How can the story "Rikki-tikki-tavi" be twisted by making the mongoose the villain and cobras as heroes of the story?

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litteacher8 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Rikki can be seen as an invader to the cobras’ natural habitat who hunts them down, terrorizes them, and finally kills them.

Although we often look at the story as being the tale of a cute little mongoose fighting for his life against two men, ugly cobras, a closer look shows that the cobras are not really the villains.  Is there good and evil in nature?  The cobras are defending their home.  Rikki is the invader.

At the beginning of the story, Rikki is washed away from his home and adopted by a family living in a bungalow.  Like the imperialists that the family represents, Rikki makes himself at home and proceeds to target the natives when they don’t behave as he would prefer.  He wants the cobras’ land, and when they don’t willingly give it to him, he kills them.

Nagaina explains to her husband, Nag, that the mongoose is a threat to their soon-to-be-born children.

“…When there were no people in the bungalow, did we have any mongoose in the garden? So long as the bungalow is empty, we are king and queen of the garden; … as soon as our eggs in the melon-bed hatch … our children will need room and quiet.''

The argument makes sense.  The people are encroaching on the cobras’ natural home, just as the British imperialists encroached on the Indians when they came.  The cobras are not evil.  They are simply defending their home, their children, and their lives.

Although at first glance this seems like a cute children’s tale of good versus evil, on closer inspection it is anything but.  It is no coincidence that the story features a British family living in Colonial India.  Kipling’s point is not lost.

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