Discussion Topic

Rikki-tikki's encounter and actions towards Karait in "Rikki-Tikki-Tavi."

Summary:

When Rikki-tikki encounters Karait, a small but deadly snake, he quickly attacks and kills him to protect the family. This encounter demonstrates Rikki-tikki's bravery and his instinct to defend his human companions from any threat, regardless of its size.

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Why didn't Rikki-tikki eat Karait after killing him?

Rikki-tikki-tavi is a mongoose, so killing and eating snakes is pretty much what he does. The case of Karait is different, though (although he does in fact kill the young brown snake). Just as he's about to be patted by Teddy, Rikki-tikki is suddenly confronted by a little voice seething, "Be careful. I am death!" It's Karait. The mongoose doesn't hesitate; he swings into action, protecting Teddy from Karait. In a matter of seconds, the fight between Rikki-tikki and Karait is over; the snake lies dead. Naturally, Rikki-tikki wants to eat the snake, but then he remembers that a full meal makes for a slow mongoose. In other words, if he's too full from eating Karait, he won't be quick enough to carry out his duties in defending Teddy and his family from other snakes.

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Why did Rikki-tikki kill Karait in "Rikki-Tikki-Tavi"?

Shortly after Rikki-tikki survives Nagaina's attack, Teddy comes running down the path to pet him and Rikki-tikki hears Kariat, the brown snakeling say, "Be careful. I am Death!" (Kipling, 3). Despite Kariat's small size, his bite is even more dangerous than a cobra's and his threat infuriates Rikki-tikki, who has the responsibility of protecting Teddy. Upon hearing Kariat's threat, Rikki-tikki's eyes turn red and he begins rocking in a steady motion as he approaches the dangerous brown snakeling. Rikki-tikki is unaware that Kariat is significantly more threatening than Nag or Nagaina and jumps into the air to avoid his deadly strike. When Kariat lunges too far, Rikki-tikki manages to jump on his back and bite down on his neck. Rikki-tikki successfully paralyzes Karait and kills him before Teddy's father begins beating the snakeling's lifeless body. Overall, Rikki-tikki kills Kariat after the deadly snakeling threatens to bite Teddy.

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Why did Rikki-tikki kill Karait in "Rikki-Tikki-Tavi"?

Rikki-tikki killed Karait because Karait threatened to harm Teddy.  

The fight between Karait and Rikki-tikki is very brief, and the build-up to it is even more brief. The text says Rikki-tikki was ready to be petted. Teddy is only too happy to oblige, and right when Teddy bends down, Karait announces his presence: "Be careful. I am Death!"

Karait is a "brown snakeling," meaning he is a young brown snake. There are two main types of brown snakes. The North American brown snake is harmless. Karait is not this kind of snake, because the text says his bite is as deadly as a cobra's bite. That means Karait is likely an Eastern brown snake. According to various sources, the Eastern brown snake is the second most toxic land snake in the world. That ranking puts Karait's venom as more powerful than Nag and Nagaina's venom. Karait is dangerous and threatening to Teddy. Rikki-tikki is a mongoose, and killing snakes is what he does. Add to that the credible threat that Karait is to Teddy. Rikki-tikki's instinct is to kill the snake and protect Teddy.  

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