The Child in Us All: On Rudyard Kipling's Short Story "Rikki-Tikki-Tavi" | Teen Ink

The Child in Us All: On Rudyard Kipling's Short Story "Rikki-Tikki-Tavi"

March 4, 2011
By MochaCappuccino SILVER, N. Bethesda, Maryland
MochaCappuccino SILVER, N. Bethesda, Maryland
7 articles 0 photos 6 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Dance like no one's watching."
"When you copy from one person, it's called plagiarism. When you copy from many people, it's called research."

“Read it to me again.”

Adults are always busy these days. There’s always some place to be, something to do, and something to put off. “When childhood dies, its corpses are called adults and they enter society, one of the politer names of hell. That is why we dread children, even if we love them, they show us the state of our decay.” Although cynical, novelist, Brian W. Aldiss does speak some truth. What many adults would give these days to go back to childhood heroes, sleepovers, and going days without bathing. There are few things in this world that make a person regardless of age, a child again. The story, “Rikki Tikki Tavi” is one of them. The tale is skillfully crafted by the master of English writing, Rudyard Kipling. It uses intimate story-telling, a classic good versus evil battle, and a lovable main character, to bring out the child in all of us every time it is read. The story is so enchanting that you just might catch yourself saying, “Read it to me again.”

As a child, Rudyard Kipling was an insatiable reader. He was born in Bombay, India and he later moved to Egypt. Young Rudyard grew up around the Suez Canal, a newly opened port as well as a confluence of cultures and religions. No doubt, those days he spent reading and exploring left indelible images in his heart and brain. The evidence lies in his life as an adult – he spent his days doing the same thing he did as a child, only on a much larger scale. Kipling hopped from city to city, country to country, following where ever his inspiration would take him. One day he would be in the jungles of India. The next day he would be in the crowded streets of England. In a sense, Kipling lived his childhood every day with that same noetic thirst which could never be quenched. It’s a good thing too. After all, “…no artist grows up. If he sheds the perceptions of childhood, he ceases being an artist.” Kipling not only kept his childhood; he also shared it in his writing. Indeed, when “Rikki Tikki Tavi” is read, a young Rudyard is visible as he silently watches and cheers on Rikki the mongoose as he fights valiantly in the distance.

Rikki’s story begins after a high summer flood. The flood has left Rikki half-conscious, and half-dead in a roadside ditch. The mongoose is found, revived, and sheltered by an English family. As payment for the family’s kindness, Rikki becomes their guardian, protecting them from many dangers that lurk in their very own backyard. The biggest danger of all is a pair of king cobras named Nag and Nagaina. Soon Rikki, along with two tailor birds and a cowardly musk rat, faces off against the king cobras that plan to dispose of the family and use their house as a nursery to raise a nest of baby cobras.

The plot of “Rikki Tikki Tavi” is simple and nothing new – a brave and righteous hero against a wicked and heartless villain – but the execution is witty and laudable. By adding loosely connected tidbits to the story (e.g. Rikki’s family history, Darzee’s song to honor Rikki, the mongoose’s motto), the story is given a friendly and intimate tone. It’s almost as if Kipling is there reading the story out loud to you. Kipling is a master story-teller no doubt, and a master character creator for that matter. His protagonist, Rikki the mongoose, ascends to become the paragon of a childhood hero. Not only is Rikki strong, courageous, and valiant, but he’s a furry, friendly mongoose to boot. It’s rare to find a character such as Rikki who appeals to not only the younger audience, but to the more mature crowd as well.

In the end, “Rikki Tikki Tavi” is a fairy tale for adults as well as children. The reader, regardless of age, is taken back to the time when we believed in knights in shining armor, damsels in high towers, and that everyone could live happily ever after. The story brings out the child in us all, and if you close your eyes and listen carefully, for a brief moment, you can hear Rikki’s war cry in the distance: ``Rikk-tikk-tikki-tikki-tchk!''

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This article has 2 comments.

on Jun. 19 2011 at 9:44 pm
MochaCappuccino SILVER, N. Bethesda, Maryland
7 articles 0 photos 6 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Dance like no one's watching."
"When you copy from one person, it's called plagiarism. When you copy from many people, it's called research."

First of all, thank you for reading my article. I really appreciate it!

I wrote this article almost a year ago and now that I read it over, I do understand some of what you're trying to say. My goal of the article was to show that the story that the story could be enjoyed by anyone, regardless of age. I talked about adults losing the innocence and joy of childhood and how the story "Rikki Tikki Tavi" would serve as an antidote, even if it was only ephemeral. I don't know if when you or other readers read it if that theme was omnipresent. Thank you for the insight and I hope to improve my writing with your help.

Also, the shed your perceptions of childhood thing was a quote, not my actual wording. It means that if you shed the original imagination and creativity that is like what children have, you can't be a creative artist. But that's just my take.

Aderes47 GOLD said...
on Mar. 16 2011 at 3:34 pm
Aderes47 GOLD, Cambridge, Massachusetts
11 articles 0 photos 897 comments

Favorite Quote:
You will find as you look back upon your life that the moments when you have truly lived are the moments when you have done things in the spirit of love.
Henry Drummond

Your two parts don't connect. At first you talk about childhood, then you talk about Rikki Tikki Tavi. They just don't make sense together. But separate, they're good.

I've seen a short animation of Rikki Tikki Tavi when I was little and I still love it. Have you seen Masterpiece Theatre My Boy Jack? It talks about Rudyard Kipling. 

I don't agree that if you shed the perceptions of childhood, you cannot become an artist. 

I don't agree that Rudyard Kipling kept the perceptions of his childhood. You see why I think that in My Boy Jack. 

This article reminds me of a saying by Picasso " It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like an artist." 

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