The story is a favourite of Kipling fans and is notable for its frightening and serious tone. It has often been anthologised and has also been published more than once as a short book in its own right. The story was also adapted into an animated TV special by American animator Chuck Jones in 1975. That same year the story was adapted as a Russian animated short film.
An English family who has moved to a bungalow in the jungles of India - Sugauli (former British sp. Segowlee) cantonment in Bihar State, India - discovers a young mongoose half drowned from a storm. They revive it and decide to keep it as a pet. The young mongoose, named Rikki Tikki by its new owner, soon finds himself confronted by two dangerous, murderous cobras, Nag (the word is Hindi for "cobra") and his even more dangerous wife Nagaina, who had the run of the garden while the house was unoccupied. After that first encounter with the cobras, Rikki's first true battle is with Karait, a dust brown snakeling who threatens the young boy Teddy. Although the snake, because of its deadly venom and small size, is an even more dangerous foe than a cobra, the mongoose kills him. The grateful family pet and praise "our mongoose".
At Nagaina's urging, Nag plans to kill the human family to empty the house so the cobras can again rule the garden. She also reminds him that their eggs, laid and hidden in the garden, would hatch soon (as they might the next day) and that their children will need room and quiet. Nag goes to the bathroom to wait and kill the "big man", but Rikki follows Nag and bites the cobra by the head above the hood. Nag thrashes about furiously, and the noise wakes the man, who fires both barrels of a shotgun into Nag, blowing him in two pieces and almost hitting Rikki. Nag is then thrown on the rubbish heap, where Nagaina mourns for him and vows vengeance.
Rikki, well aware of the threat, tries to enlist the tailor bird Darzee, a "feather-brained little fellow", to distract Nagaina while he searches for her eggs, but is instead aided by Darzee's sensible wife. As Rikki finds and destroys most of the brood (biting off the tops of the eggs and crushing the young cobras), Nagaina corners the family at the breakfast table on the garden verandah ("they sat stone-still, and their faces were white") and threatens to kill Teddy with her venomous bite. Alerted by Darzee's wife, Rikki races to the verandah with the last egg in his mouth. His appearance with the last remaining egg distracts Nagaina long enough for the man to pull the boy to safety. Nagaina snatches the egg and flees to her hole, with Rikki in pursuit. The underground fight is not described, but after an agonizingly long time, Rikki comes out of the hole in triumph, having killed Nagaina. After this victory, Rikki spends the rest of his days defending the family garden where no snakes dare to enter. They live happily ever after. Without any snakes, the garden then becomes a safe, happy place for the animals around it.
- Paul Vaderlind, Richard K. Guy, and Loren Larson wrote a mathematical book, The Inquisitive Problem Solver, that references Rikki Tikki Tavi in several problems.
- In the Robert A. Heinlein novel The Door into Summer, the main character sometimes refers to his business partner's stepdaughter Frederica (Ricky) as Rikki-tikki-tavi. This was also a childhood nickname of Heinlein's wife Virginia.
- In George Bernard Shaw's Man and Superman the character Octavius is given the pet-name Ricki-Ticki-Tavy by Ann Whitefield.
- In Barbara Kingsolver's novel The Poisonwood Bible, a girl named Ruth May Price befriends a mongoose and her sister Leah suggests she name it "Ricky Ticky Tabby", but instead Ruth chooses to name it after a rodent from a different piece of literature, Stuart Little.
- Donovan wrote a song titled "Riki Tiki Tavi", which appeared on his album Open Road. (The "snakes" referred to in Donovan's song are societal problems.)
- The third track on the Poison the Well album Versions is entitled "Nagaina," in reference to the snake in the story.
- Rikki-Tikki-Tavi is also the name of a song on the as-of-yet untitled second major label release from Fair to Midland.
- Popular Russian band Splean (Сплин) have a song called Рикки-Тикки-Тави (Russian spelling of Rikki-Tikki-Tavi) on their 2001 album 25 кадр.
- Dave Tipper used the name "Rikki Tikki Tavi" for one of the songs on his album "Wobble Factor", released May 10, 2008.
- Devendra Banhart sings about Rikki Tiki in his song titled "The Beatles"
WikkiTikkiTavi is an open source wiki engine. Popular webcomic Sluggy Freelance's character, "Kiki" the ferret, takes the pseudonym "Riki Kiki Taco" when she has delusions of being a heroine. *The phrase "Most Rikki-Tik" means "quickly" or "immediately".
Film, television, and video
An animated Russian film adaptation was produced Aleksandra Snezhko-Blotskaya with a change being that Rikki's adoptive human family are native Indians as opposed to the original story's British family. Another change was that there is no Karait; there is only Nag and Nagaina. In 1975, Chuck Jones produced and directed an animated adaptation of Rikki-Tikki-Tavi. Orson Welles provided the narration and some of the voices, based on a previous recording. In the anime television series, Jungle Book Shōnen Mowgli, a major family of native supporting characters have a mongoose companion named Rikki who is a fearless guardian of his human family.
In an episode of British sitcom Peep Show, the last question on a quiz machine is '"What animal was Rikki-Tikki Tavi?"' In the martial arts parody film Kung Pow! Enter the Fist, Master Tang refers to Ling's father as Rikki-Tikki-Tavi. In the comedy series Bottom, the character Richie (played by Rik Mayall) refers to himself as Rikki Tikki Tavi when talking to his aunt.
The name of the "Rikti" Villain faction in the Massively multiplayer online role-playing game video games City of Heroes and City of Villains was inspired by Rikki-Tikki-Tavi. Mongoose Publishing  has a license to author and publish a science-fiction role-playing game called "Traveller Core Rule Book (2008)" that players unofficially refer to as "RTT" or "Rikki Tikki Traveller".
In the film Legends Of The Fall, Colonel Ludlow is shown reading the story aloud before the three boys go to war.
The phrase, "Ricky-Tic", is commonly used in the US Military as a slang term for "quickly". Also said as, "Most Ricky-Tic". This is likely an abbreviated form of Rikki-Tikki-Tavi, referring to a mongoose's speed.
The City of Davenport, Iowa Fire Department has two of its engine companies nicknamed "cobra" and "mongoose" in reference to the characters from the book. In the downtown Central Station, which houses Engine 1, Engine 2, and Truck 1, Engine 1 is nicknamed "The Cobra" and bears a drawing of the snake, on both sides near the rear of the vehicle on one of the roll up storage doors. Engine 2 is named "The Mongoose" with a similar drawing of the animal on its doors.
- ↑ Vaderlind, Guy, & Larson (2002). The Inquisitive Problem Solver. Washington, D.C.: Mathematical Association of America. ISBN 9780883858066.
- ↑ Template:Discogs master
- ↑ "Source Forge". 2008. Retrieved 2008-02-05.
- ↑ "Sluggy". 2008. Retrieved 2008-02-05.
- ↑ "Wiktionary". 2008. Retrieved 2008-02-05.[dead link]
- ↑ "Rikki-Tikki-Tavi" at the Internet Movie Database
- ↑ "City of Heroes". 2008. Archived from the original on 2008-01-12. Retrieved 2008-02-05.
- ↑ Mongoose Publishing website
- ↑ The Miniatures Page
- ↑ http://www2.iath.virginia.edu/sixties/HTML_docs/Resources/Glossary/Sixties_Term_Gloss_K_P.html
- ↑ cityofdavenportiowa.com
- "Rikki-Tikki-Tavi"—Full text from e-books at the University of Adelaide in Adelaide, South Australia.