My parents owned the entire Beatrix Potter collection in a series of wee, precious books that I pored over as a child. My aunt somehow magically found a whole collection of gorgeous Peter Rabbit stuffed animals, which she then doled out to my sister and me over a series of Christmases and birthdays. I have Peter Rabbit, Jemima Puddleduck, and Mr. Jeremy Fisher. My sister owns Benjamin Bunny, Tom Kitten, and Squirrel (she adorably referred to him as Skerl) Nutkin. A few weeks back, CBR posted a giveaway contest featuring Emma Thompson’s contribution to the canon, which amped my nostalgia. So I decided to go for a collective re-read.
It’s ten times as fun to read Peter Rabbit stories as a dirty-minded adult.
Potter’s collection includes 23 tales of various woodland or farmland animals in the English countryside. Whatever you do, read the books with her original drawings. They are gorgeous watercolors, and there is nothing like them. There is the tale of Peter Rabbit, a gluttonous bunny who eats too much out of Mr. MacGregor’s garden and almost gets himself killed. There’s the devilishly naughty Squirrel Nutkin who is as red as a cherry (emphasis Potter’s, no, for realz) and sings the child’s version of ribald songs, and gets his tail cut off by Old Brown the owl. This sentence made me guffaw like a total fool: “The squirrels filled their little sacks with nuts.” Apparently, I’m twelve. But seriously, that would make the best gay squirrel porn ever, amirite?
But I haven’t even gotten to my favorite: “The Tale of Samuel Whiskers.” Tom Kitten naughtily wanders off to the roof and then in trying to get back, accidentally falls into the lair of one very large rat, Mr. Samuel Whiskers. Whiskers orders his wife, Anna Maria, to make him a kitten dumpling roly poly pudding for his dinner, in which there are hijinks of complaining about smuts, whether to use breadcrumbs or butter and dough, and the intervention of a Scottish terrier. No, really. It’s macabre and weird, and darkly hilarious at once.
The film adaptation plays it up, because Samuel says, very campily, “Anna Maria! Anna Maria, make me a kitten dumpling rrrrroly poly pudding for my dinnah.” My sister and I said that many, many times. It made a lasting impression.
The drawings really make the tales come alive, and I am so glad I went down memory lane again. I highly recommend you do the same.