Setting: India, late 1800s
Rikki-tikki-tavi is a young mongoose. Rikki-tikki becomes the house pet of an English family who live in colonial India. On his first day in his new home, Rikki-tikki meets two cobras named Nag and Nagaina. They try to bite him. Later, Rikki-tikki saves the boy, Teddy, by killing a small poisonous snake. The family calls him a hero. That night, Rikki-tikki hears the cobras talking. They are planning to kill the family. Nag sneaks into the bathroom and waits. Rikki-tikki bites Nag behind the head and holds on. Teddy’s father shoots the snake to death. The next morning, Rikki-tikki makes plans with Darzee the tailorbird and his wife. Darzee’s wife distracts Nagaina. Rikki-tikki begins destroying the cobra’s eggs. Then he hears Darzee’s wife cry out. He hurries to the house. Nagaina is about to attack Teddy. Rikki-tikki shows her that he has not destroyed all of her eggs. The father rescues Teddy while Nagaina grabs her egg and carries it into her hole. Rikki-tikki will have to try to fight Nagaina to keep the family safe.
"Rikki-Tikki-Tavi" is a part of Rudyard Kipling's Jungle Books published for children in 1895. Like his other stories in the collection, "Rikki-Tikki-Tavi" is set in India and tells the story of a mongoose named, of course, Rikki-Tikki-Tavi.
Rikki is rescued by an English (think British) family who found him half drowned after a flood. The family has just moved into a bungalow, and decide to keep the mongoose as a pet. The family does not realized a pair of cobra snakes, (Nag and his wife Nagaina) have been living in the previously abandoned house. The two decide to kill the family so that they can raise their soon to hatch children in peace and quiet. Rikki has become increasingly protective of his adoptive family and will not let this happen. He over hears their plan to kill the family's father "the fat one" in the bathroom. Scared, but knowing he most protect his family, he waits for Nag to fall asleep. When he does, Rikki attacks by biting the back of the snake's neck. The commotion summons the family's father who brings a shotgun and blows Nag to pieces.
Nagaina, morning her partner's death, is more determined to destroy the family. Rikki goes behind the house and finds their snake eggs and destroys all but one. At this point he hears that Nagaina has cornered the family at breakfast. Rikki runs into the house with the last egg in his mouth. This distracts Nagaina and the two run into her underground home. The story does not describe the underground fight, but finally Rikki emerges from the hole the winner and still protector of the family. We are told that Rikki remains with the family, as their protector, for the rest of his life.