Understanding Rudyard Kipling’s Portrayal of Rikki-Tikki as an Antihero Based on His Wickedness as Depicted in His Short Story, Rikki-Tikki-Tavi

December 9, 2020 by Essay Writer

Hero or Villain?

Hero or villain? that is the question when considering the mongoose character in Rudyard kipling’s short story “Rikki-tikki-tavi.” In the story, Rikki-tikki the mongoose takes great measures to protect his human family from the fatal attacks of a king cobra family. Rikki is first introduced as the main character who fought “ single handed” in “great war”, (22). In addition, kipling concludes the telling of the story with the following statement, “Rikki-tikki had a right to be proud of himself, but he didn’t grow too proud…” (34) While Rikki protected his family honorably against the cobras, he should not be proud of his actions due to the fact that he was merciless in his dealings, and he even gloried in his killings.

Rikki’s actions reveal a heart that is merciless and cruel. First of all, Rikki shows no hesitation in killing all the baby snakes that were yet to be born. “ He bit off the tops of the eggs as fast as he could, taking care to crush the young cobras…at least there were only three eggs left, and Rikki-tikki began to chuckle to himself,”(30). Although Rikki may have deemed it a necessary evil to kill the snake eggs in order to protect his human family, his chuckle conveys a twisted enjoyment of this mission that leaves his character in question. When Nagaina learns from Rikki-tikki that all but one of her eggs are destroyed by Rikki-tikki, she pleads with rikki-tikki to let her take the one egg and promises to leave and never return again. Rikki tikki refuses. “Yes, you will go away, and you will never come back; for you will go to the rubbish heap with nag. fight widow…”(31) perhaps rikki tikki doubts her sincerity, but he gives this plea not even a second of consideration. In light of these events, rikki’s strength seem to lie in heartlessness and cruelty.

Rikki-tikki killed the cobras who just wanted to get a good home for their family, moreover, gloried in his killings. “Quick Chuchundra or I’ll bite you.” (27) It shows that Rikki-tikki can be friendly only with the creatures who are on his side. Even not with the characters who are neutral. And obviously not with his enemies. Also he doesn’t feel sorry for not resolving a problem without or at least in less amount of deaths. He didn’t even try to move the snakes. Rikki-tikki didn’t either listen to Nagaina when she asked him to let her leave to save her and baby’s lives. Then, maybe he wanted to kill as many of his enemies as he could. Or kill anyone who is going to give him a reason. ”The boy is safe, and it was I – I – I that caught Nag by the hood last night in the bathroom.’ Then he began to jump up and down, all four feet together, his head close to the floor. “He threw me to and fro, but he could not shake me off. He was dead before the big man blew him in two. I did it! (31) This all leads to the conclusion that Rikki-tikki enjoyed killing others and wanted everyone to recognize him for it. Maybe he wanted to let others know that he dominate in this garden, and you better don’t argue with him, or you’re going to go the same road as Nag and Nagaina.

In conclusion, Rikki-tikki has more reason to be ashamed of himself rather than to be proud. He was merciless in his dealings with the snake eggs, and he was merciless in not allowing Nagaina to go away with her last egg, the only family she had left. To Rikki-tikki, his killings also meant more to him than just the safety of his family. His killings yield for him personal satisfaction, arrogance, and even glory. Although Rikki may be proud of himself for protecting his family from the cobras, Rikki-tikki’s drive for bloodshed and violence extends beyond the noble cause of defending those whom he loves and enters into a darker realm of self gratification. Rikki-tikki cannot be heralded as a “hero.” “Villain” may well be more like it.

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