Thursday, 2 April 2015

NOT THE VELVETEEN RABBIT – those macabre and sinister bunnies – Dianne Hofmeyr

Shaun Tan's Rules of Summer
Odd how the things of childhood are sometimes the stuff of nightmares. I found clowns exceedingly disturbing… still do... and Bugs Bunny with his huge front teeth was threatening rather than funny. My first visit to a Spanish food market with its lines of skinned rabbits with their opaque eyes wide open and staring was enough to leave me quivering.

So it’s not hard for me to imagine Shaun Tan’s two boys playing through a hot Australian summer in Rules of Summer, when a red sock on a wash-line morphs into something far more sinister.

Even vintage cards celebrating Easter with their threatening even macabre bunnies in a Paula Rego way… seem hardly loving or joyous Easter messages for a child to receive from a doting grandmother or parent.

a harnessed rabbit with a determined ringmaster? 
frogs flinging stones at rabbits?
angelic boy stuffing rabbits into a box?
demonic looking rabbits stuffed into eggs?
 cross-dressed rooster brandishing weapon at rabbit?
Rabbits play an odd role in children's books... take the White rabbit in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland... look at that eye!

And the manic March Hare... again the eye!

And I recall frissons of fear at seeing the rabbits of Pookie in Search of a Home scaring off the woodcutters with the drumming sounds of their hind legs, as a child.

But there can't be more superbly vengeful rabbits than these in the wordless picture book La Revanche des lapins by Korean illustrator Suzy Lee where a group of rabbits harass a reckless ice-cream van driver on a dark night.

Lastly...  can't let the day go by without a cheer for Zeraffa Giraffa’s first book birthday on this exact day...  with plenty of giraffes and balloons and my favourite girl in giraffe glasses!

Twitter @dihofmeyr

Zeraffa Giraffa, illustrated by Jane Ray and published by Frances Lincoln, is on The Sunday Times List of children's classics for the last 10 years.


LuWrites said...

Really interesting piece - thanks for posting!

Penny Dolan said...

Some seriously scary "rabbits" there!

Saviour Pirotta said...

Rabbits are scary. As someone who was brought up eating rabbits, I used to be scared of them as a child. And the scariest thing of all? If you stroked a little bunny rabbit, you'd transfer your skin-smell on to it and its own mummy would kill it.

Dianne Hofmeyr said...

Good grief Saviour. I really didn't know that. Grown ups always said don't touch that baby bird or the mother will reject it (but not eat it!) Afterwards I realised it was my parents way of saying... I'm not having that bird in shoebox in our house! It will only end in tears!

Uouo Uo said...
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catdownunder said...

Rabbits are considered to be vermin Downunder and I have to confess the wild sort are not at all "nice".
I did meet a domestic rabbit in Upover that I rather liked. He had spent a great deal of time just being near an elderly man who was recovering from a serious operation and allowing the old man to pet him like a dog. His daughter was convinced it had aided her father's recovery.

Dianne Hofmeyr said...

What a great story catdownunder. I love hearing from you... it just makes me smile when I'm reminded of that wonderful holiday I had in Australia. In fact with you in mind I often post very early as I know you're awake hours before us.

David Thorpe said...

I love these illustrations. Thanks for sharing them!