Rikki-Tikki-Tavi is protective of his new family and curious about them.
Rikki-Tikki is happy to find a family because “every well-brought-up mongoose always hopes to be a house-mongoose some day.” When he washes up into the family’s garden, they take him in, and he immediately makes himself at home. He makes a good house mongoose because, like all mongooses, he is very curious.
It is the hardest thing in the world to frighten a mongoose, because he is eaten up from nose to tail with curiosity. The motto of all the mongoose family is "Run and find out''; and Rikki-tikki was a true mongoose.
He enjoys exploring the family home, including figuring out what can be eaten (banana and boiled egg) and what can’t (cotton-wool). He does not sit still easily, and has some close calls with a cigar and a bathtub, but mostly does all right. The family enjoys his company as soon as the father assures the mother that he won’t hurt the little boy, Teddy.
The family lives in a bungalow in India, and Rikki-tikki discovers right away that the garden is only partially maintained.
It was a large garden, only half cultivated, with bushes as big as summer-houses of Marshal Niel roses, lime and orange trees, clumps of bamboos, and thickets of high grass. Rikki-tikki licked his lips. "This is a splendid hunting-ground,'' he said …
The garden contains animals other than Rikki-tikki, including a pair of birds and a muskrat. Rikki-tikki befriends Darzee, one of the birds, and his wife. He is warned about the cobras. Because of this, we get the story’s main conflict—the battle between Rikki-tikki-tavi and the cobras.
Rikki-tikki takes his responsibility seriously, and begins protecting the family from snakes as soon as he finds out that there is a family of cobras living in the garden.
Rikki-tikki was just going to eat him up from the tail, after the custom of his family at dinner, when he remembered that a full meal makes a slow mongoose, and if wanted all his strength and quickness ready, he must keep himself thin.
This shows that Rikki-tikki is responsible and mature, for such a young mongoose, and definitely taking his duty to the family (and himself) seriously. He knows he needs to be on his toes around these snakes. He is able to kill a small snake, Karait, and then the male cobra, Nag.
After killing Nag, Rikki-tikki ensures that Nagaina does not get the better of him. He distracts her from biting Teddy and kills all of her baby cobras in their eggs. He even follows her into her hole, which is extremely dangerous, to fight her.
Once Rikki-tikki kills Nagaina, there are no more snakes in the garden. All of the animals are thrilled, and Darzee sings a song to celebrate Rikki-tikki, praising him as “the ivory-fanged, the hunger with eye-balls of flame.”
Kipling tells us a story of conflict on the basest level, but also of bravery. Rikki-tikki protects his family because that is what he was born to do. He never doubts himself, because he is following his instincts. If you believe in yourself, and have something to fight for, there are no limits to what you can do.