What happens when Rikki-tikki-tavi fights the king cobra?

When Rikki-tikki-tavi fights the king cobra, he grabs hold of the snake's head, holding on for dear life as Nag desperately lashes at the mongoose with his tail. Before long, the mighty struggle ends after Teddy's father shoots the cobra.

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It's clear from the outset that the world just isn't big enough for both Rikki-tikki-tavi the mongoose and Nag the king cobra. So long as Rikki-tikki is around, Nag's future children won't be safe. And so long as Nag is around, the human family with whom Rikki-tikki is living and whom he's absolutely determined to protect won't be safe, either.

So there's a sense of inevitability about the big showdown between the mongoose and the cobra that takes place towards the end of the story.

The relevant action occurs in the bathroom of the family's house, where Nag is having a little nap. Rikki-tikki saw the snake slither his way into the bathroom but chose not to attack because he didn't want Nag's wife, Nagaina, to find out about it. Taking on not one but two king cobras at once would've been a tough task indeed for the little mongoose, even one as brave and fierce as Rikki-tikki.

So he bides his time, waiting until he's sure that Nagaina has gone before attacking Nag. After working out the best place on the snake's body to make an attack, Rikki-tikki launches himself at Nag, grabbing hold of his head above the hood. The mongoose hopes to break the cobra's neck, and once he sinks his teeth into Nag, he holds on for dear life.

But Nag isn't prepared to give up so easily. He gives Rikki-tikki a good hard whack with his tail, so hard in fact that the mongoose starts thinking about the possibility that he might be killed by Nag. Even so, he's prepared to die for the honor of the family and so closes his jaws tighter and tighter around the cobra's head.

All of a sudden, the epic battle between mongoose and cobra is put to an end when the man of the house, Teddy's father, enters the bathroom and empties both barrels of his shotgun into Nag, just behind his hood. Nag is dead, and Rikki's adoptive family is ever so grateful to him for the extraordinary bravery he has shown in protecting them from a vicious snake.

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