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Literature / The Tale of Peter Rabbit
aka: Peter Rabbit

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Peter (right) and his mother and sisters (left)
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The Tale of Peter Rabbit was published in 1901 and is Beatrix Potter's first, and most famous children's book.

Peter Rabbit is an anthropomorphic rabbit who lives next door to the (human) farmer, McGregor. His mother's always told him to stay out of Farmer McGregor's garden because Peter's father was killed and eaten there. Of course, Peter foolishly disobeys this advice and sneaks into McGregor's garden to stuff himself on vegetables and get into all sorts of trouble.

It's now in the public domain in the United States and can be read here. A CGI series based on the tale began on CBeebies in December 2012. A special associated with the series aired on Nickelodeon in the United States in December 2012, and the series began in the U.S. in February 2013.

A film adaptation was released in 2018, alongside a sequel called Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway that was released on June 2021.

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The original book provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Animated Adaptation: The story gained a couple animated adaptations over the past decades:
  • Animal Talk: Peter talks to several different species, including a cat and a mouse.
  • Aerith and Bob: "Once upon a time there were four little Rabbits, and their names were— Flopsy, Mopsy, Cotton-tail, and Peter."
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  • Artistic License – Biology: Peter's shoes are where his toes should be.
  • Balloon Belly: An illustration shows Peter being considerably heavier after scarfing down some of Mr. McGregor's vegetables.
  • Big Eater: Peter puts away a lot of food before Mr. McGregor catches him.
  • Bunnies for Cuteness: Peter Rabbit and his sisters serve as the Trope Codifier for this trope. While not the first, Peter Rabbit could be considered one of the earliest uses of this trope in children's media and how the history of bunnies commonly associated with cute began with.
  • Beast Fable: Listen to your parents, kids. The dangerous strangers they tell you to stay away from are actually dangerous.
  • Belated Happy Ending: He manages to get his shoes & coat back in The Tale of Benjamin Bunny, grows up to be a successful cabbage farmer in The Tale of the Flopsy Bunnies, and becomes an Older and Wiser hero in The Tale of Mr Tod.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Peter goes through hell and back, but escapes with his life. However, he loses his clothes and is left traumatized and ill by his ordeal.
  • Black Comedy:
    'Now my dears,' said old Mrs. Rabbit one morning, 'you may go into the fields or down the lane, but don't go into Mr. McGregor's garden: your Father had an accident there; he was put in a pie by Mrs. McGregor.'
  • Call-Back: The events of this tale are referenced in the one about Peter's cousin Benjamin Bunny, who helps Peter break back into the garden to reclaim his clothes.
  • Carnivore Confusion: Rabbits are not only sapient, but they have a society very similar to humans. They wear clothes, use pots and pans, and sleep on rabbit-sized beds. That said, Mrs. McGregor baked Peter's father into a pie.
  • Civilized Animal: Peter and his family, of course. They are very anatomically accurate, but wear clothes and live in well-furnished warrens.
  • Disappeared Dad: Peter's father was put in a pie by Mrs McGregor.
  • Early-Bird Cameo: Peter's cousin Benjamin Bunny is mentioned as having told Peter to avoid cats.
  • Forbidden Fruit: Peter is told not to go in Mr McGregor's garden. He goes in anyway, with predictable results.
  • Freeze Sneeze: Peter sneezes while he's hiding in a half-full watering can.
  • Housewife: Peter's mother, though she also sells tea and tobacco.
  • Mouse World: Peter and his family live on the fringes of human society.
  • Odd Name Out: "Once upon a time there were four little Rabbits, and their names were— Flopsy, Mopsy, Cotton-tail, and Peter."
  • Once Upon a Time: As the first sentence goes: "Once upon a time there were four little Rabbits, and their names were— Flopsy, Mopsy, Cotton-tail, and Peter."
  • Pantsless Males, Fully-Dressed Females: Peter only wears a jacket/vest, while his mother wears a dress and apron. Peter's sisters, however, only wear shawls.
  • Pink Girl, Blue Boy: In the original illustrations, Peter's three sisters all wear identical pink coats, while Peter himself wears a blue coat.
  • Purple Prose: Famously, when the sparrows saw Peter trapped they "implored him to exert himself."
  • Rascally Rabbit: Peter Rabbit was a notorious troublemaker, as was his cousin Benjamin.
  • Rhyme Theme Naming: Two of Peter's sisters are named Flopsy and Mopsy.
  • Sneeze of Doom: A sneeze gives Peter away to Mr McGregor when he's hiding in the watering can.
  • Stock Animal Diet: Subverted. Carrots aren't mentioned as something that rabbits eat in this story.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Peter's father died trespassing into Mr McGregor's garden, and Peter almost falls victim to this fate.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: Mr. McGregor doesn't seem at all confused upon seeing a rabbit running around wearing clothes.
  • Women Are Wiser: Flopsy, Mopsy and Cotton-tail are all smart enough to follow their mother's advice while Peter trespasses into McGregor's garden and nearly ends up a meal like his father.

The Merrie Melodies "Country Boy" cartoon provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Denser and Wackier: True to Merrie Melodies nature, the story is made more slapstick. Peter's escape from Mr. McGregor's counterpart in particular better resembles a standard Tom and Jerry chase.
  • Setting Upgrade: The original story was set sometime in the late 19th and early 20th century. In the cartoon, the story is set sometime during the late 1920s and 1930s judging by the outfits the characters are wearing.
  • Gainax Ending: The cartoon doesn't really have a real resolution. Peter just crashes into a chicken coop, covered in feathers. In response to his predicament, he stands on a fence and crows.
  • The Stool Pigeon: The first time Peter attempts to trespass into the garden, he is confronted by three Obedient Olga types (what seem to be Expies for Flopsy, Mopsy and Cotton-tail) who sing a number threatening to tell the teacher on him if he tries. He threatens to pop the three tattles unless they shut up.


Alternative Title(s): Peter Rabbit

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