Could the mongoose be a type of Christ? The question occurred to me after concluding Rudyard Kipling's short story, "Rikki-Tikki-Tavi," with my son tonight. There are a great number of connections, at least in this story.

The mongoose is well-known as a snake killer, and the title character in Kipling's tale lives up to such a billing. But it isn't just that Rikki-tikki and Nag fight in the state of nature, "red in tooth and claw," as Tennyson describes it elsewhere.

 The Man and the Mongoose

It's that Rikki-tikki fights to protect the family and the integrity of the garden. And against whom does he fight? Nag, the cobra, the embodiment of Death.

"Who is Nag?" said he. "I am Nag. The great God Brahm put his mark upon all our people, when the first cobra spread his hood to keep the sun off Brahm as he slept. Look, and be afraid!"

But, O, Nag be not proud! Not only does Rikki-tikki defeat Nag, but he defeats his dangerous widow as well, and puts an end to their entire brood. In the climactic battle Rikki-tikki is dragged underground, and lamented for dead by his friend Darzee, the bird.

Darzee sings Rikki-tikki's praises: "Evil that plagued us is slain, / Death in the garden lies dead."

But this isn't the end of Rikki-tikki. Up from the grave he arose, so to speak, having defeated Nagaina (the cobra widow) and uttering gravely: "It is all over," or "It is finished," if you will.

Rikki-tikki is indeed a savior, many times over, as testified by the mother. "He saved our lives and Teddy's life," she said to her husband. "Just think, he saved all our lives."

That's not to say that Kipling is himself a Christian, or that this is a Christian story, or anything like that. John Derbyshire has said that Kipling's religion was "extremely peculiar," and this paper, "The Religion of Rudyard Kipling," explores some of that peculiarity.

But even pagan literature, or non-Christian literature formed in the twilight of western Christendom, is informed by what Lewis called "True Myth." Or as Husain puts it, Kipling is "profoundly influenced by Christianity and often uses Christian symbols, but he is not a Christian."

So yes, in that sense, in Kipling's story, Rikki-tikki is a type of Christ. Rikki-tikki points us toward the ultimate savior. The Mongoose points us toward the Man.