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Suspense can be found in most of the mongoose's battles with the snakes in Rudyard Kipling's enduring children's tale, "Rikki-Tikki-Tavi." Rikki's initial battle comes in the garden when he meets up with both Nag and Nagaina. It is his first fight with a snake, and Kipling allows the reader to wonder how the mongoose will react. As Nag tries to keep Rikki's attention, Nagaina moves in from the rear for the kill. But Rikki is too quick.
He jumped up in the air as high as he could go, and just under him whizzed by the head of Nagaina, Nag's wicked wife. She had crept up behind him as he was talking, to make an end of him; and he heard her savage hiss as the stroke missed. He came down almost across her back, 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. He bit, indeed, but did not bite long enough, and he jumped clear of the whisking tail, leaving Nagaina torn and angry.
The final battle is highly suspenseful, since Rikki decides to pursue Nagaina into her underground nest, from where most mongooses would never return.
"It is all over with Rikki-tikki! We must sing his death song. Valiant Rikki-tikki is dead! For Nagaina will surely kill him underground."
But Rikki emerged victorious, and he lived happily ever after in the Englishman's bungalow.
One of the best examples of suspense in "Rikki-tikki-tavi" is, of course, the climax where Rikki follows Nagaina into her snake hole. This is very suspenseful for many reasons, not just because they fight. First of all, Kipling dramatizes by pointing out that no sensible mongoose ever followed a snake into its hole, implying that the snake would then be on 'home turf' so to speak and would be better able to win the fight.
and very few mongooses, however wise and old they may be, care to follow a cobra into its hole. It was dark in the hole; and Rikki-tikki never knew when it might ... give Nagaina room to turn and strike at him.
Rikki would be in unfamiliar terrority and not know when and where the snake could turn and strike. Another way Kipling built the suspense in this moment was when the grass suddenly ceased to move. This build up of action and motion followed by an abrupt stop of any action or motion is a very common technique to build suspense because it leaves the reader wondering 'well what has happened?'. The reader then sees Rikki come up from the hole alone and discovers the outcome, or resolution, of this fight. But up until that point, it is full of suspense!
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