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Katherine Koligian
Professor Haas
Writing 37
22 February 2015
Humans, Snakes, and Mongooses Oh My!
In the country of India lived a mongoose named Rikki Tikki Tavi. He was
taken in by a British family and lived a happy life with them. He was not only
surrounded by his human family, but by animals that lurked in the near by
garden. These animals were not exactly the greatest creatures and forced
Rikki to take some drastic actions against them. In the short story, Rikki
Tikki Tavi, author Rudyard Kipling uses anthropomorphism as a rhetorical
device to focus readers on the progression of the relationship between
humans and animals and to intensify the competitive relationship among the
animals.
Through anthropomorphism, Kipling describes how a relationship
develops amongst animals and humans. In the beginning, Rikki is taken into
the family and is perceived as a mischievous child. He spent all that day
roaming over the house. He nearly drowned himself in the bath-tubs, put his
nose into the ink on a writing table, and burned it on the end of the big
man's cigar, for he climbed up in the big man's lap to see how writing was
done (Kipling 58). Rikki is like a toddler that is just discovering everything

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for the first time. When animals are first welcomed into a home they do not
know the ground rules either. They have to learn through certain actions and
figuring what is right and wrong. Kipling also perceives him as a young child
when he describes how he climbs up into the mans lap and learns from him.
This is like how a child sits in their parents laps and are read a bedtime
story. As Rikki grows he takes on more responsibility in the house; however,
his responsibility is to protect the household by killing unwanted creatures.
As mentioned by author Chelsea Medlock, a phD candidate, Rikkis purpose
in the story is to protect his adoptive family not just because they saved him
but also because that is part of his natural instinct to kill venomous snakes
(1). He first does this by killing the snake Karait. After he does that he eats
dinner with the family. That night at dinner, walking to and fro among the
wine-glasses on the table, he might have stuffed himself three times over
with nice things (Kipling 61). Although he did not take advantage of the
delicious meal, it was there for him as a reward. He is like a child who did his
chores, and has an allowance waiting for them. This displays the mutualistic
relationship between animals and humans. The humans take in the animals
and in turn the animals either protect or accompany them. By using
anthropomorphism Rikki does not look like a wild creature, but a significant
member of the family. Leslie Irvine mentions that, much of the behavior
that repulses or frightens humans when shown by animals is tolerable and
even endearing in one's pet (33). In Rikkis case his actions are very
endearing because he is protecting the family. As the story builds, so does

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Rikkis responsibility to the family. He now has to face his biggest enemies
the two cobras, Nag and Nagaina, who are threatening his family. After
defeating them the family was forever grateful to him. When Rikki got to
the house, Teddy and Teddy's mother (she looked very white still, for she had
been fainting) and Teddy's father came out and almost cried over him; and
that night he ate all that was given him till he could eat no more, and went to
bed on Teddy's shoulder, where Teddy's mother saw him when she came to
look late at night (Kipling 66). In a sense Rikki has now grown up and
become not just a pet, but also a special part of the family. By humanizing
Rikki, he is seen as a hero that was rewarded with love and appreciation from
the family.
Kipling also intensifies the competition among animals through
anthropomorphism. In the story Rikkis job is to defend the territory and the
other creatures, including his family, from the snakes. Kirkus reviews, an
American book review magazine, mentions that, The animals speak to
each other, so readers know how the little mongoose is aided by the
tailorbird, Darzee, and and his wife in escaping death from the menacing
cobras who hope to kill the human family and raise their 25 hatchlings in an
empty house (1). At the beginning of the story Darzee tells Rikki of how Nag
has eaten one of his babies (59). It is Rikkis responsibility to conquer the
snakes, and by Darzee expressing his grief through dialogue to Rikki he is
motivated to dispose of them. This conversation establishes the two sides
that will be in conflict, the snakes versus primarily Rikki along with Darzee

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and his wife. When Rikki first comes in contact with the snakes for the first
time, He was afraid for the minute, but it is impossible for a mongoose to
stay frightened for any length of time and he knew that all a grown
mongoose's business in life was to fight and eat snakes. Nag knew that too
and, at the bottom of his cold heart, he was afraid (59).. This excerpt
emphasizes the conflict that both Rikki and Nag are anticipating. Kipling
gives the animals emotional thoughts, which heightens the tension between
them. As the tension builds Nag and Nagaina plan to attack the humans in
their bungalow. Nag states that, So long as the bungalow is empty, we
are king and queen of the garden; and remember that as soon as our eggs in
the melon bed hatch (as they may tomorrow), our children will need room
and quiet (Kipling 62). By once again using dialogue you are able to see
that the snakes want to dominate all. It is not merely animals fighting other
creatures, but a battle for power. The snake couple wants to be the sole ruler
because that is what is best for their family. By humanizing the animals and
putting them into conversation you are able to see the motives and desires
of the snake, which creates an even more dramatic situation. Also, Kipling
gives the snake a family to take care of which makes the situation even more
urgent. The male snake Nag then attempts to carry out the plan of killing but
Rikki ends up victorious. Shmoop, a digital publishing company that provides
analysis of multiple written works, states that, After he (Rikki) kills Nag, his
confidence grows. He realizes he has to deal with Nagaina now, as she'll be
out for blood (1). The competition between the protagonist and antagonist

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heightens at this point. It heightens because Kipling made Nag and Nagaina
a couple. Nagaina just lost her significant other and is furious. She wants
revenge just like a human would if his or her partner was just killed. Rikki
then goes on to defeat Nagaina. In conclusion, Rikki was victorious. Rikkitikki had a right to be proud of himself. But he did not grow too proud, and he
kept that garden as a mongoose should keep it, with tooth and jump and
spring and bite, till never a cobra dared show (Kipling 66). Kipling gives
Rikki a sense of pride in order to show his superiority over the bungalow and
garden. The mongoose did not just kill the snakes, he battled them and was
victorious and proud. Overall, by anthropomorphizing the animals, Kipling
makes the competition much more extreme, and Rikkis victory that much
more successful. What could have been just two animals fighting was turned
into a battle of good versus evil.
In the country of India, Rikki Tikki Tavi, the heroic mongoose, protected
his human family and defeated those evil snakes that lurked in the garden. In
the short story, Rikki Tikki Tavi, author Rudyard Kipling uses
anthropomorphism as a rhetorical device to focus readers on the progression
of the relationship between humans and animals and to intensify the
competitive relationship among the animals.

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Works Cited

Irvine, Leslie. If You Tame Me Understanding Our Connection with Animals. Philadelphia:
Temple UP, 2004. Print.
Medlock, Chelsea. "Kiplings Menagerie: Human-Animal Relations in the Works of Rudyard
Kipling." N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Feb. 2015.

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"RIKKI-TIKKI-TAVI by Rudyard Kipling , Jerry Pinkney | Kirkus." Kirkus Reviews. N.p., n.d.
Web. 22 Feb. 2015.
Shmoop Editorial Team. "Rikki-Tikki-Tavi from The Jungle Book Plot Analysis." Shmoop.com.
Shmoop University, Inc., 11 Nov. 2008. Web. 22 Feb. 2015.

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