This post is part of an occasional series called Finding God in Children’s Literature, in which I look at children’s books in light of the Bible and Sacred Tradition. All correlations between these books and the Christian faith are my own insights, unless otherwise noted. You may quote me or link to these posts, but please do not re-blog them or use these ideas as though they were your own. Thank you.
I wasn’t planning on posting anything today, but I want to get this post and tomorrow’s up before Ordinary Time begins.
Earlier this week, J watched the Goodtimes Video of “The Tale of Peter Rabbit and Benjamin Bunny” for the first time. My favorite line from that movie has always been this from Benjamin, “The proper way to get in is to climb down a pear tree.” I have quoted it numerous times with a pseudo-English accent. Considering my recent post on Peter Rabbit and the fall of man, I began to think about the quote more deeply. Suddenly, I was saying, “Oh, wow!” and running to get my copy of The Complete Adventures of Peter Rabbit.
A partridge in a pear tree
At Christmas day Mass, our pastor explained the meaning behind the verses of the carol “The 12 Days of Christmas.” Although this is disputed (ask my sister, who has a PhD in this area; see this interesting Wikipedia article as well), some say this song presented a secret code for recusant Catholics in Elizabethan England. (This theory is promoted here.) If you’ve heard this before, you know that the partridge in a pear tree is supposed to represent Christ and His Cross. So I asked myself, could Benjamin Bunny’s statement have anything to do with the Cross of Christ?
The answer: Yes!
The Cross is the true way to Paradise
Here is the context.
You’ll recall that Mr. McGregor’s garden can be seen as the Garden of Eden, or Paradise. Peter Rabbit lost his clothes in the garden. Mr. McGregor has used them for a scarecrow. Now Peter’s cousin Benjamin Bunny urges Peter to get them back. At the garden wall, Benjamin proclaims, “It spoils people’s clothes to squeeze under a gate; the proper way to get in is to climb down a pear tree.” And he proceeds to lead the way.
Perhaps squeezing under the gate can be taken as trying to enter Paradise by the wide gate that Christ warned us against (see Matthew 7:13). If we want to re-enter Paradise (i.e., get to Heaven), we must enter by way of the Cross.
That’s it! I will let you ponder this further and comment below. Even if the original 12 Days of Christmas song did not refer to Christ, the pear tree-Cross analogy would stand, as long as Beatrix Potter used it in that way. Of course, the Wikipedia article says this interpretation of the carol is 20th century. If that’s true, than my interpretation of Benjamin’s words is pure fiction. But if I didn’t ponder the Scriptures, even this discussion would not be likely to happen.
Tomorrow’s post is another in this series on allusions to the Bible. I’m certain that one was done on purpose.
7 thoughts on “Benjamin Bunny and the narrow gate”
This is wonderful. I’ll be looking forward eagerly to your next post. I can see I will be spending time with our Beatrix Potter books in the near future.
I love how you are looking for and seeing God in all you do. It is an inspiration. Nice “detective” work.
Thanks, Andrew. I’m glad you’re enjoying this series.
I like your insights. Carlos and Gemma recently enlisted the help of the neighbor girls to perform an abridged version on Peter Rabbit. It was much fun for them and for me and, like the sparrows in Peter Rabbit who “implore him to exert himself,” gave a real lift to my homeschooling day.
I loved your Christmas letter as usual and the blog photo of the boys in the park. Beautiful.
Welcome, “wabbitwoman.” Thanks for the encouragement. Yes, I am finding another use for all Dan’s photography, since it’s hard to make a decent income with it. Apparently, you can now buy a photo frame at Target with the boys’ slide picture on the front of the box. Too bad we probably only made $.30 on the deal!
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