How is "Rikki-Tikki-Tavi" a fable?

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dmcgillem | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Assistant Educator

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Although some of the most well-known fables are those by Aesop, Rikki-Tikki-Tavi is an example of a fable in that it features animal characters who speak and act like humans, a literary technique known as anthropomorphism.  Each of the characters in Kipling's story have a separate, distinctive personality and behave accordingly.  A fable also usually is meant to teach a moral lesson.  The lesson to this fictional narrative, although not as overt as is found in some examples of fables, is one on courage, loyalty, productivity, and the value of friendship.

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user682036 | Student, Grade 10 | (Level 1) eNoter

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Although some of the most well-known fables are those by Aesop, Rikki-Tikki-Tavi is an example of a fable in that it features animal characters who speak and act like humans, a literary technique known as anthropomorphism.  Each of the characters in Kipling's story have a separate, distinctive personality and behave accordingly.  A fable also usually is meant to teach a moral lesson.  The lesson to this fictional narrative, although not as overt as is found in some examples of fables, is one on courage, loyalty, productivity, and the value of friendship.

Anthropomorphism is the attribution of human characteristics to non-humans, such as animals, plants, and objects. The animal characters in "Rikki-Tikki-Tavi" all are characterized by distinct, human-like personalities. Anthropomorphism is commonly found in children's literature and serves to create a fantasy world that is compatible with the active imaginations of children. 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.

Themes

Courage

"Rikki-Tikki-Tavi," as a children's story, is designed both to entertain and to disseminate the values of virtuous behavior. Courage, one of the characteristics exhibited by the hero, Rikki-tikki-tavi, is one such virtue. Rikki, knowing that he has to kill Nag in order to protect the human family, is fearful of the cobra's size and strength, but his fear is trumped by his own courage, and he succeeds in killing the snake. He is rewarded for his courage by being deemed a hero and given a permanent place in the home of the humans. The virtue of courage is further emphasized by the story's portrayal of shameful cowardliness; Chuchundra, the fearful muskrat who "never had spirit enough to run out into the middle of the room" is unable to overcome his fear and, therefore, elicits disdain from Rikki and the other garden creatures.

Loyalty and Duty

Kipling was deeply influenced by the codes of honor and duty evangelized at the military prep school he attended in his late childhood. Loyalty especially figures as a theme in "Rikki-Tikki-Tavi." Rikki is loyal to the human family that takes him in, and his loyalty drives him to protect them from the cobras, even to the point of risking death. Rikki also risks death out of a sense of duty regarding his heritage as a mongoose: when he attacks Nag he "was battered to and fro… he made sure he would be banged to death, and, for the honour of his family, he preferred to be found with his teeth locked."

Survival

Survival is the motivating factor behind the actions of all of the characters, and it seems to be the only law that governs the fantasy world of the garden: the act of killing, for example, is not against the laws of the garden but is consistently portrayed as a means towards the more important goal of survival for both the heroic and villainous characters.

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