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.