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Characters

(Short Stories for Students)

Alice
See Teddy’s Mother

The Big Man
The big man is an Englishman who has just moved, with his son Teddy and wife Alice, into the Indian bungalow where the main action of the story takes place. The big man owns a ‘‘bang-stick’’—a shotgun—and when he shoots Nag into two pieces during Rikki’s battle with him in the bathroom, Nagaina wrongfully blames him for the death. As an Englishman in India during the late nineteenth century, the big man represents imperial England’s presence in India and thus gives a historical and cultural context to the story. He and his family take Rikki-tikki-tavi into their home and thereby earn his loyalty and protection. The big man and his family’s gratitude to Rikki for saving their lives earns him a lasting place in their home.

Chuchundra
A muskrat who lives in the bungalow, Chuchundra is portrayed as a cowardly creature who weeps and whines when he speaks. He tips Rikki off to Nag and Nagaina’s planned attack on the big man and his family. Chuchundra’s cowardliness serves as a foil to Rikki-tikki-tavi’s courage.

The Coppersmith
When Rikki-tikki-tavi successfully kills Nagaina and emerges from her lair unhurt, the Coppersmith, a bird who serves as the garden crier, announces Rikki’s triumph and the demise of Nag and Nagaina to the denizens of the garden.

Darzee
A tailor-bird who, together with his wife, keeps a nest in the bungalow’s garden, Darzee is described as ‘‘a feather-brained fellow’’ because he fails on more than one occasion to competently assist Rikkitikki- tavi against their common enemies, Nag and Nagaina. Darzee, unlike Rikki, is severely lacking in foresight. He begins to sing a song of triumph after the death of Nag but before Nagaina and her eggs are destroyed, for which Rikki scolds him. His lack of foresight serves as a foil to Rikki’s own impetus for action. Darzee also plays the role of a bard. He composes songs about Rikki-tikki-tavi’s showdowns against Nag and Nagaina, which are used to highlight Rikki’s heroic aspects.

Darzee’s wife
Darzee’s wife plays a pivotal role in assisting Rikki against the snakes—and is therefore called ‘‘sensible’’—by serving as a decoy to distract Nagaina and allow Rikki time to destroy the cobras’ unhatched eggs.

Karait
Karait, a small, quick, poisonous snake who lives in the dust, is confronted by Rikki-tikki-tavi when he threatens to fatally bite Teddy. Karait is the first snake that Rikki kills, and his success gives Rikki the confidence to battle against the more dangerous cobras.

Nag
One of two king cobras who reside in the garden of the bungalow, Nag, along with his wife Nagaina, are Rikki-tikki-tavi’s archenemies. Nag and his wife are depicted as evil. His enormous size—‘‘five feet long from tongue to tail’’—and strength make him a formidable and, therefore, worthy opponent for Rikki, the hero of the story. Prior to Rikki’s arrival in the garden, Nag and Nagaina held free rein over the garden. Nag is killed by Rikki-tikki-tavi inside the bungalow when he, at Nagaina’s bidding, enters it to kill the human family. Nag’s name is derived from the Hindi word for snake.

Nagaina
Like her husband Nag, Nagaina is characterized as evil. While Nag is foreboding in his size and strength, Nagaina is said to be intelligent. It is she who...

(The entire section is 876 words.)