How is anthropomorphism used in "Rikki-Tikki-Tavi"?

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litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

“Rikki-Tikki-Tavi” uses anthropomorphism in describing Rikki and the other garden animals with human emotions and actions.  Using anthropomorphism, Kipling is able to tell a dramatic story about two elements of nature that also symbolizes colonialism.

Anthropomorphism is discussing animals in the same way as humans.  Rikki-Tikki is an animal, but he reasons and talks like a human.  Rikki-Tikki and all the other animals talk to each other and seem to understand what the humans say, but they do not talk to the humans.

Rikki-tikki's mother (she used to live in the General's house at Segowlee) had carefully told Rikki what to do if ever he came across white men. (p. 2)

By describing the animals as if they were humans, Kipling is able to incorporate suspense through the conflict between Rikki and his people and the snakes.  The animals think the way humans do, so humans can relate to them.

Animals’ story is cute and exciting, but the real story here is a metaphor for colonialism.  The story takes place in India, which was colonized by the British represented by Rikki-Tikki’s people.  The snakes in the garden are the original inhabitants, and Rikki-Tikki and the people are the colonizers.  Thus Kipling is able to tell a story on two levels, both a cute animal tale and a fable on colonialism.  "Anthropomorphism is the key characteristic of fables, simple moral tales, like Aesop’s fables, which use animals that can talk to teach lessons about human behavior and morality." (enotes "Rikki-Tikki-Tavi", style).

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