"Rikki-Tikki-Tavi" is a short story by the British author Rudyard Kipling. It was first published in Pall Mall Magazine in the United Kingdom and in St. Nicholas Magazine in the United States in November 1893. It is included in Kipling's 1894 anthology The Jungle Book. Over the years, "Rikki-Tikki-Tavi" has also appeared in many other short story anthologies and has been published in slim volumes on its own on more than one occasion.
The action takes place in 19th century India. The story's title character and protagonist is a young mongoose. As a result of a flood, Rikki-Tikki-Tavi arrives at the grounds of a bungalow where an English boy named Teddy and his parents live. The English family take the mongoose into their home and accept him as a pet. Rikki-Tikki-Tavi soon finds out that the birds and other animals that live in and near the bungalow and its gardens are living in constant fear of two snakes, a male cobra named Nag and a female cobra named Nagaina. Although he had never seen a live cobra before he came to the bungalow, Rikki-Tikki-Tavi, like every mongoose, has a natural desire to fight and kill snakes. Making use of his natural inclinations and abilities, Rikki-Tikki-Tavi becomes the protector of the birds and other animals and of Teddy and his family too.
There have been several adaptations of "Rikki-Tikki-Tavi" to other media.
Flood water carries the young mongoose Rikki-Tikki-Tavi away from the burrow where he lives with his mother and father. He ends up on the grounds of a bungalow where an English boy named Teddy lives with his parents. Teddy finds the half-drowned mongoose and wants to hold a play funeral for the animal. Teddy's mother says that she thinks that the mongoose is not quite dead and that it can be revived. Rikii-Tikki-Tavi is taken inside the bungalow, dried and given a little raw meat to eat. He immediately adapts to his new life as a the family's pet. He behaves in a very tame and friendly manner towards the people, especially Teddy. He sits on Teddy's shoulder and sleeps on Teddy's pillow that night.
The following morning, Rikki-Tikki-Tavi explores the bungalow's gardens. He meets the tailorbirds Darzee and his wife. Darzee and his wife are both very sad. They explain that one of their chicks fell out of the nest and was eaten by Nag. Rikki-Tikki-Tavi asks who Nag is. An enormous black cobra appears at that moment and says, "I am Nag... Look and be afraid!" Rikki-Tikki-Tavi is temporarily afraid. He then remembers that, as a mongoose, it is his business in life to fight and kill snakes. The little mongoose rightly senses that Nag is the one who is truly afraid. Rikki-Tikki-Tavi almost falls victim to a surprise attack by Nag's wife Nagaina. He jumps out of the way in time, however, because Darzee warns him that the other cobra is coming. The two snakes leave. Rikki-Tikki-Tavi does not pursue them because he does not think he can take on both snakes at once.
Teddy approaches Rikki-Tikki-Tavi to pet him. At that moment, a very small but deadly brown snake called Karait rises out of the dirt, ready to strike Teddy. Much to Teddy's delight, Rikki-Tikki-Tavi attacks and kills the small brown snake. He does not eat it because he knows that a mongoose that has eaten a big meal is a slow mongoose. Rikki-Tikki-Tavi wants to stay slim and fast in order to fight Nag and Nagaina. Teddy's father comes in response to the boy's excited cries. He beats the already dead snake with a stick. Teddy's mother picks up and hugs Rikki-Tikki-Tavi as a reward for having saved her son's life.
After Teddy goes to sleep that evening, Rikki-Tikki-Tavi leaves his pillow and explores the house. He briefly meets the timid muskrat Chuchundra, who is very much afraid of Nag, Nagaina and even Rikki-Tikki-Tavi.
Rikki-Tikki-Tavi hears Nag and Nagaina talking outside one of the house's bathrooms. Nagaina knows that she, Nag and their eggs, which are about to hatch, are in danger as long as Rikki-Tikki-Tavi remains in the bungalow. She has therefore decided that they should kill Teddy and his parents, reasoning that when there are no people in the bungalow anymore, Rikki-Tikki-Tavi will leave it. Nag goes into the bathroom through a hole in the wall that is used to pour in water. He coils himself around a large earthenware jar that is used to pour water into the tin bath. Nag plans to wait until morning and then attack Teddy's father when he goes into the bathroom to wash. Nag is confident that the man will not have the stick that he used to beat Karait with him at that time. Nagaina does not respond to what Nag says, making it clear to Rikki-Tikki-Tavi that she has gone away. Rikki-Tikki-Tavi slowly approaches Nag and attacks him. Nag fights back. Teddy's father hears the noise. He goes into the bathroom and shoots the snake dead. He and his wife are impressed that the mongoose, who has already saved Teddy's life, has also saved theirs.
When Rikki-Tikki-Tavi goes out into the garden in the morning, he finds Darzee happily singing a song about how Nag is dead and lying on the rubbish heap. Rikki-Tikki-Tavi is irritated that Darzee is celebrating victory prematurely while Nagaina is still alive and her eggs are about to hatch. Rikki-Tikki-Tavi asks Darzee where Nagaina's eggs are. Darzee tells him that Nagaina laid her eggs in the melon-bed. In order to give himself time to destroy the eggs, Rikki-Tikki-Tavi tells Darzee to distract Nagaina by pretending to have a broken wing. Darzee does not help because he cannot help feeling sorry for Nagaina's young, who come from eggs like his own. Darzee's wife, however, understands that the eggs will become young cobras if they are not destroyed. She distracts Nagaina by pretending to have a broken wing.
Rikki-Tikki-Tavi finds Nagaina's eggs. Although he does not eat them, because he still wants to stay slim and fast, he destroys all but one of them. Darzee's wife then lets Rikki-Tikkki-Tavi know that Teddy and his family are in danger. The family is having breakfast on the veranda. Nagaina is very close to Teddy's bare leg and ready to strike him. Rikki-Tikki-Tavi appears. He lets Nagaina know that he has destroyed almost all of her eggs and shows her the one that remains. Nagaina leaves the boy, who then goes safely into his father's arms. She chases after Rikki-Tikki-Tavi in order to get her egg back. Rikki-Tikki-Tavi takes a huge risk by following Nagaina into the hole where she lives. He fights and kills her underground. The coppersmith bird, who acts as the animals' town crier, announces the joyful news that Nag and Nagaina are both dead.
Teddy's mother again praises Rikki-Tikki-Tavi for saving all of their lives. Having finally defeated both of the cobras, Rikki-Tikki-Tavi is at last free to eat as much as he pleases at dinner that evening.
Thanks to Rikki-Tikki-Tavi, the bungalow and its gardens remain free of cobras forever afterwards.
A 20-minute Russian-language animated film based on "Rikki-Tikki-Tavi" was released by Soyuzfilm of the Soviet Union in 1966. The adaptation is a faithful one, although it depicts the human family who take in Rikki-Tikki-Tavi as being Indians rather than a British family living in India. Chua the rat, a character who is referred to by name in Kipling's short story but who does not appear in it, appears frequently in the animated film.
"Rikki-Tikki-Tavi' was faithfully adapted for American television as a 30-minute animated cartoon. The animated special was directed by Chuck Jones and features the voice of Orson Welles as the narrator. It was first shown on CBS on January 9, 1975.
A 60-minute live-action feature film adaptation of "Rikki-Tikki-Tavi" was co-produced by production companies from India and the Soviet Union in 1975. The film was released in both Russian and Hindi-language versions.
A German animated film called Jungle Book: Rikki-Tikki-Tavi to the Rescue was released direct-to-video in 2006.
The British singer-songwriter and folk musician Donovan recorded a song called "Rikki Tikki Tavi" that is included on his 1970 album Open Road.
A song called "Rikki Tikki Tavi" is included on the 2011 album Arrows and Anchors by the American progressive rock band Fair to Midland.