The History of the “The Hunter and The Hare”

November 4th, 2012

“The Hunter and the Hare” always brings back fond memories for me. Whenever my family went to visit my grandparents, they used to read us stories from a book called “Slovenly Peter.” As a child, I always liked the pictures but never thought terribly hard about the content of the stories themselves. The book contained an assortment of different stories and rhymes about children that I always assumed  were a sort of generic children’s fairy tales.

About two years ago, I rediscovered my grandparent’s copy “Slovenly Peter” in a bookcase and eagerly drew it open to revisit the old stories I had almost forgotten about. But they weren’t quite the warm and fuzzy bedtime stories I remembered. These tales weren’t exactly concerned with today’s safety precautions, tender feelings or mental turmoil inside the heads of youngsters. In fact, the morals of these stories were about as subtle as getting slapped across the face with a live carp. For example, in the story of young Mary, if you play with matches (and neglect the advice of your wise feline friends) you will burn to a crisp and your two-faced, back-stabbing cats will steal your best hair ribbons right off your smoking pile of ashes. Or  if you suck your thumb, a man with long legs and a giant pair of scissors will bust into your house and cut off your thumbs (and you thought the Kool-Aid commercials were scary).

Upon further investigation, I found out that “Slovenly Peter” was actually one of the first children’s books, originally written in 1845. If you think these stories are harsh, evidently there was an even greater lack of children’s books at the time. The author, Heinreich Hoffman, observed this deficit and decided he would write some of his own to give as a gift for his three year old son. And in good Victorian Fashion, the lessons are burned into your brain in a highly effective fashion. They certainly worked for me, because I NEVER sucked my thumb and always listened to the advice of my cats.

So while I was thumbing through the pages of the book, I was fascinated by the stories but thought the pictures just didn’t do such wonderfully bizarre stories justice. In particular, “The Hunter and the Hare” sparked my imagination and I thought I just had to illustrate it. I won’t give away the ending, but the moral is definitely there in good ol’ carp in the face fashion. Go learn something!



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