The Runaway Bunny - Mother/Bunny Love!

by Monica Friedman
(Tucson, AZ)

A two page spread from The Runaway Bunny

A two page spread from The Runaway Bunny

An enduring, classic tale of mother-bunny love.

It is assumed, in Margaret Wise Brown’s much beloved story, that the titular runaway bunny is too young for any degree of autonomy, that his mother is well-meaning rather than smothering, and that the small rabbit’s complaints, while potentially valid, are the easily smoothed over prickles of toddlerhood. But there we have it.

The little bunny wants to run away for reasons unexplained. He announces his intentions to his imaginative mother.

“If you run away,” said his mother, “I will run after you. For you are my little bunny.”

Thus begins the classic magician’s duel, in which the weapon is the imagination, and the victory goes to the one who most cleverly outmaneuvers the other’s transformation.

When young bunny threatens to transform into a fish, mother bunny counters with hip waders and a fishing rod. If young bunny becomes a rock on a mountain, mother will don her alpine gear and conquer the peak.

For every unique enchantment, there is a more powerful counterspell, uttered by the older and more experienced parent.

For adults and children alike, there is a comforting consistency to the story; no matter what the little bunny does, it will not deter his mother’s love or her insistence on looking out for him.

The mother must ultimately win this battle, but the child’s loss is also his gain. Safety and security, for the very young, are more important than freedom without forethought.

The illustrations cement the delightful nature of the story, for, while the text appears on two pages accompanied by generally exploratory illustrations, in most cases showing the rabbits thinking about their choices, the following two pages are clever and colorful realizations of the fantasy.

When the little bunny threatens to become a bird and his mother a tree, we see the resulting bunny-bird and bunny-tree, fated to come together in a flowery, wind-swept meadow. When they both insist they will join the circus, the reader is given a nosebleed view of the trapeze and high wire action.

The little bunny becomes a crocus in a hidden garden; the mother becomes the gardener that tends him. The little bunny becomes a little sailboat; the mother becomes the wind, so that she may blow him wherever she wants him to go.

At every turn, the mother asserts herself with loving insistence.

No matter what incarnation the little bunny chooses, his mother will always be there to guide, protect, and adore him.

In the logical conclusion of The Runaway Bunny, the little bunny realizes the futility of attempting to grow up too fast, cut the apron strings too soon, or escape his mother’s love.

“I might just as well stay where I am and be your little bunny,” he realizes, and the story ends with the beautiful image of the mother and her offspring in their cozy den, full of good things to eat: a safe and loving environment for an imaginative bunny to grow up.

Monica is an author. Visit her home page.

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