We are, in the blunt phrase I saw a zoologist use the other day, a plague species.
However, like most stories that deal with such themes, the methods by which good and evil are defined and represented can serve to make a greater ideological point.
When Nag is first introduced, he is described in simple adjectives that serve to clearly attribute an evil nature to him: Then inch by inch out of the grass rose up the head and spread hood of Nag, the big black cobra. Both objective and subjective adjectives are used to describe him: Aside from these subjective descriptions, however, there is little else to indicate why Nag—and by extension, his wife Nagaina—merit the attribution of evil.
The concept of evil itself is, of course, also subjective. It is commonly applied to that which falls outside of the bounds of the laws and morals that govern a particular society. It might be construed that the snakes are evil because they kill—but killing, in the world of the bungalow garden, is not an act that deviates from its laws.
The only governing law is the law of survival, by which all the characters, snakes included, are primarily motivated. The big man who lives in the bungalow does not hesitate to keep a mongoose to kill snakes or to use his shotgun against the snakes as well as he does twice in the story in order to protect himself and his family from death.
At the same time, Nag and Nagaina would not hesitate to kill the humans in order to preserve their lives and the lives of their children: That survival is their sole motivation in attacking the humans and Rikki-tikki-tavi is evident when Nagaina explains the rationale of their ambush to Nag: 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.
Rikkitikki- tavi is deemed a hero for bringing about the death of Nag and Nagaina. He even resorts to what would otherwise be considered less-than-scrupulous means to achieve his triumph when he fatally attacks a sleeping Nag.
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Rikki-Tikki-Tavi Rudyard Kipling Rudyard Kipling's endearing "Rikki-Tikki-Tavi" initially appeared in as part of the second volume of The Jungle Book, a collection of children's stories set in colonial India that Kipling wrote while living in Brattleboro, Vermont.
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