Meanwhile, at Litro: the dark side of Beatrix Potter

My fortnightly column is up on Litro Magazine’s site! This week, I’m writing about the discovery of a new Beatrix Potter manuscript, The Tale of Kitty In Boots, and about how all of Potter’s books have a sinister side…


9 thoughts on “Meanwhile, at Litro: the dark side of Beatrix Potter

  1. Ah, how very timely! For World Book Day tomorrow at my younger son’s school, I was thinking of dressing him up as Squirrel Nutkin. The reason having more to do with the fact that I have a squirrel outfit from last year’s carnaval, rather than anything to do with the story. But as we reread the story in preparation for the day, I realised it’s quite a morality tale (his poor, torn tail!) and fits in very well with the constant teasing and annoying each other that my two sons engage in. Hmmm!
    But yes, I’ve often been struck by the realistic but nevertheless rather cruel insights into animal life…

  2. “There are some things that you ought not to fuck around with, and The Tale of Peter Rabbit is one of them.” Good line!
    My youngest daughter is a big fan of Peter Rabbit, but not the Peter Rabbit story, because she finds that too scary. Just Peter Rabbit. She has had a stuffed one since she was born and he has done everything with her for the past 10 years. And it’s because of her love for him that she doesn’t like the stories that come with him. She likes the pictures, though. She has a huge poster of Peter Rabbit with his family on her wall.
    Looking forward to The Tale of Kitty-in-Boots!

    1. Oh, bless her! That’s lovely. Honestly, I can completely see why children would find the actual stories too scary. There were a handful of them that I loved and adored, but a good many – especially the long ones, like The Tale of the Pie and the Patty-Pan – were just too much for me. I actually stopped reading The Tale of Mr. Tod halfway through, never to return!

      1. My other 2 kids are fine with the stories, but my youngest is more sensitive. She doesn’t like the Velveteen Rabbit story either, because of the fire at the end right before he gets turned into a real bunny.

      2. Sounds like me, although most of my memories of being upset have to do with films: I wept copiously at Aladdin, Disney’s Robin Hood, and Mr. Bean’s Holiday, amongst others. Books did make me upset, but only the obvious ones (Charlotte’s Web! Oh, how I cried.)

  3. Great post! I really enjoyed the strong, adult attitude you used, which I thought at first contrasted the children’s stories, but the more I read, the more I realized it was a clever juxtaposition of dark children’s stories!

    1. They *are* dark – some of it is mildly tongue-in-cheek, for sure, but very often the more you think about some of these books, the more upsetting they really are! (Not to say that they shouldn’t be marketed to children, though. Children love being scared. I think it reflects their reality.)

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