A song-like poem serves as prologue to ‘‘Rikki- Tikki-Tavi,’’ prefiguring the battle between the mongoose Rikki-tikki-tavi and Nag, the king cobra. The struggle between the mongoose and snake is the central focus of the story and the poem, which foreshadows the conflict but only hints at its resolution and creates a sense of suspense and expectation before the story even begins.
In the first paragraph the setting and the main characters are introduced: Rikki-tikki-tavi, who is established as the hero, with the help of Darzee the tailor-bird, fights a battle in the garden of a bungalow in colonial India. Rikki’s curious and energetic personality is also established.
Rikki-tikki-tavi, washed by a flood from his parents’ home into the garden of a bungalow, lies unconscious in the garden path. Teddy, the boy who lives in the bungalow, happens upon him with his parents. They take him into the house and revive him. Rikki-tikki-tavi regains his energy and endears himself to the family with his energetic, curious, and friendly nature.
That night he sleeps with Teddy, much to the consternation of Teddy’s mother. Teddy’s father reassures his wife that Teddy is safe with a mongoose because, as the natural predator of snakes, he would be able to protect Teddy if one were to enter the house: the expression of fear and the realistic threat of poisonous snakes foreshadows Rikki’s future conflict with the local king cobras.
The next morning, Rikki explores the garden. He meets the tailor-birds Darzee and his wife, who are mourning because Nag, the garden’s resident king cobra, ate one of their babies. As Rikki is conversing with the birds, Nag, who knows that Rikki the mongoose poses a mortal danger to him and his family, emerges to confront Rikki. He is described as ‘‘evil’’ and ‘‘horrid,’’ as well as foreboding in size and strength. Nag introduces himself as being marked by Brahm himself, the greatest god in the Hindu pantheon, creating a reference to the sacred status of snakes in Hinduism, the predominant religion of India.
As Nag faces off with Rikki-tikki, Nag’s wife, Nagaina, makes a surprise attack on Rikki from behind. However, Rikki escapes unscathed because Darzee warns him in time. The snakes, defeated, retreat into the grass.
Rikki, who has not fought snakes before, returns to the bungalow, feeling confident about his quickness against the...
(The entire section is 1052 words.)
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