| Quote #1
At the hole where he went in
The epigraph is part of an entire epic poem devoted to Rikki-tikki's courage. You know a theme's important when the story can't wait to tell you about it.
| Quote #2
It is the hardest thing in the world to frighten a mongoose, because he is eaten up from nose to tail with curiosity. The motto of all the mongoose family is, "Run and find out"; and Rikki-tikki was a true mongoose. (7)
You can't have curiosity without bravery—or, you can, but then you're just an armchair explorer. And no one likes that guy.
| Quote #3
[…] and if he had been an old mongoose he would have known that then was the time to break her back with one bite; but he was afraid of the terrible lashing return-stroke of the cobra. (30)
Rikki-tikki may be brave, but he's also inexperienced. He doesn't yet have the know-how to properly fight the cobras. Bravery only goes so far if you don't mature with it. (See "Coming of Age" for more).