Rabbits are pure. Rabbits are simple. Rabbits have cute little tails, long floppy ears, and they bring chocolate at Easter.
I guess that’s why they are so used so often for heartbreak.
Your obvious example is the great Traumatizer of Child Readers, Watership Down. Images from the cartoon of trapped smooshed rabbits with red eyes still haunt my nightmares.
Then there’s Knuffle Bunny Free: the great Traumatizer of Parents. It’s the third in a trilogy of books… yes, pictures books, but I don’t care. The first two books are sweet, standard children’s book fare (with Mo Willems’ trademark clever wit and whimsy). A girl who is little, then in the next book slightly older, has adventures with her beloved stuffed bunny. Then in the third one she grows up and decides she’s too old for it, giving it away to another child on a plane. At the end, (spoiler alert) she is shown becoming a mom herself, giving the recovered bunny to her child.
Argh! My kids have read it to me just to watch me cry. Ugly cry. Ok, sob.
Then there are the books the “Velveteen Rabbit” and the much more recent “The Miraculous Journey of Edward Toulane,” both of which have a Toy Story-like arch in which the bunny is loved by a child and horribly lost… yadda sorrow, yadda despair. Eventually, they achieve self-actualization by getting a new owner or a becoming a real rabbit… but not before pages and pages of agony.
Then there’s Rabbit in Winnie the Pooh, who just wants to garden in peace but is always plagued by hopping tigers. Or Peter Rabbit, who gets stripped of his coat and almost eaten for having a few veggies. Or Alice’s White Rabbit, who exists in a state of perpetual crippling time anxiety.
You begin to wonder, do we just all have a sadistic streak when it comes to rabbits? We just really enjoy watching them suffer?
Perhaps we see ourselves as pure and good, but watching ourselves suffer is pretty tough, so instead we take on bunny surrogates?
Does it just make for really easy drama to put something so cute through something so hard?
In any case, yoga has a Rabbit pose which quite appropriately looks like a fetal position. When the world seems too much, when you’ve lost what you hold dear, get into your Rabbit pose: kneeling with your head down and back arched, grabbing your feet. Hold on tight and just hope for self-actualization.