Friday, September 3, 2010

Peter Rabbit..The Hero

Tomorrow is the anniversary of Peter Rabbit.
The Tale of Peter Rabbit, Beatrix Potter's first book,
was published on the 4 September in 1902.
A 'little book for little hands'.

My two boys when small loved me reading this book with them.
They loved to finish the sentences -
they would clench their hands and squeeze themselves in as they chanted
he squeeeeeeezed under the gate
round the end of the cucumber frame, whom should he meet ...but...
Mr McGregor!

Mo and I visited the Lake District in 2002, the centenary of Peter Rabbit.
I bought my copy of the book there. Our family copy was quite worn out with love.
We arrived at Hilltop Farm just in time for the inaugural tour of the garden
conducted by the gardener. No, he said, his name was not Mr McGregor.
Mo, a farmer was greatly impressed by Beatrix Potter's love of the land and farming,
and her love of small holdings.
What a great observationist Beatrix Potter was.
Such skill in recreating in pencil and watercolour her beloved small creatures.

I came across a brief article at
by Barbara Kiefer , Associate Professor of Children's Literature at Columbia Teachers College.
" It's a classic story, it's almost mythological.
The hero leaves home, goes into the wider world, faces danger,
comes back chastened, but still a hero. His only punishment is that he's sent to bed with a dose of camomile tea."

I loved this. I have long been fascinated by the lifelong study of mythology of Joseph Campbell,
author of The Hero With A Thousand Faces.
He talks of how the movie Star Wars is a modern take on the hero's journey.
I have long loved The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. I plan to re-read the Odyssey and The Illyad one day.
Now I will pick up my little book Of Peter Rabbit and read it as a mythical journey of a hero.

It takes bravery to embark on life's journey at any stage. As JRR Tolkien wrote

'It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door.
You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to"

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  1. This is just perfection. I loved Peter and the Flopsy Bunnies, who got caught by Mr MacGregor because they fell asleep in the garden. There's a wonderful line about lettuce being very sophorific - I remember having to ask what that meant - and I've always believed it. But I love the idea of Peter as hero. And what a fabulous punishment to be sent to bed with a cup of camomile tea!

  2. Thank you KitchenMaid..and good luck as you embark on your next life adventure..may the force be with you.

  3. Lovely post about Peter Rabbit and all hero-centred stories.
    I went to Peter Rabbit's 80th birthday party in London in 1973 as the Tale of Peter Rabbit, although it wasn't published in book form until 4 September 1902, was originally created in a letter written to a little boy and the letter was dated 4 September 1893. The party I went to in London was held on 4 September 1973.

  4. I was just thinking KitchenMaid what a wonderful mother Mrs Rabbit was. The fact he had to miss out on blackberries for tea was punishment enough and not a word said otherwise..and camomile tea in bed.

  5. That's right M. I have a replica of the letter she wrote. It is inside a replica envelope in "Beatrix Potter. A Journal". It took sometime for the book to be accepted for publishing. It was the saddest thing when her parents would not approve of her marrying Mr Warne the publisher, and he died ..

  6. Oh, Joan, you knew I would love this and how I do! I love the thought of Peter as a hero and I remember my girls, so little, chubby hands holding onto to Potter's perfectly sized book. What an accomplishment that was for her in her place and time to not only write and illustrate a book, but, to get it published, and here we have an anniversary of that achievement more than 100 years later.
    I love the word, soporific, and like KitchenMaid, I needed to look it up at one time. I use it often, after a big meal, especially our Thanksgiving feast. I always thought it such a big word for such a little book.

  7. And don't children just love big words Penny. Thanks for the great comments. Arohanui..Joan.

  8. What a beautiful post. I have a great fondness of Beatrix Potter's little books. And now I discover the heroic journey is in there. I loved the movie about her; it rekindled my interest. Thank you Joan for bringing Peter Rabbit before me - so appropriate in our spring time!

  9. A wonderful post! I love Potter and Campbell both but hadn't thought to connect them. Perfect!

  10. Lovely post !!! And Then the Coen brothers movie" Oh brother where art though" A a take on homers oddesy- Tee hee .

  11. Beatrice Potter is my hero. She stepped out into the world, kept her feet on the ground, and accomplished so much. Thank you for a Memory Lane post, Joan, and lots of Peter Rabbit warm fuzzies.

    If you visit Through the Sapphire Sky (blog I follow) I think you'll enjoy a lovely post about Japanese spirits that compliments stepping out into the world. Have a great weekend!

  12. I've been a Beatrix fan since I was a wee thing, and my home is overstuffed with collections from the wonderful world she created. All three of my boys had the Peter Rabbit theme mixed into their baby rooms, and my littlest one celebrates his 3rd birthday tomorrow. Serendipity.
    (also, you're quoting other favorite authors of mine. lovely!)

  13. What a lovely post Joan, I grew up on Beatrix Potter books. I too visited Hill Top Farm and bought The Pie & The Patty Pan. Reading this so makes me want to visit her house again. Thank you for making me feel very nostaliic today! Jane xx

  14. Joan, CNN reported there's been an earthquake in the vicinity of Christ Church. Lots of prayers and good karma that no one was injured, including you, my friend. Haven't seen any CNN updates. Stay safe!

  15. Updates coming in. Massive 7.4. Saw photos in central Christchurch. Didn't realize the city was build on sand and marsh. Know the power's out. But no one reported killed, thankfully. Tight hugs and prayers for all. K.