The story is a favorite of Kipling fans and is notable for its frightening and serious tone. Some epic features (heightened prosaic style, songs to the hero) add to the standard typology of hero defeating villain. It has often been anthologised and has also been published more than once as a short book in its own right.
In India, an English family discover a young mongoose half drowned from a flood and decide to keep it as a pet. The young mongoose, was named Rikki-Tikki, soon finds himself confronted by two dangerous, murderous cobras, Nag and his even more dangerous her wife Nagaina. After that first encounter with the cobras, Rikki's first true battle is with Karait, a dust brown snakeling who threatens the boy (Teddy). Although Rikki is inexperienced and the snake, because of its deadly venom and small size, is an even more dangerous than a cobra, the mongoose defeats him.
At Nagaina's urging, Nag plans to kill the human family so Rikki will leave rrrrrr when the house is empty, and they will regain controll of the house. She also reminds him that their eggs would hatch soon (as they might the next day). Nag goes to the bathroom to kill the "big man", and goes to sleep while waiting. Rikki grabs Nag by the head above that hood. Nag thrashes furiously, and the noise wakes the man, who fires both barrels of a shotgun into Nag, blowing him in two pieces and almost hitting Rikki. Nag is thrown on the rubbish heap, where Nagaina mourns for him and vows vengeance.
Rikki, well aware of the threat, enlists a tailor bird to distract Nagaina while he searches for her eggs. However, while he finds and destroys most of the brood, Nagaina finds the family at the dinner table and threatens to kill the family's son with her poisonous bite. Alerted to the crisis, Rikki races to his family with the last egg. Once he's there, Rikki claims he killed Nag himself while showing the egg to distract Nagaina long enough for the man to pull the boy to safety. Nagaina snatches the egg and escapes to her hole while Rikki pursues her inside. The underground fight is not described, but after a long wait, Rikki comes out of the hole in triumph having killed Nagaina. With that victory, Rikki spends the rest of his days defending the family garden where no snake would dare enter.
A 21-minute Soviet animated adaptation was released in 1966. It was directed by Alexandra Snezhko-Blotskaya at Soyuzmultfilm studio. It has been released on a number of DVDs in Russia.
A 25 minute animated version which first aired on CBS on January 9, 1975 was directed by Chuck Jones and narrated by Orson Welles. Family Home Entertainment has released this version of Rikki-Tikki-Tavi on both VHS and DVD formats. The DVD is paired with another of Jones' cartoons, Yankee Doodle Cricket.
In the anime adaptation of The Jungle Book, Jungle Book Shonen Mowgli, Rikki is a supporting character who defends his Indian family.
Recently, an adaptation called "The Jungle Book: Rikki Tikki Tavi to the Rescue" was released to DVD. This version portrays Rikki as a blue-furred, vaguely weasel-like creature who hangs out with Mowgli and his friends.
In 1977, the Children's Film Society of India commissioned or co-produced a live action version.
References in cultureEdit
- The popular Mongoose and Snake Drag Racing rivalry, made famous by Tom "The Mongoose" McEwen and Don "The Snake" Prudhomme was derived from the story Rikki-Tikki-Tavi. This also helped open the door for major corporate backing for the duo by Mattel Hot Wheels, one of the first non-automotive sponsorships in early professional Drag Racing.
- Donovan wrote a song titled "Riki Tiki Tavi" on his album Open Road
- WikkiTikkiTavi is an open source wiki engine.
- Paul Vaderlind, Richard Guy, and Loren Larson wrote a math book titled Inquisitive Problem Solver that references Rikki Tikki Tavi.
- Popular webcomic Sluggy Freelance's character, "Kiki" the ferret, takes the pseudonym "Riki Kiki Taco" when she has delusions of being a heroine.
- In an episode of British sitcom Peep Show, the last question on a quiz machine is '"What animal was Rikki-Tikki Tavi?"'
- In Robert A. Heinlein's novel The Door Into Summer the main character sometimes refers to his niece Frederica (Ricky) as Rikki-tikki-tavi.
- The third track on the Poison the Well album Versions is entitled Nagaina, in reference to the snake in the story.
- In the martial arts parody film Kung Pow, Master Tang refers to Ling's father as Rikki-Tikki-Tavi.
- The name of the "Rikti" Villain faction in the MMORPG video games City of Heroes and City of Villains was inspired by Rikki-Till-Tavi.
- The phrase "Most Rikki-Tik" means "quickly" or "immediately"
- In the comedy series Bottom, Rik Mayall refers to himself as Rikki Tikki Tavi when talking to his aunt
- In George Bernard Shaw's Man and Superman, the character Octavius is given the pet-name Ricki-Ticki-Tavy by Ann Whitefield.