Rikki-Tikki-Tavi and Indian history
in In Time’s eye
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Rikki-Tikki-Tavi', the story that made me a lifelong Rudyard Kipling enthusiast, is a story of multi-layered meanings. Roger Lancelyn Green suggests that Kipling was alluding to a human herpetologist in 'Rikki-Tikki-Tavi' as well as one or more examples of the species ichneumon. Prominent among the leaders of the 1857 Mutiny were a number of dispossessed Indian princes, including Nana Sahib, the dethroned Maharajah of Bithor. For Mr Madhav Sharma's reading of 'Rikki-Tikki-Tavi' can also be heard as a parable of the Mutiny. The Mutiny parable is a deep undercurrent in a story that for most non-Indian readers is mainly about childhood fears. Belvedere was an ordinary home, despite its history during and after the Mutiny. Kipling couldn't face the Mutiny, it might be argued, except in terms of loyal Indians and victorious Britons. Though Kipling wrote many tales set in Lahore and Simla, few have been positively located at Allahabad.

In Time’s eye

Essays on Rudyard Kipling

Editor: Jan Montefiore

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