikki on this absolute path toward coming of age?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Coming of age is the major theme tying "Rikki-Tikki-Tavi" to the rest of the Jungle Books stories.

Rikki-tikki doesn't actually come of age in the story. As the narrator points out, he's a "true mongoose" (7). This means he's not maturing so much as doing what a mongoose does best, snake killing.

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