Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Our Vintage Rikki Tikki Tavi

I have recently bought a lovely vintage book which I have been wanting for a while. It is a book of stories from The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling, published in 1980 in Russia, with the most endearing illustrations. It is not the complete Jungle Book; it only contains several stories, my favorite ones. And I think that the most beloved one is about Rikki-Tikki-Tavi, the fearless young mongoose.

I am sure everyone has read the story as a child. It has been a great pleasure for me to read the story with my own daughter and look at the wonderful pictures by Valentine Kurdov. In every story, there is at least one watercolor and several black and white pictures.

Here you can see Rikki talking to the birds and exploring the garden. You can feel alertness and energy of the little strong animal who enjoys life and movement.

Mongoose and cobra are exotic creatures for a Russian artist, and I think Kurdov had to consult biology books, photos, and maybe went to the zoo. He did an excellent job; the animals look very recognizable and alive. Of course Kurdov was an excellent artist - look at the single cobra at the picture on the right, it is like a hieroglyph. A sign which means danger. And the mongoose is so touching and human like, standing in front of the snake, talking to her in the picture on the left. Rikki  looks somewhat vulnerable, he is still a very young mongoose, and the snake is adult and strong. But the mongoose has lots of dignity. Look at the rhythm of the picture - it is flowing clockwise, moving endlessly, full of inner energy. It reminds me of Oriental miniatures. 

Here you can see Rikki killing a tiny but deadly Karait amidst lavish exotic plants, and then Rikki is talking to Chuchundra, the musk-rat, who is afraid of everything and everyone. My mother said: "Poor Chuchundra! She is weeping! And look at Rikki, he is strong and agile! With his strong jaws full of sharp teeth, he is just like our Belgian Shepherd Dog!" Indeed, Rikki looks a bit like my Malinois.

The story tells a lot about what courage is. Courage is not to be afraid of anything; it is about being able to fight despite your fear and clear understanding of the greatness of the danger. Kipling tells several times of Rikki being frightened or concerned. The little beast, with all his fierceness, wants to live and recognizes the risks, but fights nonetheless because this is what mongooses are for. Once he is set on the target, he does not go back. He actually cannot let go of the snake for he then would be killed by the large and strong enemy.

A very dramatic moment - Rikki destroying snake eggs, while the bird is distracting the mother snake, Nagaina. And in the next picture he is telling her that all her eggs are ruined and there is just one left - the young king cobra which he can swap for the life of the human boy.

And the last black and white picture is of the peaceful garden full of flowers, birds and frogs, without any snakes. Darzee the Tailorbird sings his chant praising Rikki-Tikki-Tavi, "the valiant, the true, with eyeballs of flame". The very last picture is another watercolor of Rikki chasing a cobra, as if to reconfirm his commitment and readiness to fight for his friends and territory.

If somehow you have missed this book in reading to your children, I very highly recommend it. It is a really good book which teaches good things. And it is also lovely and amusing.


  1. Such a great childhood book! Love all the beautiful illustrations!

    1. Thank you, Edi! I wonder if you loved Kipling's books as a child. They are very popular here.

  2. OMG! I've had exactly that book when I was little! I love those illustrations and the story off course :)

  3. I also had a book in my childhood. I was inspired by this story and loved the illustrations for this artist. Thanks for the reminder!

  4. Thank you for sharing my feelings ) I think most Soviet children have read the Jungle Book and have fond memories.

  5. Wow, I do remember this book, I had one also. Such a great memories.

  6. у меня была такая книжка. ну или похожая. я вообще много читала в детсве, обобенно про животных...
    спасибо за экскурсию в детство

  7. Wooow I also have this book!!!! Thanks for reminding!


Please say a few words if you feel like it - I will be very happy to read your comment.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...