Rudyard Kipling

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The Cobra Hole Symbol Analysis

The Cobra Hole Symbol Icon

The cobra hole is the spot beneath the ground where Nagaina retreats in her final battle with Rikki-tikki. It’s also the location of the story’s climax, where Nagaina is at her most dangerous but where victory will be final and absolute. In this way it symbolizes the ultimate test of Rikki-tikki’s bravery, the essential darkness he must defeat to fulfill of his status as a hero.

Rikki-tikki is essentially on the “Hero’s Journey,” a template for mythic storytelling first postulated by philosopher Joseph Campbell. The pattern can be seen again and again from stories all over the world, from the ancient Greeks to modern stories like Star Wars and The Hunger Games. In these stories, the hero always travels to a strange and dangerous land, in search of a cure for some ailment afflicting the community. It culminates with a final confrontation in a place of darkness, where the hero is alone and deprived of any allies or special gifts.

In “Rikki-Tikki-Tavi,” the dangerous land is the garden, the threat is the cobras, and the hole is that final place where the evil is defeated once and for all. Rikki-tikki is sometimes likened to a knight, and Kipling describes him with knightly virtues like bravery and selflessness. If so, then the cobra’s hole is the dragon’s lair. It’s Nagaina’s home turf, after all, and “very few mongooses, however wise and old they may be, care to follow a cobra into its hole.” Only there, where his opponent’s power is at its height, can the final blow be struck.

The Cobra Hole Quotes in Rikki-Tikki-Tavi

The Rikki-Tikki-Tavi quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Cobra Hole. 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
Rikki-Tikki-Tavi Quotes

Rikki-tikki put his paws one on each side of the egg, and his eyes were blood-red. “What price for a snake’s egg? For a young cobra? For a young king cobra? For the last—the very last of the brood? The ants are eating all the others down by the melon bed.”

Related Characters: Rikki-tikki-tavi (speaker), Nagaina, Darzee’s Wife
Related Symbols: The Cobra Hole
Page Number: 10
Explanation and Analysis:
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The Cobra Hole Symbol Timeline in Rikki-Tikki-Tavi

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Cobra Hole appears in Rikki-Tikki-Tavi. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Man and the Natural World Theme Icon
Courage and Cowardice Theme Icon
...about the egg, however, and Nagaina manages to grab it and make a run for the hole in the earth where she and Nag used to live. The mongoose follows her down into the hole—something... (full context)
Man and the Natural World Theme Icon
Courage and Cowardice Theme Icon
...mourning song of Rikki-tikki’s demise. As 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... (full context)