Literature: Bunnicula

Today vegetables... tomorrow the world!

Bunnicula is the name of a series of children's books written by James Howe about a "vampire bunny" who is adopted by the Monroe family, who give him the name "Bunnicula" when they find him on a seat in the theater while going to see the movie Dracula. The story centers on the family's pets, Harold, an old, good-natured mongrel, who is the narrator of the story, Chester the cat, who has a vivid imagination and suspects Bunnicula of being a vampire, and the eponymous bunny, who never displays any overt vampiric traits despite constant accusations by Chester.

The series is something of an Affectionate Parody of the horror genre, with equal parts mystery and comedy as well. The first book, simply titled Bunnicula, was written together with Howe's late wife Deborah.

In 1982, the first novel was adapted into a half-hour animated adaptation for the ABC Weekend Special by Ruby-Spears. However, the special had many differences from the novels.

Books in the series:

  • Bunnicula (1979)
  • Howliday Inn (1982)
  • The Celery Stalks At Midnight (1983)
  • Nighty-Nightmare (1987)
  • Return to Howliday Inn (1992)
  • Bunnicula Strikes Again! (1999)
  • Bunnicula Meets Edgar Allan Crow! (2006)

There is also the spin-off series Tales From The House of Bunnicula:
  • It Came From Beneath the Bed!
  • Invasion of the Mind Swappers from Asteroid 6!
  • Howie Monroe and the Doghouse of Doom
  • Screaming Mummies of the Pharaoh's Tomb II
  • Bud Barkin, Private Eye
  • The Odorous Adventures of Stinky Dog

There is also a series of Bunnicula books for very young readers:
  • The Vampire Bunny
  • Hot Fudge
  • Scared Silly
  • Rabbit-Cadabra
  • The Fright Before Christmas
  • Creepy Crawly Birthday
  • Bunnicula Escapes!: A Pop-up Adventure

As well as several non-fiction books:
  • Bunnicula's Wickedly Wacky Word Games: a Book for Word Lovers & Their Pencils!
  • Bunnicula's Frightfully Fabulous Factoids: a Book to Entertain Your Brain!
  • Bunnicula's Pleasantly Perplexing Puzzlers: A Book of Puzzles, Mazes, & Whatzits!
  • Bunnicula's Long-lasting Laugh-alouds: a Book of Jokes & Riddles to Tickle Your Bunny-Bone!

The franchise provides examples of:

  • Agent Mulder: Chester
  • Affectionate Parody: Both series are a parody of horror novels. Also, the Fleshcrawler books Howie reads are clearly parodies of R.L. Stine's Goosebumps.
  • Amateur Sleuth: Chester fancies himself one
  • Artistic License Biology: Harold's favorite food is chocolate cupcakes, even though a lot of chocolate can be dangerous to dogs. Whether this is artistic license on the part of the character or the author is debatable. It's specifically pointed out in both Bunnicula Strikes Again! and Hot Fudge that you should never give your dog chocolate in real life. It is also noted that some dogs can eat chocolate just fine, and Harold happens to (thankfully) be one of these. See also Breaking the Fourth Wall.
  • Big Friendly Dog: Harold is a more laid-back version, but definitely qualifies. Especially when the Munroe kids have junk food.
  • Book Within A Book: The spin-off series Tales From The House of Bunnicula are Howie's novels and writing journal entries.
  • Brilliant but Lazy: Harold the dog makes a lot of obscure references, and can even read Carpathian. He would just rather eat the books instead of read them.
  • Conspiracy Theorist: Oh, Chester.
  • Cute Little Fangs: Bunnicula, both in-story and in all the artwork.
  • Fantastic Racism: Chester, in the "Vampires = Always Chaotic Evil" sense.
  • Friendly Neighborhood Vampire: Bunnicula only vampirizes vegetables by sucking out their juices.
  • Genre Savvy: Wrong Genre Savvy, in Chester's case. He sees himself as Van Helsing to Bunnicula's Dracula, when the truth is a lot more benign.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: In Howliday Inn, Louise calls Georgette "Hester Prynne". It's an obscure reference that hardly any kid would get, but she's essentially calling Georgette a slut.
    • In Bunnicula, when Chester mentions how vampires bite their victims on the neck, Harold says "Wait a minute. I saw Mrs. Monroe bite Mr. Monroe on the neck once." But Chester says that Mrs. Monroe is not a vampire. She's a lawyer.
  • Hair-Raising Hare. Possibly. Certainly Bunnicula scares Chester.
  • It Was a Dark and Stormy Night: Inverted:
    "IT WAS NOT a dark and stormy night. Indeed, there was nothing in the elements to foreshadow the events that lay ahead."
    • It was implied that it was in the first chapter, "The Arrival", in the first book.
  • Killer Rabbit: or so Chester assumes
  • Know-Nothing Know-It-All: Pete trying to explain to his family that the white vegetables are caused by "vegetables that aren't organic".
  • Literary Agent Hypothesis: The prologue claims that Howe is merely the literary agent for Harold the dog.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Bunnicula may or may not be a blood-sucking fiend, though it becomes less debatable as the series goes on. Much of the humor in the series comes from Chester's belief that Bunnicula's eating habits mean that the world around them follows horror tropes.
  • Meaningful Name: Harold mentions that Chester was named after G. K. Chesteron.
  • Metaphorgotten: Chester in Bunnicula Strikes Again:
    "You can lead a horse of a different color to water but it's still a horse."
  • Noodle Incident: Chester never lets Harold forget about the thing with the geranium. Or the thing with Mr. Monroe's electric shaver. Though unlike most examples, we DO get some details - Harold apparently ate Mrs. Monroe's favorite geranium, and thought Mr. Monroe's electric shaver was a giant bumblebee that was attacking him, so he grabbed it and threw it in the toilet.
    • In Howliday Inn, Chester remarks that he read the other animal's personal files while being held hostage. On the subject of Lyle (another cat who's more than a little off-kilter), he'll only say Lyle has "had a rough life".
  • Papa Dog: Harold goes to great lengths to protect Bunnicula against Chester whenever he has a "Kill the wab-bit" attack.
  • Puns: Howie enjoys these. An absolutely dreadful one happens when Chester mistakes "driving a stake through a vampire's heart" with a steak, and winds up pounding some meat on Bunnicula's chest while the rabbit sleeps.
  • Sliding Scale of Vampire Friendliness: Half-rabbit, half-vampire, all terror! He sucks the juice out of carrots. Or so Chester, the extremely high-strung family cat, believes. Harold the dog, who is The Watson to Chester's Holmes, is less convinced of the bunny's vampirism, though he admits that it has an odd way of feeding.
  • Stealth Pun: The Latin word for rabbit is "cuniculus" and the scientific name for the European rabbit is Oryctolagus cuniculus; stick a feminine ending on it and it's "cunicula".
  • The Voiceless: Bunnicula himself never says a word, despite all other animals (cats, dogs, one weasel and a parrot) being able to talk just fine. It's hypothesized something terrible happened to him in his childhood and rendered him mute, and even after they find out what's causing his vampirism, he never talks.
  • The Watson: Harold to Chester, though he still manages to get sucked into Chester's fantasies in every book.

The Bunnicula series provides additional examples of:

The Tales From The House of Bunnicula series provides examples of:

  • Affectionate Parody: Howie is a parody of Fan Fiction writers, and The Doghouse of Doom is mistakenly seen as a parody of Harry Potter by Howie's editor.
  • Aliens Speaking English: The Mindswappers From Asteroid 6 speak English. "Justified" in that Howie is the author and he wants them to. So there.
  • Animal Superhero: Howie is a wire-haired dachshund puppy (and Dean is a sparrow) so Stinky Dog and Little D are an animal superhero and animal sidekick.
  • Author Avatar: Howie's books star himself and his friend.
  • Award Snub: invokedHow Howie views his failure to win a Newboney award for his fourth book.
  • Death by Newbery Medal: Howie tries to make Tales #4 more tragic in order to win a Medal. It doesn't work.
  • Depending on the Writer: Used in-universe as the quality, direction, focus, and title vary depending on if Howie or Delilah is writing Tales From The House of Bunnicula.
  • The Power of Love: It's only when Stinky Dog starts thinking about how much he loves Delilah that Bathman is destroyed.
  • Product Placement: Howie likes to promote his previous books, though he claims to be simply giving helpful references to the reader.
  • Purple Prose: Lots in Howie's books. Even Harold tells him that he's going overboard, especially with self-description.
  • Title Drop: "Mindswappers From Asteroid 6" is always emphasized and trademarked.

Tropes specific to the 1982 Ruby-Spears animated special:

  • Adaptational Heroism: Chester, in a characterization different than how he was depicted in the novels, actually helps Harold defend Bunnicula from the angry mob.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: In the climax, just when it seems that Bunnicula was about to get attacked by the wolves, Bunnicula is suddenly able to use vampire powers which trap the wolves in a vat at the plant.
  • Expy: Harold appears to bear a resemblance to that of Colonel from Disney's 101 Dalmatians. In addition to that, one of the Monroe sons wears clothes similar to that of Fred Jones.
  • Narrator: Much like the novels, Harold narrated the special.
  • Oh, Crap: This was Harold and Chester's reaction upon discovering the wolf pack in the plant.
  • Savage Wolves: The climax of the special had Harold, Chester, and Bunnicula getting chased by a pack of wolves that were roaming around the vegetable processing plant.
  • Torches and Pitchforks: A lot of the neighbors suspect Bunnicula of being the culprit of draining all of the vegetables in the neighborhood as well as the accidents at the plant, despite not actually having torches and pitchforks.