Peter Rabbit and the First Letdown

Peter Rabbit is such a mild, relaxing story in a lot of ways, in its illustration as well as its language. It’s a bedtime story, like we talked about in class. We also talked in class about what elements of it are scary. We talked about the fact that Peter’s father got baked in a pie, and how that’s the fate that awaits him, too– it’s the elements that makes the whole story just a little more Victorian than most of the books I read as a child. The thing I remember most about Peter Rabbit from my childhood, though, is that it was the book with the least satisfying ending that I’d ever heard.

I didn’t like Peter Rabbit. Well, I liked it a little, because I was being read to, but it would never be my first choice. It wasn’t because it was scary. We had a big Beatrix Potter treasury, actually, and my favorite story in it was called Roly-Poly Pudding. I won’t go into detail, but it has to do with a kitten getting caught in a chimney and baked into a pudding by rats. It was a harrowing enough tale that his escape was a victory. I was used to stories that end in some kind of victory, and Peter Rabbit ends in some kind of defeat. He escapes, but only at the cost of his coat, his shoes, and his confidence, and only gets punished for it when he gets home. It’s not a bad ending, it isn’t like anything bad happens, but it did strike me as a downer. All that for some radishes. Who even likes radishes?

Anyway, I think one of the reasons Peter Rabbit endures is that it is, in this ending, very mature. He does the wrong thing, and he suffers a fair amount. Not too much, just a fair amount. His mother isn’t happy with him, but she still takes care of him. It ends like you’d expect it to end.


2 Replies to “Peter Rabbit and the First Letdown”

  1. I agree that the ending wasn’t the happily ever after we expect to read in a children’s book, but it does reflect reality. I also think Potter’s approach to this story is an effective way to teach children about the consequences of being naughty. Disobeying a parent or guardian should not end well and that’s an important life lesson for children to learn at an early age, at least from my particular cultural background. People from other cultures may disagree.

    1. I totally agree with you! It’s definitely the most realistic way it could have ended, and perfectly moral. It isn’t very harsh (I mean, he gets punished, but not only for losing his coat, and besides, it’s not like he gets caned or anything). I think I felt the way I did about when I was little because that kind of frankness isn’t as common in more recent kids books. I wasn’t used to it.

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