Later edition cover of "Rikki-Tikki-Tavi" by Rudyard Kipling

"Rikki-Tikki-Tavi" is a short story in the 1894 short story collection The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling about adventures of a valiant young Indian grey mongoose.[1] It has often been anthologized and published several times as a short book. Book 5 of Panchatantra, an ancient Indian collection, includes the mongoose and snake story, an inspiration for the "Rikki-Tikki-Tavi" story.


After an intense seasonal thunderstorm, an Indian mongoose named Rikki-Tikki-Tavi (from his chattering vocalizations) becomes the pet of an English family residing in India after they save him from drowning. He becomes friendly with some other creatures inhabiting their garden. However, the cobras, named Nag (the male) and Nagaina (the female), are angered by the human family's presence in their territory and fear Rikki as a threat when they meet him for the first time. Scared at first, Rikki soon learns that a mongoose's quest is to track down and slay any snake he or she can find, and fends them off after a short skirmish. That same day, a young dust-brown snake named Karait threatens to bite the family's child, Teddy. This infuriates Rikki into challenging Karait, unaware the smaller snake is as venomous as a cobra and faster. Despite the risk, Rikki emerges victorious and kills the snake, saving the child, before presenting the slain foe to the father as proof of the mongoose's victory.

Later that night, Rikki hears Nag and Nagaina plot to kill the family to take over the house for their hatchlings and drive Rikki away. Nag enters the house's bathroom before dawn to make his ambush. Rikki, however, makes the first move and ambushes Nag from atop a vase in the darkness. The ensuing struggle awakens the family, and the father appears to kill Nag with a shotgun blast while Rikki bites down on the hood of the struggling male cobra.[2]

The following morning, a grieving Nagaina attempts revenge against the humans, cornering them as they have breakfast on a veranda. She is however distracted by the wife of Darzee the tailor bird (Darzee is singing about Nag's death) while Rikki destroys the cobra's unhatched brood of eggs, except for one. He carries it to the porch where Nagaina threatens to bite little Teddy while his parents watch helplessly. Rikki furiously challenges her and lures the cobra away from the family, giving the father enough time to grab Teddy away and keep him close. Rikki then reveals that it was he who put Nag down before the father opened fire on him.

Nagaina recovers her egg during the intense battle and tries to retreat homeward, but is pursued by Rikki from the house to the cobra's underground nest, where an unseen final battle occurs, although few mongooses dare to enter cobra nests, as they mostly tend to avoid them. Fearing the worst, Darzee mourns what he thinks to be Rikki's death via song. Minutes later, Rikki emerges triumphant from the hole, declaring Nagaina dead and that she will never come out again, and Darzee changes his tune from anguish to elatement. With the immediate threat defeated, Rikki dedicates his life to guarding the garden, resulting in no snake daring to show its head on its walls.


Rikki-Tikki-Tavi in Chuck Jones' animated film

Director Alexandra Snezhko-Blotskaya shot an animated short film of this story titled Рикки-Тикки-Тави (Rikki-Tikki-Tavi) in 1965 in the Soviet Union, at the film studio Soyuzmultfilm. Ten years later, Chuck Jones adapted it for a half-hour television special in the United States, with Orson Welles narrating and providing the voice of Nag.[3] The same year, Aleksandr Juridic and Nan Nashville directed a live-action feature film entitled Rikki-Tikki-Tavi.[4]

In the anime television series, Jungle Book Shōnen Mowgli, Rikki-Tikki-Tavi is a supporting character who is the pet of an Indian family and is a heroic defender of them.

In the CGI series The Jungle Book, Rikki-Tikki-Tavi is an occasional character who is a friend of Mowgli.

The story was adapted as a picture book of the same name in 1997 by Jerry Pinkney.


  1. ^ Kipling, Rudyard. "Rikki-Tikki-Tavi". Haley Huang. 16 January 2014.
  2. ^ Kipling, Rudyard (1991). Rudyard Kipling. p. 94. ISBN 1-85052-202-2.
  3. ^ Lenburg, Jeff (1999). The Encyclopedia of Animated Cartoons. Checkmark Books. p. 316. ISBN 0-8160-3831-7. Retrieved 6 June 2020.
  4. ^ "Rikki-Tikki-Tavi". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 5 December 2014.