With Easter right around the corner, I couldn’t help but think of rabbit. In case anyone is wondering, our backyard vermin is still eating my plants. It survived the winter and is plump and ready for the pot. Over the weekend, no less than five attempts were made on its life to capture it and put it out of harm’s way. Until we succeed, I will have to settle for passing on a bit of Rabbit Lore in Literature.
Beatrix Potter likely created the most popular literary rabbit of all times. Peter starred in many a tale as he battled his way to fresh lettuce while avoiding Mr. MacGregor’s stewpot.
So what is hassenpfeffer? It is a traditional German stew made from the left over pieces and parts of a rabbit or hare–those that were too small to roast–braised with onion and wine and thickened with the creature’s blood.
It makes me wonder if the references to hassenpfeffer stew would be so palatable if readers and writers knew the original ingredients. Yet, rabbits (and the meals they make) remain a staple in literature.
To name a few:
- From Lewis Carroll’s White Rabbit to Bhuddism to Native American lore, rabbits have played a prominent role in stories for both young and old.
- Then there’s the Velveteen Rabbit who goes from toy to real rabbit all because of a boy’s love. It’s the vermin version of Toy Story–told decades earlier.
- And who can forget Watership Down, often touted as the book that brought rabbits to the forefront of literature and created awareness for the impact of land development on wildlife habitats?
- For other titles, including Br’er Rabbit, check out this list of famous hoppers.
Over the years, I have read many books that star our furry friends. Others simply reference them as a means to an end. For instance, rabbits are a main staple in survival books including White Fang, Hatchet, and The Hunger Games. They are used as an abject lesson in Mrs. Mike, are sacrificed in horror or are often the creatures that skitter through the underbrush to scare the bejeebies out of the MC in thrillers.
Rabbits are as prolific in literature as they are in real life. They also represent a univeral symbolism for busy writers tapping away on their keyboards, as nothing indicates creativity quite like a plot bunny. In certain circles, they are revered and called upon as a blessing.
“May your plot bunnies be prolific.”
During the course of NaNoWriMo, I have actually seen these happy hoppers, both in my dreams and on the internet. They are as real as Shel Silverstein’s Runny Babbit and twice as cute. The only thing they don’t do is deliver Easter eggs.
The Easter Bunny was first created as a sign of spring and fertility in Alsace and Southwestern Germany as early as the 1500’s. The first written record of it appears in the 1600’s, and it was brought to America as the “O_ster Haws_e” in the 1700’s. In the 1800’s, Germans made edible chocolate rabbits in addition to their traditional hassenpfeffer stew.
My quick search this morning shows that rabbits have been hoppin’ across the pages of literature for centuries. Their prolific nature makes them the perfect symbol for abundance, renewal and joy. (Okay, I made up the joy part, but who can’t be happy when they’re hoppin’? ) Which is why the hare will be my 2010 writing mascot.
Now if only I could catch that darn thing…
What is your favorite literary bunny? Have you written a rabbit into your writing? If so, how?