Study Guide

Rikki-Tikki-Tavi from The Jungle Book

Rikki-Tikki-Tavi from The Jungle Book Summary

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.

  • Paragraphs 1-16

    • The narrator jumpstarts things by telling the reader that this story will be about Rikki-tikki-tavi, mongoose extraordinaire.
    • Said story begins one day during a high summer flood. Rikki-tikki is washed away from his parents and almost drowns.
    • When he comes to, he's wrapped in a warm cotton blanket and surrounded by his saviors, a British family living in India.
    • You'd think this would be like alien abduction for any small animal, but Rikki-tikki isn't scared at all. In fact, the narrator informs us that a mongoose's natural curiosity prevents it from being afraid (so there).
    • Rikki-tikki goes exploring. His shenanigans include climbing all over the British child, Teddy, nearly drowning in the bathtubs, and soaking his nose in writing ink.
    • Silly mongoose.
    • That night, Rikki-tikki sleeps with Teddy. Teddy's mother worries about the wild animal sleeping so close to her boy. And, uh, we're kind of with her.
    • The father says pish-posh to such a worry. (He is British, after all.) After all, if a snake were to come into the room, there would be no better companion than a mongoose. The mother won't think of anything so awful, regardless of how obviously foreshadowing it might be.
  • Paragraphs 17-37

    • The next morning, Rikki-tikki eats breakfast with the British family. He sucks up to / loves on each member in hopes of becoming their "house-mongoose" (17). This way he'll always be able to explore their rooms forever and ever.
    • Rikki-tikki heads into the garden to—what else?—explore his new hunting ground. Thank goodness he's not a cat or all this curiosity would certainly have negative effects on his living status.
    • He hears a sad voice and meets Darzee the tailorbird. Darzee is in mourning as one of his baby birds fell from the nest and was eaten by Nag.
    • Rikki-tikki asks who Nag is, and you know what they say about asking and receiving. A five-foot, black Indian cobra pops out of the grass.
    • In case it wasn't obvious, Nag informs Rikki-tikki that he is Nag.
    • Knowing a mongoose means death for him and his family, the cobra tries to trick the creature and engages him in some harmless chit-chat.
    • Or maybe not so harmless. Darzee warns Rikki-tikki to look out as another cobra lunges from behind. Rikki-tikki dodges the attack.
    • Rikki-tikki, meet Nag's wife Nagaina.
    • The cobras slither away, having missed their opportunity for an easy, albeit cheating, win.
    • Rikki-tikki is pretty ticked off, but he doesn't follow.
    • Two cobras at once might be more than one wee little critter can handle.
    • Teddy runs over to pet the mongoose when something moves in the dirt next to the boy.
    • It's Karait (or krait), another poisonous Indian snake.
    • The snake and Rikki-tikki have at it. Although the mongoose makes some amateur mistakes, he wins in the end.
    • The father comes out ready to give the snake a beat-down, but Rikki-tikki is like, "Relax. I've got it."
    • If the family didn't love that mongoose before, they sure do now.
    • Rikki-tikki doesn't know what all the fuss is about since he only killed a snake. But he enjoys the attention, so win-win.
  • Paragraphs 38-62

    • That night, the family offers Rikki-tikki enough food to stuff himself Goku-style, but he remembers Nag and Nagaina and refrains. He's got to keep himself in fighting trim, so he indulges in the lovings instead.
    • Teddy carries him off to bed, but once the boy's asleep, Rikki-tikki sneaks away and patrols the house.
    • He runs into Chuchundra, a cowardly muskrat. Chuchundra pleads for the mongoose not to kill him, but he needn't have bothered. That's not Rikki-tikki's thing. He kills snakes not muskrats.
    • But Chuchundra is worried about Nag as well. Rikki-tikki assures the muskrat that Nag is in the garden, but Chuchundra tells him to listen.
    • Rikki-tikki hears the faint scratching sound of scales on brickwork.
    • And there's no brickwork in the garden.
    • Cue creepy horror music.
    • He searches the house and hears Nag and Nagaina outside an opening leading to the bathroom.
    • Like all villains ever, they discuss their plan in explicit detail to each other, conveniently allowing the hero to overhear.
    • The gist is that Nag will go into the house and kill the family. Without the humans, the mongoose will leave, freeing up more space for their up-and-coming family. Ready…break!
    • Nag slithers into the bathroom. Rikki-tikki doesn't attack, partly out of fear but mostly because he knows the noise of the scuffle would alert Nagaina.
    • On the other side of the wall, Nag tells Nagaina that he'll wait there until morning. If he goes for the big man now, he might still have a stick with him.
    • But when he comes into the bathroom tomorrow, he'll be stickless (one presumes anyway).
    • When Rikki-tikki hears no response, he knows Nagaina is no longer there.
    • The mongoose sizes up his opponent. It takes a while, because Nag is pretty big.
    • Then he pounces, sinks his teeth into the hooded dome, and holds on for dear life (literally). Nag shakes to and fro, battering Rikki-tikki against the floor.
    • The father rushes in wielding a double-barreled boomstick. He takes the shot, and Rikki-tikki shuts his eyes thinking his time is done.
    • Luckily, the father's a crack shot. He picks up Rikki-tikki and praises the critter for having saved them twice in one day.
    • They take Rikki-tikki to Teddy's room, and the mongoose spends the rest of the night tenderly checking his wounds.
  • Paragraphs 63-86

    • The next morning, Rikki-tikki skips breakfast and sets out to deal with Nagaina.
    • At Darzee's nest, the bird is prematurely singing a song of victory. Rikki-tikki scolds him, saying it's one of those "we've won the battle but not the war" type things.
    • Darzee informs the mongoose that Nagaina is over at the rubbish heap mourning her dead husband.
    • Rikki-tikki wants to know where Nagaina's nest is. Then he asks the bird to go over and distract Nagaina while he does what needs doing.
    • But Darzee's a pretty dumb bird, so he can't quite follow what Rikki-tikki wants. Thankfully, his wife isn't, so she flies over to distract Nagaina by pretending to have a broken wing.
    • Nagaina gives chase.
    • Meanwhile, Rikki-tikki sets about destroying all the cobra eggs.
    • He's down to three when Darzee's wife flies up to tell him that Nagaina has headed for the veranda with killing on her mind.
  • Paragraphs 87-104

    • Rikki-tikki smashes two of the eggs and keeps the third as a hostage.
    • Meanwhile, stuff is going down at the veranda.
    • Nagaina is poised to strike Teddy, while the father orders his son not to move.
    • Rikki-tikki shows up and demands that Nagaina fight him. She's not interested at first since she has the upper hand.
    • But when she learns that the mongoose has her last child/ egg, she changes her mind right quick.
    • Nagaina lunges for the egg, and the father pulls Teddy in close.
    • Rikki-tikki is ready for an all-out fight, but Nagaina swears that she'll leave and never come back.
    • In a modern story, this would be the point when the hero lets his guard down and the villain uses the opportunity to attack.
    • Apparently not in the nineteenth century. Rikki-tikki just drives the point home that he's going to kill her.
    • They fight. Nagaina manages to circle around and grab hold of the egg.
    • She breaks for her den with Rikki-tikki going hot pursuit mode.
    • Darzee's wife flaps into Nagaina's face, purchasing Rikki-tikki the time he needs to bite her tail.
    • Nagaina drags Rikki-tikki into her den.
    • Uh-oh. This is Not Good, and Darzee agrees. He begins to prepare a mourning song for the mongoose warrior.
    • But wait! Rikki-tikki pops out of the den, proclaiming his victory.
    • And then he falls asleep right then and there.
  • Paragraphs 105-111

    • When Rikki-tikki wakes up, he tells Darzee to tell the Coppersmith that Nagaina is dead.
    • The Coppersmith is a bird who acts as the town-crier. He tells everybody that Nagaina is dead and the garden is safe again. And there was much rejoicing (yay).
    • As for Rikki-tikki, he heads back to the house to receive his fair share of food and lovings from the family.
    • That night, he sleeps on Teddy's bed while the father and mother think about how he saved all their lives.
    • (Why they don't think about moving after three deadly snake attacks in two days is anybody's guess.)
    • And Rikki-tikki kept the garden so safe that no cobra dared came inside the walls again.