The Runaway Bunny – Margaret Wise Brown

POINTS: 1 out of 10.

Bechdel: Nope
Variety of characters: 0 points
Good story: 1 point. C gave it a thumbs up, but I am way too creeped out by it to enjoy it.
Discretionary ideological points: 0 points

Omigod, this book, you guys. The Runaway Bunny at first appears to be a fairly standard kind of call and response type story between a mother bunny and her baby. It plays with that old fairy-tale staple of the magical duel where each shape-shift is countered by a stronger or better one. These are pretty ordinary tropes, and not unusual in children’s books.

But wow, this mother bunny is a creepy controlling monster. The gist is this: baby bunny threatens to run away and hide by changing into a variety of things, and his mother responds by saying how she would turn into other things and find the baby. I suppose you could see this as, like, “wherever you go, I will always be there for you” but it really is a much more sinister “wherever you go, I WILL ALWAYS FIND YOU”. I think the height of the ick is when the baby says he’ll turn into a boat, and the mother responds, “If you become a sailboat and sail away from me, I will become the wind and blow you where I want you to go.” (Emphasis mine.) Really mother bunny? REALLY? That’s some controlling shit there.

I find it hard to get beyond the creepiness of the mother bunny to look at the rest of the book, but suffice to say it fails on all counts. There are only two characters, and one is male, so no Bechdel pass here. They’re both bunnies, so it doesn’t really get points for diversity in character. And the ideology is fairly awful, to my mind.

C gave it a thumbs up, but I can say we’ve had this book in our house for years and it’s never been one he’s chosen to bring to me to read. I’ll give it the point, but bear in mind where it came from. 😉

It’s meant to be a story about the “steadfast love” of a mother, but, and I say this as a mother, it reads like a story of abuse and power to me. The last page could be something out of a horror novel:

“Shucks,” said the little bunny, “I might just as well stay where I am and be your little bunny.”
And so he did.
“Have a carrot,” said the mother bunny.

o.O RIGHT? She is creepy as hell. “Eat your carrot, child and STAY HERE WITH ME FOREVER.” *shudder*

What do you think? Am I totally off the mark with this? Do you think she’s just a loving mother? Do you know of better stories depicting parental love without turning it into a power-tripping control game? Tell me.

2 thoughts on “The Runaway Bunny – Margaret Wise Brown

  1. I think “I Love You, Stinky Face” does a better job, with the little boy constructing madder and madder hypotheticals where his mother wouldn’t love him, andthe mother refusing to give up. It’s not super-progressive genderwise though.


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