Rikki-Tikki-Tavi

by

Rudyard Kipling

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Nag is a cobra, who along with his mate Nagaina, serves as the primary antagonist of the story. He’s depicted as capricious, self-serving, and cruel—readily devouring helpless animals in the garden such as Darzee’s baby and creating fear and panic among the entire community. Along with his wife, he plots to strike against the humans in the house as a way of removing Rikki-tikki and ruling over the garden absolutely. Kipling connects him quite clearly to Indian rather than British culture; Nag is proud of the mark on his hood, for instance, which he claims was given to his people by the Hindu God Brahm. He states this at the same time that he admonishes Rikki-tikki to be afraid of him, linking his connection to Hindu mythology with his ability to terrorize those around him. The association helps cement the story’s colonialist tone and increases the story’s problematic nature to modern audiences. Nag is further depicted as tenacious and cunning, able to use tactical thinking to achieve their goals. For instance, he hides in a water jar in order to ambush and slay Teddy’s father. He also works in absolute tandem with his wife—the only creature (besides the couple’s unhatched eggs) to whom he is loyal.

Nag Quotes in Rikki-Tikki-Tavi

The Rikki-Tikki-Tavi quotes below are all either spoken by Nag or refer to Nag. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Man and the Natural World Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Puffin edition of Rikki-Tikki-Tavi published in 1984.
Rikki-Tikki-Tavi Quotes

Then inch by inch out of the grass rose up the head and spread hood of Nag, the big black cobra, and he was five feet long from tongue to tail. When he had lifted one-third of himself clear of the ground, he stayed balancing to and fro exactly as a dandelion tuft balances in the wind, and he looked at Rikki-tikki with the wicked snake’s eyes that never change their expression, whatever the snake may be thinking of.

“Who is Nag?” said he. “I am Nag. The great God Brahm put his mark upon all our people, when the first cobra spread his hood to keep the sun off Brahm as he slept. Look, and be afraid!”

Related Characters: Nag (speaker), Rikki-tikki-tavi
Related Symbols: Nag’s Hood
Explanation and Analysis:

He came down almost across her back, and if he had been an old mongoose he would have known that then was the time to break her back with one bite; but he was afraid of the terrible lashing return stroke of the cobra. He bit, indeed, but did not bite long enough, and he jumped clear of the whisking tail, leaving Nagaina torn and angry.

Related Characters: Rikki-tikki-tavi, Nag, Nagaina
Explanation and Analysis:

If Rikki-tikki had only known, he was doing a much more dangerous thing than fighting Nag, for Karait is so small, and can turn so quickly, that unless Rikki bit him close to the back of the head, he would get the return stroke in his eye or his lip. But Rikki did not know.

Explanation and Analysis:

That night at dinner, walking to and fro among the wine-glasses on the table, he might have stuffed himself three times over with nice things. But he remembered Nag and Nagaina, and though it was very pleasant to be patted and petted by Teddy’s mother, and to sit on Teddy’s shoulder, his eyes would get red from time to time, and he would go off into his long war cry of “Rikk-tikk-tikki-tikki-tchk!”

Related Symbols: Human Food
Explanation and Analysis:

Chuchundra sat down and cried till the tears rolled off his whiskers. “I am a very poor man,” he sobbed. “I never had spirit enough to run out into the middle of the room. H’sh! I mustn’t tell you anything. Can’t you hear, Rikki-tikki?”

Rikki-tikki listened. The house was as still as still, but he thought he could just catch the faintest scratch-scratch in the world—a noise as faint as that of a wasp walking on a window-pane—the dry scratch of a snake’s scales on brick-work.

Related Characters: Chuchundra (speaker), Rikki-tikki-tavi, Nag, Teddy’s Father
Explanation and Analysis:

“It’s the mongoose again, Alice. The little chap has saved our lives now.”

Related Characters: Teddy’s Father (speaker), Rikki-tikki-tavi, Nag, Teddy’s Mother
Explanation and Analysis:

But his wife was a sensible bird, and she knew that cobra’s eggs meant young cobras later on. So she flew off from the nest, and left Darzee to keep the babies warm, and continue his song about the death of Nag. Darzee was very like a man in some ways.

Explanation and Analysis:

“Ding-dong-tock! Nag is dead—dong! Nagaina is dead! Ding-dong-tock!” That set all the birds in the garden singing, and the frogs croaking, for Nag and Nagaina used to eat frogs as well as little birds.

When Rikki got to the house, Teddy and Teddy’s mother (she looked very white still, for she had been fainting) and Teddy’s father came out and almost cried over him; and that night he ate all that was given him till he could eat no more, and went to bed on Teddy’s shoulder, where Teddy’s mother saw him when she came to look late at night.

Related Symbols: Human Food
Explanation and Analysis:
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Nag Character Timeline in Rikki-Tikki-Tavi

The timeline below shows where the character Nag appears in Rikki-Tikki-Tavi. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Rikki-Tikki-Tavi
Man and the Natural World Theme Icon
Colonialism as a Benevolent Force Theme Icon
The Importance of Family Theme Icon
Courage and Cowardice Theme Icon
...of one of their babies. It fell out of the nest and was eaten by Nag, a cobra living in their garden. Their exchange is interrupted when Nag himself appears, pulling... (full context)
Man and the Natural World Theme Icon
The Importance of Family Theme Icon
Courage and Cowardice Theme Icon
...fed him dead cobras and that he has nothing to fear from them. He challenges Nag by demanding to know why the cobra ate the tailorbirds’ baby out of the nest. (full context)
Man and the Natural World Theme Icon
Colonialism as a Benevolent Force Theme Icon
The Importance of Family Theme Icon
Nag feigns interest in discussing, asking Rikki-tikki how eating baby birds is so different from the... (full context)
Man and the Natural World Theme Icon
Colonialism as a Benevolent Force Theme Icon
Courage and Cowardice Theme Icon
Rikki-tikki lands on Nagaina’s back and bites her, though he does not yet know enough about fighting cobras to... (full context)
Man and the Natural World Theme Icon
Colonialism as a Benevolent Force Theme Icon
Courage and Cowardice Theme Icon
...There, he overhears the two cobras outside plotting to murder Teddy’s family. When they’re gone, Nag claims, the house will be empty and Rikki-tikki will leave. Nag crawls into the water... (full context)
Man and the Natural World Theme Icon
The Importance of Family Theme Icon
Courage and Cowardice Theme Icon
The mongoose waits—perfectly still—until Nag falls asleep. After debating the best spot to strike the snake, Rikki-tikki opts for the... (full context)
The Importance of Family Theme Icon
Courage and Cowardice Theme Icon
...pleased with himself, having now saved Teddy’s parents from an attack. He’s still concerned about Nagaina and the cobras’ babies, however, and he resolves to see Darzee in the garden and... (full context)
Colonialism as a Benevolent Force Theme Icon
The Importance of Family Theme Icon
Rikki-tikki finds Darzee singing a song of triumph at Nag’s death. The mongoose is supremely irritated at the tailorbird’s joy, since Nagaina and the cobra... (full context)
Man and the Natural World Theme Icon
The Importance of Family Theme Icon
Courage and Cowardice Theme Icon
...whole garden—because cobra eggs will turn into more cobras—and feigns a broken wing to draw Nagaina away. She succeeds in her task, claiming that Teddy broke her wing with a stone.... (full context)
Man and the Natural World Theme Icon
The Importance of Family Theme Icon
Distracted by the bird, Nagaina misses Rikki-tikki sneaking into her nest. The eggs are ready to hatch, and the mongoose... (full context)
Man and the Natural World Theme Icon
Colonialism as a Benevolent Force Theme Icon
The Importance of Family Theme Icon
Courage and Cowardice Theme Icon
...two of the remaining eggs and takes the third back to the home to find Nagaina menacing the human family at their breakfast table. Teddy’s mother and father are white-faced and... (full context)
Man and the Natural World Theme Icon
Colonialism as a Benevolent Force Theme Icon
The Importance of Family Theme Icon
Courage and Cowardice Theme Icon
The mongoose challenges Nagaina to a fight, but the cobra will not be distracted from the family. Rikki-tikki tells... (full context)
Man and the Natural World Theme Icon
Courage and Cowardice Theme Icon
The egg sits between Rikki-tikki’s paws as he engages with Nagaina. She strikes again and again, but he ducks aside every time. He forgets about the... (full context)
Man and the Natural World Theme Icon
Courage and Cowardice Theme Icon
...he does so, however, Rikki-tikki emerges victorious from the cobra’s hole, claiming to have slain Nagaina at last. The ants in the garden hear him and move into the hole to... (full context)