RIKKI-TIKKI-TAVI (PART 1)

This is a story of the great war that Rikki-tikki-tavi fought himself. Darzee, the Tailorbird, helped him, and Chuchundra, the musk-rat, who never comes out into the middle of the floor, but always creeps round by the wall, gave him advice, but Rikki-tikki-tavi did the real fighting.

He was a mongoose. He looked like a little cat in his fur and his tail, but like a weasel in his head and his character. His eyes and the end of his nose were pink. He could scratch himself anywhere he pleased with any leg, front or back. His tail looked like a bottle-brush when he was ready for fighting with his war-cry: Rikk-tikk-tikki-tikki-tchk!

He lived with his father and mother in the hole. Once it started to rain and didn't stop for days and days. One morning, lots of water came inside his hole and carried him out his home and down the road. He found some grass floating there and held to it till he lost his senses.

When he opened his eyes, he saw a small boy and heard: "Look! Here's a dead mongoose."

"Let's take him in and dry him," said his mother. "Perhaps he isn't really dead."

They took him into the house. A big man said he was not dead so they put him in cotton wool to warm.

"Now," said the big man (he was an Englishman who had just moved into that house); "don't frighten him, and we'll see what he'll do."

It is the most difficult thing in the world to frighten a mongoose, because he is eaten up from nose to tail with curiosity. The rule of all the mongoose family is: "Run and find out," and Rikki-tikki was a true mongoose and never forgot it.

So when he got warm, Rikki-tikki climbed out of the cotton wool to look around. He ran all round the table and suddenly jumped on the small boy's shoulder.

"Don't be frightened, Teddy," said his father. "That's his way of making friends."

Rikki-tikki looked down between the boy's shirt and neck, smelled his ear, and climbed down to the floor.

"Oh dear!" said Teddy's mother, "and that's a wild creature! I think he's so kind to us because we have been kind to him."

"All mongooses are like that," said her husband. "If Teddy doesn't take him up by the tail, or try to put him in a cage, he'll run in and out of the house all day long. Let's give him something to eat."

They gave him some meat and Rikki-tikki liked it very much. Then he went out into the veranda to sit in the sunshine and to dry his fur. He felt better there.

"I like this new place. There are so many things to find out," he said to himself. "I shall certainly stay in this house."

He spent all that day running about the house. He looked down the baths, climbed the big man's writing-table and put his nose into the ink. Late in the evening he ran into Teddy's bedroom, and when Teddy went to bed Rikki-tikki climbed up the bed too. He wasn't a quiet companion; he got up and listened to every noise all through the night. When Teddy's mother and father came in to look at their boy late at night, they saw Rikki-tikki sitting on the bed.

"I don't like that," said Teddy's mother; "he is wild, so it can be dangerous."

"My dear, Teddy is safer with that little creature than with a dog. If a snake comes into his room..."

But Teddy's mother didn't want to think about it.

Early in the morning Rikki-tikki came to breakfast in the veranda riding on Teddy's shoulder, and they gave him banana and some egg. After breakfast Rikki-tikki went out into the garden. It was a large garden with bushes and orange trees and green bamboos. "This is a nice hunting place," he said, and his tail grew bottle-brushy at the thought of it, and he ran up and down the garden. Suddenly he heard thin voices in a big green bush.

It was Darzee, the tailor-bird, and his wife. They were sitting on the branch and crying.

"What is the matter?" asked Rikki-tikki.

"We are very unhappy," said Darzee. "One of our babies fell out of the nest yesterday, and Nag ate him."

"Hm!" said Rikki-tikki, "that is very sad but... who is Nag?"

Darzee and his wife didn't answer but they got down in their nest, because from the thick grass at the foot of the bush came a low hiss a terrible cold snake-sound. Then out of the grass rose up the head of Nag, the big black cobra, and he was five feet long from tongue to tail. He stayed balancing like a flower in the wind, and he looked at Rikki-tikki with the wicked snake's eyes that never change.

"Who is Nag?" said he. "I am Nag. Look, and be afraid!" He spread out his hood, and Rikki-tikki saw the spectacle-mark on the back. He was afraid for the minute but it is impossible for a mongoose to stay frightened.

Rikki-tikki never met a live cobra before but his mother gave him some dead ones to eat. So he knew that all mongooses spend their lives fighting and eating snakes.

Nag knew that too, and at the bottom of his cold heart he was afraid.

"Well," said Rikki-tikki, and his tail began to grow bottle-brushy again, "do you think it is right for you to eat babies?"

Nag knew that mongooses in the garden meant death sooner or later for him and his family.

"Let us talk,'' he said. "You eat eggs. Why should I not eat birds?"

"Behind you! Look behind you!" sang Darzee.

Rikki-tikki jumped up in the air as high as he could go, and just under him went the head of Nagaina, Nag's wicked wife. He came down almost on her back, and he could break her back with one bite. But he was very young and didn't know about it. He was afraid of the terrible stroke of the cobra.

"Wicked, wicked Darzee!" said Nag, trying to reach the bird's nest in the bush.

Rikki-tikki felt his eyes growing red (when a mongoose's eyes grow red, he is angry), and he sat back on his tail and hind legs like a little kangaroo, and looked all round him. But Nag and Nagaina had disappeared into the grass.

Rikki-tikki wasn't going to follow them, because he wasn't sure that he could fight against two snakes at once. So he ran off to the house, and sat down to think. Rikki-tikki knew he was a young mongoose, but he had escaped a blow from behind. It gave him confidence in himself.


A. Answer the questions.

  1. Who was Rikki-tikki-tavi?
  2. Where did he live?
  3. What happened one morning?
  4. Who found him?
  5. Who were the people?
  6. What did the people do with Rikki-tikki-tavi?
  7. What did he do when he got warm?
  8. What did the people give him to eat?
  9. What did he do all day?
  10. Why did Teddy's mother worry at night?
  11. Where did Rikki-tikki-tavi go after breakfast?
  12. What did the place look like?
  13. Whose voices did he hear?
  14. Why were the birds crying?
  15. Who came out of the grass?
  16. Why was Rikki-tikki-tavi in danger?
  17. How did Darzee help Rikki-tikki-tavi?
  18. What did the snakes do?

B. How do we learn about the character? The writer can:

- describe the characters appearance and personality;
- report the characters speech and actions;
- reveal the characters thoughts and feelings;
- give opinions and reactions of other characters.

  1. What does the first paragraph tell us about the main character? What conclusions can we make about him?
  2. Find the description of Rikki-tikki-tavi's appearance.
  3. Find the sentences that show that Rikki-tikki-tavi is: a) friendly with people; b) curious; c) brave; d) young and inexperienced.
  4. Find his opinion about a) the house; b) the garden.
  5. Find the sentences that show Rikki-tikki-tavi's knowledge of what mongooses should do.
  6. Find the adjectives to describe his feelings when he meets the snakes.
  7. Find a) the woman's reaction to Rikki-tikki-tavi's behaviour; b) the man's opinion about mongooses; c) Nag's reaction to Rikki-tikki-tavi.

C. Read examples and answer the questions

When the writer describes the character, he can use comparisons, for example, "It shone in the sun like the sun itself", or "His nose was as big as a boot", or "He looked like a ripe banana on a black plate", or "They went back to the Palace most mousy-quiet".

  1. Do you remember what characters (from other Kipling's tales) these comparisons describe?
  2. What is Rikki-tikki-tavi compared to?
  3. What is Nag compared to?

D. Fill in the words:

cobra, tailor-bird, mongoose, hiss, death, spectacle-mark, bottle-brush, cotton wool, hood, curiosity, companion, senses, dangerous, wicked, scratch, frighten, escaped, carried

  1. Rikki-tikki-tavi was a
  2. When he was ready to fight, his tail looked like a
  3. He could himself anywhere he pleased with any leg.
  4. The water him out of the hole and he held to some grass till he lost his .
  5. The people found him and put him in to warm.
  6. It is difficult to a mongoose, because he is eaten up from nose to tail with .
  7. In the evening he climbed into the boy's bed, but he wasn't a quiet ; he got up and listened to every noise.
  8. Teddy's mother thought it could be , but his father didn't agree.
  9. In the garden the . and his wife were crying because Nag had eaten one of their babies.
  10. Rikki-tikki-tavi heard a low and saw Nag, the big black .
  11. Nag spread out his , and Rikki-tikki-tavi saw the on the back.
  12. Nag knew that mongooses in the garden meant for him and his family.
  13. Nagaina, Nag's wife, attacked Rikki-tikki-tavi, but he a blow from behind.

E. Learn the words of exercise D for the dictation.

F. Retell the first part of the story.

G. Learn the dialogues and role-play the part of the story where Rikki-tikki-tavi meets Nag and Nagaina.

H. Tell the first part of the story from the point of view of:

a) Rikki-tikki-tavi; b) the man or his wife; c) Darzee or his wife; d) Nag or Nagaina.