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.