What is the characterization of "Rikki-Tikki-Tavi?"

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belarafon eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Kipling wrote "Rikki-Tikki-Tavi" as a story about animals with human-like intelligence but living in the human world as animals. Unlike other stories where animals exhibit civilization, tool-making, and other human traits, the characters in this story only have human-like language, but still live according to their animalistic traits:

It was Darzee, the tailor-bird, and his wife. They had made a beautiful nest by pulling two big leaves together and stitching them up the edges with fibres, and had filled the hollow with cotton and downy fluff. The nest swayed to and fro, as they sat on the rim and cried.

"What is the matter?'' asked Rikki-tikki.

"We are very miserable,'' said Darzee. "One of our babies fell out of the nest yesterday, and Nag ate him.''
(Kipling, "Rikki-Tikki-Tavi," cs.cmu.edu)

The birds are sad because of the death of one of their chicks, but are not able to do anything about it because they are simply birds. They cannot put up a barrier, or use weapons. Rikki-tikki's defense against the cobras is to fight them physically; while he uses tricks and stratagies, they are nothing he can't accomplish with his own body. Most of the animals express characterization based on their animalistic behavior; Rikki-tikki is curious, while the birds compose songs, and the snakes are simply evil because their venom is deadly.