Discussion Topic

Character Traits and Relationships in "Rikki-tikki-tavi"

Summary:

In "Rikki-tikki-tavi," Rikki-tikki is brave, loyal, and determined, forming close bonds with the human family he protects. His courage is evident in his fearless battles against the cobras, Nag and Nagaina, to safeguard his friends. These traits and relationships highlight his role as a heroic protector in the story.

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How do the personalities of Rikki and Nag compare in "Rikki-tikki-tavi"?

Rikki and Nag are both brave and stubborn.

Rikki and Nag are both animals behaving instinctively.  Rikki-tikki-tavi is a mongoose, and a mongoose kills snakes.  Snakes kill birds and try to defend themselves against mongooses and humans that might invade their territory.

Rikki and Nag both stand up to danger.  Rikki is too curious to be afraid, and Nag is brave enough to stand up to Rikki and try to distract him so that Nagaina can sneak up on Rikki.

Nag was thinking to himself, and watching the least little movement in the grass behind Rikki-tikki. He knew that mongooses in the garden meant death sooner or later for him and his family, but he wanted to get Rikki-tikki off his guard. …

“Let us talk,'' he said. “You eat eggs. Why should not I eat birds?''

Rikki and Nag are both willing to put everything on the line for those that matter most to them.  Rikki wants to defend the people in the bungalow, and Nag wants to defend his eggs.

Nag targets Rikki by trying to kill the people.  Rikki is smart enough to know what he is planning, and finds him before he succeeds.

Nag coiled himself down, coil by coil, round the bulge at the bottom of the water-jar, and Rikki-tikki stayed still as death. After an hour he began to move, muscle by muscle, toward the jar. Nag was asleep, and Rikki-tikki looked at his big back, wondering which would be the best place for a good hold.

Rikki and Nag are both stubborn and resourceful.  Each of them refuses to give up even when targeted by the other.  Rikki wins because Nag relies too much on Nagaina and lets his guard down, while Rikki relies only on himself.  

Rikki and Nag are a lot alike, and both of them are acting on instinct.  Rikki's goal is to eliminate the threat of snakes, and Nag's is to protect his family.  It is tempting to think of Nag and Nagaina as the villains, but we should also remember that Rikki and the people are the invaders.

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How do the personalities of Rikki and Nag compare in "Rikki-tikki-tavi"?

Rikki loves and respects Teddy's family because they rescued him after the severe flood. Teddy's family cleans and feeds Rikki, who is disheveled and lost after washing up at their bungalow. Rikki grows to love Teddy's family and fiercely defends them with his life. As a mongoose, Rikki is designed to fight and kill deadly snakes, which is exactly what he does.

In contrast, Nag cannot stand Teddy's family and plans on killing each member. Nag understands that Teddy's family poses a threat to him and Nagaina because they are attached to Rikki. Nag and Nagaina realize that if they can kill Teddy's father, the family will move, and Rikki will no longer inhabit the bungalow or its surrounding garden where they live. Nag ends up hiding in the bathroom and patiently waits for Teddy's father to come in at night. However, Rikki thwarts Nag's evil plan and kills him before he can harm Teddy's father.

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What do Rikki and Nag have in common in 'Rikki-Tikki-Tavi'?

Although Nag is the antagonist and Rikki is the protagonist in "Rikki-Tikki-Tavi," they do have some similarities. They are both crafty, respectful of their adversaries, and determined. 

Nag tries to deceive Rikki at their first meeting. He tilts his head and pretends he would like to get into a philosophical discussion about why eating birds is proper, but he is really trying to distract Rikki so Nagaina can strike. Likewise, Rikki is crafty with the snakes. For example, he enlists Darzee's wife to pretend she is lame to distract Nagaina while he destroys the eggs.

Nag is aware that "mongooses in the garden meant death sooner or later for him and for his family." Rikki is likewise aware of the power of his opponent. While planning how to attack Nag in the bathroom, Rikki says, "If I don't break his back at the first jump, he can still fight; and if he fights—O Rikki!" During the fight, he fully expects to die and is only saved by the man killing Nag with a gun.

Nag is determined to "kill the big man and his wife, and the child if I can." He allows his wife's talk of being "king and queen of the garden" to motivate him to do his deadly work. Similarly, Rikki is determined, but his goal is to save the humans and rid the garden of snakes. He makes sure Nag is killed first, then kills all but one of the baby snakes, and then he goes so far as to follow Nagaina down the rat hole, something very few mongooses would dare to do. 

Nag and Rikki are well-matched adversaries, for each is crafty, respectful of his opponent, and determined to succeed with his plan.

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What characteristics do Rikki-tikki-tavi, Nag, and Nagaina display in "Rikki-tikki-tavi"?

All three of these characters are determined to protect their territory and the ones they love.

Although they are enemies, Nag, Nagaina, and Rikki do have a lot in common. They are all persistent, deadly, and courageous. Each of them is fighting for something so important that he or she is willing to die for it.

Rikki is the mongoose who washes up in the bungalow’s garden. He has been taught by his mother that being a house mongoose is what all mongooses aspire to. Rikki also knows that hunting snakes is part of a mongoose’s job. The mongoose eats the snakes, but this also protects the people from the snakes that may target them. Rikki is not afraid to do his job.

Nag and Nagaina know mongooses well. They are wary of Rikki because they are sure that he will prove a threat to them sooner or later. They try to strike first, to scare him off. This doesn’t work well because it’s impossible to frighten a mongoose.

Nag was thinking to himself, and watching the least little movement in the grass behind Rikki-tikki. He knew that mongooses in the garden meant death sooner or later for him and his family, but he wanted to get Rikki-tikki off his guard.

Nag’s trick to try to distract Rikki so Nagaina can get him doesn’t work. Rikki is quick too. Nag and Nagaina have each other, and they can work together. Rikki is able to work with others too. He uses Darzee and even Chuchundra to accomplish his ends.

Nag and Nagaina have a set of baby cobras. After Nag is killed by Rikki, Nagaina’s goal is to protect them. She is brave, even though she is grieving. She knows that Rikki is dangerous and she has no help, but she goes after him anyway. She tries to get Rikki to let her go.

Nagaina saw that she had lost her chance of killing Teddy, and the egg lay between Rikki-tikki's paws. "Give me the egg, Rikki-tikki. Give me the last of my eggs, and I will go away and never come back,'' she said, lowering her hood.

Nagaina may be a little afraid, but she is mostly thinking of her baby. She tries to appeal to Rikki’s sense of decency and get him to let her keep it, but when he doesn’t she fights him.

All three of these animals are engaging in a fight to the death over territory. They all feel that they have a right to the garden. Rikki is protecting the people, and Nag and Nagaina are protecting their family. In the end, they all fight well, but Rikki wins.

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What is the relationship between Nag and Nagaina in Rikki-Tikki-Tavi?

Nag and Nagaina are two cobras that live in the garden outside the bungalow where Rikki has come to live. Nagaina is "Nag's wicked wife." Nag and Nagaina are also father and mother to 25 eggs that are almost ready to hatch into their "children." At the beginning of the story, they act together as a team to try to kill Rikki. While Nag speaks to him, Nagaina sneaks up behind him and strikes. Darzee has warned Rikki in the nick of time. 

Nag appears to be the more formidable adversary physically, but Nagaina is more sly. One might say Nagaina is the brains and Nag is the brawn, or Nagaina is the villain and Nag is the less intelligent sidekick to the villain. This relationship is apparent when Nagaina is explaining to Nag that he should bite the man first, then come outside so the two of them can fight Rikki together. Nag questions whether it is necessary to kill the people, and Nagaina explains that only when the bungalow is empty will they be "king and queen of the garden." This shows she is the one who creates the strategy. When Nag is killed, Nagaina mourns for him at the rubbish heap, and she seeks revenge on the people for killing Nag and making her "a widow."

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