“Tiger! Tiger!,” The White Seal, and “Rikki-Tikki-Tavi”

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“Tiger! Tiger!”

After the interlude of “Kaa’s Hunting,” the author returns to the end of the first tale, when Mowgli leaves the wolves and goes down to the village. When he reaches the village, one of the people remarks that he looks like the boy whom Shere Khan took from a woman named Messua. The village priest confirms this, and Messua takes Mowgli into her home. Although she is not sure that he is her son, Messua accepts Mowgli as a replacement for him. On his first night in the village, Gray Brother, the eldest of Mother Wolf’s cubs, comes to visit Mowgli. He tells Mowgli that Shere Khan has gone away to regrow his coat, which was burned in the fire Mowgli started. However, he has sworn to kill Mowgli when he returns. Gray Brother asks Mowgli never to forget the wolves and promises to bring him news of the Wolf Pack.

For the next few months, Mowgli devotes himself to learning the ways of men. One day, when he is herding cattle, he sees Gray Brother again. The wolf tells him that Shere Khan intends to wait for him at the village gate that evening. Until then, the tiger is sleeping in a ravine. With the help of Gray Brother and Akela, Mowgli drives the cattle he is herding into the ravine, and Shere Khan is caught in the stampede. The tiger quickly dies, and Mowgli removes his skin as a trophy. As he is doing so, one of the village hunters, Buldeo, arrives in the ravine and attempts to reprimand Mowgli for allowing the cattle to stampede. He also claims the tiger skin, but Mowgli asks Akela to silence Buldeo, who is soon cowed when the old wolf knocks him down and stands over him.

Buldeo is terrified by the fact that the wolf obeys Mowgli’s commands and thinks the boy must be a sorcerer or a demon. Mowgli lets him go but, when he returns to the village, he finds that Buldeo’s story has turned the villagers against him. They send him away, shooting and throwing stones, though Messua runs to him and says that, even if he is not her son, he has avenged her son’s death by killing the tiger. Mowgli sends Messua back to the village. For her sake, he takes no reprisals against the villagers.

Mowgli returns to the Council Rock with the skin of Shere Khan, as he promised and as Mother Wolf prophesied. The wolves ask both Akela and Mowgli to lead them, but Mowgli says that he has been cast out by both men and wolves and will hunt alone in the jungle. The author notes that Mowgli did not remain alone, for when he was a man, he married, but that is another story.

The White Seal

Every spring, hundreds of thousands of seals fight for a place on Novastoshnah Beach. One of the largest and toughest of all is a huge grey fur seal called Sea Catch, who always secures one of the best places, near the sea. One year, Sea Catch’s wife, Matkah, gives birth to a white seal, though his father claims that such a thing has never happened in the world before. They call the baby seal Kotick, and he grows up on the beach, learning to swim and catch fish, until it is time for the seals to cross the Pacific Ocean. Kotick spends six months in the ocean without ever touching land, but when spring comes, he yearns for Novastoshnah Beach. When he returns, he is one of the holluschickie, or young bachelor seals. By this time, Kotick has grown a coat of white fur, which intrigues the other holluschickie and attracts the attention of the seal-hunters on the island, who think that a white seal is an unlucky omen.

The seal-hunters select a group of a hundred holluschickie and drive them toward the killing grounds, where seals are slaughtered for their fur. Kotick follows out of curiosity and is horrified to see the other young seals clubbed and skinned. He tells a sea lion what has happened, but the sea lion is not surprised and says that seals will always be hunted if they come to an island inhabited by men. When Kotick asks if there are any uninhabited islands, the sea lion says that Sea Vitch, the walrus, may know of such a place.

Sea Vitch says that the sea cows might know an uninhabited beach but is otherwise unhelpful, and even Kotick’s mother and father show little sympathy. No one else has ever seen the seals being killed, so the slaughter does not seem so terrible to them. For the next five years, Kotick searches for an island without men. When he has almost given up hope, he comes upon a herd of sea cows and follows them. The sea cows lead him to a perfect uninhabited beach. When he tells the other seals about this place, they laugh at him, but Kotick fights with them so ferociously that they agree to take him seriously and follow him. Kotick leads thousands of seals to the deserted beach he has found, and after this, year after year, more seals desert Novastoshnah Beach for the one to which Kotick has led them, where they are safe from the seal-hunters.


A summer flood sweeps Rikki-tikki-tavi, a young mongoose, out of his burrow and onto the garden path of the big bungalow in Segowlee cantonment. The English family who have recently moved into the bungalow revive him, and he adopts them, running around the bungalow and exploring everything with the curiosity characteristic of mongooses. Rikki is particularly protective of Teddy, the only child of the family, guarding him while he sleeps.

In the garden, Rikki meets Darzee, the tailorbird, who is lamenting the death of one of his babies, which was eaten by Nag. Just as Rikki is asking who Nag is, Nag himself appears. He is a black cobra, five feet long and a frightening figure. Rikki is afraid for a moment, but a mongoose is never afraid for long, and in any case, Rikki knows that it is the proper mission of a mongoose to kill and eat snakes. While Rikki is concentrating on Nag, he is attacked from behind by Nag’s wife, Nagaina, and narrowly manages to avoid her when Darzee cries out a warning. Nag and Nagaina slink away, and Rikki then kills Karait, the small but deadly dust snake. He is about to eat Karait but then decides that he must remain hungry, as he still has to fight the two cobras, and “a full meal makes a slow mongoose.”

That night, Chuchundra, the muskrat, tells Rikki that Nag and Nagaina, who usually live in the garden, have come into the house. He goes into the bathroom and hears the cobras plotting to kill the family so that Rikki will go and the garden will be safe for them again. Nag coils himself around the water jar and goes to sleep. Rikki jumps at his head, and they fight until the father of the family, wakened by the noise, shoots Nag with a shotgun.

In the morning, Rikki finds Nagaina’s eggs in the melon bed and smashes them. When he has smashed all but one, Darzee’s wife tells him that Nagaina is threatening Teddy, and Rikki rushes to the scene, clutching the egg. When Nagaina sees the egg and learns that the others are broken, she forgets about the boy, and his father is able to drag him to safety. Nagaina seizes the egg and makes a bolt for her underground lair. Rikki, regardless of the danger, follows her in and emerges, victorious, just as Darzee is singing a lament for his death.

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