What is the conflict and the theme of "Rikki-Tikki-Tavi"?

The conflict in "Rikki-Tikki-Tavi" is between a mongoose named Rikki-tikki-tavi and two cobras, named Nag and Nagaina. The theme is protecting those who you love.

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In his story "Rikki-Tikki-Tavi," Rudyard Kipling presents a battle-to-the death conflict between the mongoose Rikki-tikki-tavi and two cobras, Nag and Nagaina. The snakes are out to kill Rikki's adopted human family, but the little mongoose is even more determined to protect Teddy and his parents, and he does.

Little Rikki kills Nag first after foiling the cobra's plot to attack the humans in the bathroom. Then he kills Nagaina after bravely following her all the way down into her hole. He wisely destroys the cobras' eggs as well.

There are many themes in "Rikki-Tikki-Tavi," but the primary one, the one that seems to include all the others, is balance. Throughout the story, Rikki balances curiosity with caution, courage with practicality, and pride with humility.

As a mongoose, Rikki is a curious creature. This is how he meets his human family in the first place and how he discovers, as he explores the house and garden, the cobras' plot to kill his people. But Rikki, as curious as he is, is not careless. He approaches the snakes cautiously, for he is still young and not completely trained. He recognizes his limits and plans accordingly. He balances curiosity with caution.

Nonetheless, Rikki is a courageous mongoose. He bravely takes responsibility for protecting his family from evil in the form of snakes, and three times he saves their lives, willing to give up his own life if necessary to protect the people he has grown to love. The little mongoose is so brave that he even grabs onto Nagaina's tail and follows her down into her hole, knowing that he might never see daylight again. Yet Rikki balances his courage with practicality. He plans his moves carefully, trying to take the whole situation into consideration, including his risks and his limits. He knows when to push forward and when to back down.

Finally, Rikki balances pride with humility. By the end of the story, Rikki has every right to be proud of his accomplishments, and he is. He has defeated the evil cobras and protected his family. But Rikki is humble, too, and realizes that he has not destroyed all the evil in the world. He will be ready "with tooth and jump and spring and bite" to save the day again whenever he needs to and to continue to balance curiosity with caution, courage with practicality, and pride with humility.

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The conflict in "Rikki-Tikki-Tavi" takes place between a mongoose determined to protect a family of humans and two cobras. The theme is protecting those you love at all cost, even if it means putting your own life at risk.

The story begins with the arrival in a garden of Rikki-tikki-tavi, who was washed up by a flood. Teddy, the young boy who lives in the bungalow, together with his parents, revive the tired mongoose and give him shelter. Rikki-tikki-tavi therefore feels immediate loyalty towards them.

Conflict soon arises between Rikki-tikki-tavi and a cobra couple named Nag and Nagaina, who do not want him there because of the threat that mongooses pose to snakes. The snakes attempt to kill him quickly, and it is thanks to Darzee's timeous warning that he escapes their first encounter unharmed.

Soon after this, the main theme comes to light when Rikki-tikki-tavi kills Karait, a snake who was lying in wait for Teddy. Later, the conflict between Rikki-tikki-tavi and Nag heats up as Rikki gets wind of a plot to kill the humans in order to get Rikki-tikki-tavi to leave. As Nag lies in wait to attack the family, he himself is attacked and killed by Rikki-tikki-tavi.

Knowing that the next stage in the conflict will involve taking on Nagaina, he resolves to destroy the cobra eggs that he has learned about. As Nagaina is about to attack the human family, which leads to the two descending into the cobra's lair. Rikki-tikki-tavi emerges victorious from the battle that follows, thereby ending the conflict and, in line with the theme, protecting the human family from future harm.

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The conflict in Rikki-Tikki-Tavi is between Rikki, the protagonist, and the snakes, the antagonists. As stated in the first paragraph of the story, the conflict is a "great war." It is, in fact, a life-or-death struggle between Rikki and each snake he meets. 

There are several themes that come through in the story. First, Rikki's courage despite his youth and size emphasize the theme that even the young can stand up for what's right and fight against evil. Rikki's courage comes from his natural ability, but also from his firm conviction that snakes cause harm and devastation. Rikki confronts Nag when he first meets him, saying, "Do you think it is right for you to eat fledglings out of a nest?" The snakes represent a threat not just to animal life in the garden, but also to human life in the bungalow. Rikki overhears the sinister plans of Nag and Nagaina as they plot to kill the child, Teddy, and his parents. The cobras' motivations are nefarious; they want power and control, and they will kill to get it. Thus Rikki's battle against the snakes can inspire readers to stand and fight against evil, even if they are young or small.

Another theme that comes through in the story is that one should be humble when taking satisfaction from a job well done. Rikki spurns Darzee's foolish song of praise, preferring to focus on completing his work rather than listening to accolades. But when Rikki has disposed of Nag, the eggs, and Nagaina, he flops down in the grass for a well-deserved nap. He is satisfied with his accomplishment, but as the final paragraph states, "he did not grow too proud." Thus the story communicates that a job well done is worth savoring, but not worth boasting about. 

Rudyard Kipling wrote an entertaining story with a life-or-death struggle between good and evil that spurs readers to have the courage to stand and fight for what's right and to take satisfaction in their work without undue pride.

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The main conflict of Kipling's enduring short story is Rikki's inevitable battles with the cobras, Nag and Nagaina. Rikki is aware of the cobras' deadly abilities, but his natural instinct takes over on two fronts: A mongoose's mortal enemy is the cobra, and his own fears become secondary when one is near; and, his other duty was to protect the human family which had befriended him. His own safety was less important than these two instinctual urges.

The story contains several different themes. Courage vs. fear is one. Man vs. nature is another. Kipling's military background focuses on the importance of loyalty and duty, and the Darwinian theories of the survival of the fittest is yet another example.

The might of the British Empire vs. the simple ideals of Indian culture is another theme.  It expounds Kipling's belief of the superiority of the white man (represented by the British family as well as Rikki) over the Hindu people (symbolically epitomized by the evil Nag and Nagaina and the cowardly Chuchundra).

Or you may want to refer to the enotes theme link below.


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