Why does Nag try to keep Rikki-Tikki engaged in conversation when they first meet?

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When Rikki-tikki-tavi initially meets Nag for the first time in the garden, he comes face-to-face with an opposing, intimating figure. Nag understands that a mongoose's presence means sure death for himself and Nagaina as he stares down Rikki-tikki. Nag attempts to keep Rikki-tikki's attention by speaking to him and asks Rikki-tikki why it is okay for him to eat eggs if he is not allowed to eat birds. As Rikki-tikki is about to respond, Darzee warns him to look out as Nagaina strikes. Rikki-tikki quickly pounces in the air as high as he could jump and narrowly avoids Nagaina's venomous bite. Essentially, Nag attempts to distract Rikki-tikki's attention so that his wife can ambush him from behind. Nagaina is quietly biding her time to strike and attacks Rikki-tikki before he could respond to her husband. Nag and Nagaina's initial ambush attempt emphasizes their clever, sneaky nature and establishes them as the main antagonists in the story.

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At first Nag introduces himself to Rikki-Tikki in a way designed to strike fear into the mongoose's heart and to make Rikki feel like a young thing. But Rikki's mongoose nature won't allow him to remain frightened for long, and Nag knows what Rikki knows: that mongooses in the garden mean death for snakes. But in this scene, Nag knows something that Rikki does not at first, and that is that Nagaina, Nag's wife, is slithering up in the grass behind Rikki. Therefore Nag tries to get Rikki into a philosophical discussion about whether it's right for Rikki to eat eggs if it's wrong for Nag to eat birds. He is hoping to distract Rikki long enough to allow Nagaina to strike him from behind. But Darzee sings out with a warning, and Rikki jumps high in the air as Nagaina's strike misses. The next time Nag and Rikki meet, there is no discussion. It's a fight to the death--Nag's death. 

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Why does Nag keep Rikki engaged in conversation when they first meet?

When Rikki and Nag first meet near the beginning of "Rikki-Tikki Tavi," the tailorbird named Darzee has just told Rikki about how Nag ate one of his babies the day before. Rikki has just recently been rescued and does not know who Nag is, which prompts Nag to appear. Nag, a cobra, fears mongooses like Rikki, as mongooses are capable of killing cobras. As a result, Nag hopes to keep Rikki engaged in conversation while his wife Nagaina approaches in the bushes. Their goal is for Nagaina to attack Rikki when he is not expecting it. Attacking Rikki by surprise is the cobras' best chance of killing him. Darzee notices Nagaina in the grass, though, and is able to warn Rikki in time for him to take action.

He jumped up in the air as high as he could go, and just under him whizzed by the head of Nagaina, Nag's wicked wife. She had crept up behind him as he was talking, to make an end of him. He heard her savage hiss as the stroke missed.

Darzee's warning allows Rikki to get out of the way of Nagaina's strike in time.

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