What is the main conflict in "Rikki-Tikki-Tavi"?  

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The main conflict is between the mongoose Rikki-Tikki-Tavi and his antagonists, the snakes. In particular, the mongoose is engaged in conflict with the largest, most dangerous snake of all, a giant cobra by the name of Nagaina. Cobras are deadly poisonous snakes, and just one bite from their venomous fangs can be fatal.

The stakes are high in the ongoing conflict between Rikki-Tikki-Tavi and Nagaina. Rikki must protect not just himself but the human family which has adopted him. The children of the family are particularly vulnerable to the predatory snake. They like to play in the garden where the cobra lurks in the undergrowth, ready to strike at any moment. Nagaina regards this as her territory, and so she looks upon the human family and their guardian mongoose as a threat to her own offspring. As there is so much at stake in this epic conflict, it can only be resolved by the death of one of the combatants.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The main conflict in Kipling's short story "Rikki-Tikki-Tavi" is an external conflict.  Rikki is a mongoose, and a mongoose's mortal enemy is the cobra snake.  Throughout the story, Rikki feels that it is his duty to protect his human family from invaders.  The two main antagonists to Rikki's efforts are Nag and Nagaina, two cobra snakes.  They are evil snakes, and their mission is to hurt both Rikki and Rikki's adoptive human family.  They each have small victories over each other, but Rikki is able to successfully defeat both Nag and Nagaina by the end of the story.  There is a little bit of internal conflict in the story too, because Rikki is not a fearless, hulking hero.  The snakes do worry him, and he must overcome his apprehensions in order to beat them.  

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial