Beatrix Potter Revisited


Ahh, Peter Rabbit. As a child I rooted for him against the seemingly menacing Mr. McGregor. Having now attempted some gardening of my own, and futily battled against invading rabbits, I have considerably more sympathy for the much maligned Mr. McGregor. Troublesome rabbits notwithstanding, I still bear affection for Peter. I am really excited to introduce my child to the enchanting tales of Beatrix Potter. Not long ago my mother came across my old boxed set of Beatrix Potter stories. The boxes have yellowed, but the books inside look like new.

My father brought these home for me one day when I was about five years old. They really are perfect for little hands and imaginations. The books are all in the same small size as their original publication. Each of the two boxes has a rope handle that makes them easy and fun to carry around. Each side and top of the boxes has one of the beloved original illustrations. Do you remember these?

                                                                                     The gullible Jemima Puddleduck.

                                                    The unlucky Mr. Jeremy Fisher, who is much better off staying home.

Of course Peter Rabbit, as the most famous, gets the tops of the boxes. He can be seen eating stolen carrots at the top of the post. Reading through the stories, I realized that most of the characters suffer unpleasant consequences for poor choices or bad behavior. I hadn’t remembered that from childhood. Do you remember Squirrel Nutkin?

He is pretty much unbearable. While the other squirrels are polite and respectful, Nutkin tries the patience of the old owl with jeers and riddles until the owl decides to skin him. Nutkin escapes, but not before his tail is broken, and he is permanently reformed.

My personal favorite, for sheer “that would never be published today” appeal is The Story of a Fierce Bad Rabbit.

After forcibly taking a carrot from a good rabbit:

The Fierce Bad Rabbit is enjoying his spoils when a hunter happens by:

This is all that is left of the Fierce Bad Rabbit:

Whew! Don’t steal and bully, kids!

These books are very special to me, and I am glad to have the opportunity to pass them on to my children. Although I don’t know how much my father paid for them, I think it must have been a lot for the time. I can still hear my mother saying, as I carried the boxes around by the rope handles, “Be careful with those books! They weren’t cheap!” Well, Dad, I think you got your mony’s worth.