"Rikki-Tikki-Tavi"

Notes on the text

These notes, by Alan Underwood, are partly new, and partly based on the ORG, with various additions. The page and line numbers below refer to the Macmillan (London) Standard Edition of The Jungle Book, as published and frequently reprinted between 1899 and 1950.



[May 4th 2012]

[Page 163, lines 1-2] Verse heading 'At the hole where he went in ...' A four- and an eight-line verse in the First American and Standard editions, but a single twelve-line verse in the First English Edition.Collected as a Chapter Heading in Songs from Books.

[Page 163, line 2] Red eye ... Wrinkle Skin Mongoose and cobra respectively. See the story p. 174 line 5: 'when a mongoose’s eyes grow red, he is angry'.

[Page 163, line 11] the hooded Death Nag, the cobra. Cobras have a distinctive hood below their head. (P.H.)

[Page 163, lines 13] Rikki-Tikki-Tavi 'Rikki' or 'Rikki-Tikki' for short. Derived from the "war-cry" of the mongoose, the spitting chattering sound they make when they are fighting. See Kipling's List of Names.

[Page 163, line 15] Segowlee Cantonment A fictitious location. 'Cantonments' in India were permanent military stations.

[Page 163, line 16] Darzee means 'tailor'. The bird[s name derives from its method of nest-building, see p. 69, lines1-5. See Kipling's List of Names.

[Page 163, line 16] Chuchundra is not strictly a rat but the 'musk-shrew' (Crocidura coerulea) of India, which commonly haunts human habitation. Its blue-grey body measures about 6 inches (15 cm) with a tail of more than half that length. See Kipling's List of Names.

[Page 164, line 1] mongoose a weasel-like mammal, with fur of brownish-grey, of the genus Herpestes. Not immune to smake venom, it relies on its agility and quickness of eye to avoid the snake's fangs. Its thick skin, and the erection of its fur in combat make it difficult for the snake to strike.

[Page 164, line 27] bungalow The garden described in the story may have been based on the bungalow "Belvedere" where Kipling lived for his last year in India with his friends Professor and Mrs Edmonia Hill, as a 'paying guest'.

[Page 165, line 13] Teddy Perhaps derived, consciously or unconsciously, from "Ted", the nickname of Edmonia Hill.

[Page 166, line 1] put him in a cage See Lockwood Kipling's Beast and Man in India, 1891, (p. 351):

Few wild animals take so readily to domestic life as the Indian Mongoose, who has been known to domesticate himself among friendly people; first coming into the house through the bath-water drain in chase of a snake or rat, and ending, with a little encouragement, by stealing into the master's chair and passing a pink inqusitive nose under his arm to examine a cup of tea held in his hand. This is the footing on which pets should be maintained. A creature you put into a cage, or tie up with string or chain, is no pet, but a prisoner who cannot but hate his keeper.
[Page 167, line 3] kerosene Usually called paraffin in Britain.

[Page 167, line 3] Marshal Niel roses of an old well-known yellow variety,named after Adolphe Niel (1822-69), Marshal of France.

[Page 167, line 3] Darzee the tailor-bird See the note on p. 163 line 16 above.

[Page 167, line 3] Nag See Kipling's List of Names.

[Page 170, line 7] cobra The poisonous Indian snake Naja naja tripudians. The bite from its fixed poison fangs on the front of its jaw, is lethal. It can dilate its neck laterally to form a broad disc or hood.

[Page 170, line 16] Brahm In Sanskrit, Brahma (neither male nor female) means the universal or supreme Soul, the Absolute, and — used in its masculine form — the supreme God. The final vowel is often omitted, as here.

[Page 173, line 18] Nagaina See Kipling's List of Names.

[Page 174, line 4] eyes growing red not a scientific fact.

[Page 174, line 17] old books of natural history John Lockwood Kipling, in Beast and Man in India, 1891, (p.305) writes:

One of the unalterably fixed beliefs in the native mind is that the mongoose knows a remedy for snake-bite —a plant which nobody has seen or can identify, but which, when eaten, is an antidote. so sure that the mere breath of the animal suffices to paralyse the snake.
[Page 177, line 4] something flinched a little 'something wriggled a little' in the First English Edition.

[Page 177, line 5] Karait Bungarus of the Micruridae sub-family. Another Indian snake whose bite is lethal. See Kipling's List of Names. See also "The Return of Imray" (Life's Handicap) in which a servant is fatally bitten by a karait.

[Page 180, line 15] Chua, the rat Not further specified. See Kipling's List of Names.

[Page 192, line 9] king-cobra (Naja hannah bungarus) rarer than the common cobra, reaches a length of some twelve feet (four metres) and feeds mainly on other snakes. Nag and Nagaina actually fit the description of the common India cobra, which is some five and a half long (less than two metres), and feeds on frogs, toads, small mammals and sometimes birds.

[Page 192, line 28] Coppersmith John Lockwood Kipling, in Beast and Man in India, 1891, (p. 52) writes:

This is the handsome crimson-breasted barbet (Xentholaema indica) and its cry of 'tock-tock' fills the air as completely as the sound of a brazen vessel. It has the same cadence, and with each loud beat the bird's head is swung to right and left alternately... But when you are down with fever and headache you heartily wish the noisy bird would take a holiday or go on strike. (See p. 196.)
[Page 198] Darzee's Chaunt Four five-line verses collected in Songs from Books. 'Chaunt' is an archaic form of the word 'chant', perhaps used here to mock Darzee's rather absurd character.


[F. A. U.]

©F A Underwood 2007 All rights reserved