Beatrix Potter is an author I’ve enjoyed since I was a child, and I continue to love her stories and illustrations. She has written 23 different tales and some other books as well, but this post is not about her as an author (I do want to do a separate post on her, being an author whose works I really enjoy); instead this one is about something that I keep thinking when I read her stories. It is a rather minor point so I even wondered whether it’s worth a post (of its own) at all, but am writing it all the same. But a warning, this post is not spoiler free, so if this bothers you, don’t read on.

 

peter rabbit 1902 cover.jpg

The 1902 cover of Peter Rabbit

Image source: Beatrix Potter [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

So I’ve read about nine of Potter’s animal stories (or at least remember these) and have about fourteen–one lot in a collected The World of Beatrix Potter–plus a few individual books. I love the stories, and from the illustrations one can clearly see how closely she observed the various animals she drew, and also her love for them. Her characters are animals of course, but anthropomorphic and combine their animal characteristics with some human behaviour and certainly, human dress and mannerisms–some translated to their animal equivalents.

 

Mrs Tiggy Winkle with her Iron.jpg

Mrs Tiggy Winkle with her Iron

Image source: Beatrix Potter [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 

Mr Jeremy Fisher.jpg

Mr Jeremy Fisher

Image source: Beatrix Potter [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

But anyway, to the point of this post, while I do love Potter’s animals and their stories, I can help but wonder, why is it that all (or nearly all) of her animals end up getting in so much trouble, either spanked or sent to bed by their parents (like Peter Rabbit and Benjamin Bunny; and Tom Kitten and his sisters), having their tails yanked off (like Squirrel Nutkin) or their eggs eaten up (like Jemima Puddleduck). Mr Jeremy Fisher has terrible luck on his fishing expedition, being turned nearly into a trout’s dinner, and himself ending up serving roasted grasshopper with ladybird sauce to his guests instead of minnows freshly caught. Tom Kitten fares no better in his second adventure, and is turned into an almost roly-poly pudding by Mr Samuel Whiskers.

 

BenjaminBunny26.jpg

 

Peter Rabbit and Benjamin Bunny after a whipping from the latter’s father.

Image source: Beatrix Potter [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The_Tail_of_Squirrel_Nutkin_-_page_57.jpg

And Squirrel Nutkin minus much of his Tail (Mr Brown the Owl has it as you can see)

Image source: Beatrix Potter [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Beatrix_Potter_-_A_Tale_of_Jeremy_Fisher_-_Illustration_from_page_55

Mr Jeremy Fisher with his dinner guest, Sir Issac Newton

Image source:Beatrix Potter [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Of the Beatrix Potter stories I’ve read, Mrs Tiggy Winkle is the only one which is pleasant throughout (this is such a sweet story and one of my very favourites). Another is perhaps Pigling Bland who manages to get away, more or less by the skin of his teeth with his friend Pig-Wig, and go dancing over the hills and far away, ending up completely unharmed.

So naturally, I did wonder why–if she is writing stories about animals, then why are they mostly such naughty ones, and why ones that get into a fair deal of trouble. Of course, this makes them all the more interesting no doubt. But also perhaps, the situations they end up in, trouble with other animals or with humans are perhaps a reflection of their situation in real life too–animals do tend to get into trouble every so often, and sometimes they don’t have such escapes as they do in her stories. So perhaps, while she is making them more human-like in her stories taking them away from reality, she is also preserving a bit of reality. Reality that which both animals and humans have to face)–even if you manage to get out of trouble, you have to face the consequences, and life doesn’t always go back to the way it was (not exactly, anyway).

Do you love Beatrix Potter’s books as much as I do? Which are some favourites? If you’ve read some others than the ones I mention, were there other characters who had a better time than some of the animals I’ve talked about here?

And if you like Potter, you might want to try stories by American author and naturalist Thornton Burgess. His stories are somewhat on the same lines with animals getting into some scrapes or facing minor troubles off and on, and then finding a way out. Some ‘by the skin-of-their-teeth’ situations there too! Looking forward o hearing your thoughts!

 

Advertisements

4 thoughts on “If Beatrix Potter Really Loved Animals, Then…

  1. In common with millions around the world I think the illustrations are absolutely wonderful, so evocative and imaginative. Margaret Tempest’s paintings for Alison Uttley’s Grey Rabbit books have a similar charm though the ratio of pictures to words is not as generous as with Potter. Jane Pilgrim’s Blackberry Farm books, though somewhat later, also continue the anthropomorphic scheme.

    What differentiates BP from these others is that I suspect that, Deep down, she didn’t like children, and maybe depicting them as naughty animals was her Victorian/Edwardian way of chastising wayward childishness. Diana Wynne Jones has an anecdote in Reflections in which she and her sister, sent to the Lake District to be away from the worst of the Blitz, were roundly admonished by a severe old woman for swinging on her garden gate. It turns out that this was Beatrix Potter.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That reminds me I still have to read Alison’s Uttley’s other books. I’ve only read A Traveller in Time which I love.

      Yes, that makes perfect sense-and honestly with some of the children one sees these days (I’m not very fond of them either), I wouldn’t blame her 😛

      Liked by 1 person

  2. You’ve evoked memories of my precious “Pigling Bland”. That was the first Potter I read, and I still have my much tattered copy. Where the sad endings are concerned, I hazard a guess that Beatrix Potter was trying to emphasize the moral in each story in true Victorian fashion. If you are naughty, greedy or plain stupid, you have to suffer the consequences. Perhaps, she went a bit overboard, if she really was a stern-faced spinster as mentined in the comment above.

    Liked by 2 people

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.