Rikki-Tikki-Tavi Questions and Answers
by Rudyard Kipling

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What are the main characteristics of Rikki-Tikki-Tavi's nature?

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Above all, Rikki-Tikki-Tavi is curious and energetic, as most mongooses are. He spends much of his time hunting snakes--another trait of most mongooses--but he also enjoys a nap at times. Inexperienced at the beginning of the Kipling short story, Rikki--whose name comes from the sound he makes--survives several battle with snakes and becomes wise to their ways. Because he was saved by the human family, he has no fear of them, and he gains their love and respect after saving their lives more than once. He is a heroic character, saving the humans, battling the cobras, and ridding the area of his deadly enemies.

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Rikki-tikki-tavi, whose name is derived from his characteristic chattering noise, is a young mongoose who, at the beginning of the story, has little experience but, by the end, has become a mongoose of legendary strength and fighting ability. He is rescued by a human family and taken into their home after he is swept away from his parents' nest during a flood. As a mongoose, Rikki is the natural enemy of snakes, and his presence in the garden threatens the resident king cobra couple, Nag and Nagaina, who become Rikki's archenemies. Rikki is emblematic of the archetypal hero: he exhibits the qualities of courage, strength, and loyalty, and he uses his virtues to fight evil. Prior to arriving in the garden, Rikki had never fought a snake, and his ultimate triumph over the cobras not only protects the lives of the birds and the humans he befriends, but it also serves as his coming of age.