Whatever your religious inclinations, I think we need to address the elephant (or, um, rabbit) in the room: there is something outright absurd about the concept of the Easter Bunny. Of course, I like a good scavenger hunt as much as the next girl and I never say no to a chocolate egg, but the idea of a giant bunny hopping from yard to yard hiding candy in honor of the resurrection is taxing to even the wildest imagination.
And yet, what's life without a little irrationality — and what's Easter without a giant bunny lurking in your backyard in the dead of night, sugary sweets in hand? The Easter Bunny has become a cultural icon on par with Santa Claus, Big Foot, and the Loch Ness Monster — inexplicable, vaguely absurd, and utterly indispensable.
So, in honor of the one member of the animal kingdom to enter the realm of cultural iconography, and in the spirit of the holiday to come, let's celebrate the best bunnies literature has to offer. After all, if a bunny can bring choclatey love to countless children without ever being seen (or turned into a cheesy Disney move à la The Santa Claus), just imagine what a rabbit in the right authorial hands can do for a work of fiction.
Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
When discussing fictional rabbits, it would be inconceivable to begin without a nod to arguably the most famous of all fictional coneys: Lewis Carroll's White Rabbit. Without the White Rabbit, Alice would never have flung herself down into wonderland in the first place, and her entire incredible adventure would never have come to pass. We have the White Rabbit to thank for one of the most whimsical, wonderful, utterly original YA books in the history of literature, a book well worth a second look in the spirit of the approaching spring.
Watership Down by Richard Adams
The beloved classic Watership Down is so much more than simply one of the greatest young adult novels you'll ever come across: Watership Down is also the timeless tale of a few incredibly impressive rabbits fighting for a place to call their own. With incredible heart and remarkable aplomb, a few brave bunny souls set off on an epic quest to start anew and live in freedom and harmony. A finer tale of adventure and friendship is hard to find, and whether or not you've encountered these small and furry heroes in your past literary life, it's never too late to return to Watership Down.
The Rabbit Angstrom Tetralogy by John Updike
Robert Updike's Rabbit Angstrom tetralogy takes up the altogether human story of one distinctly American life. Updike's novels follow Rabbit from his glory days as a high school athlete through the Eiesnhower administration and subsequent decades of triumphs and tragedies that lay bare the power and the broken promises at the heart of the American dream. Rabbit Angstrom may not have fur, whiskers, or a basket full of candy, but more than any other rabbit to make this list Angstrom has endeared himself to millions and entered the realm of cultural iconography in his own right.
Bunnicula by Deborah and James Howe
Depending on how hard you laugh you may cry, but I can guarantee that you'll laugh if you pick up Deborah and James Howe's genre classic for a little light reading before bed. Bunnicula, the irreverent tale of a household pet who may or may not also be a blood-sucking demon, is the first book I ever remember provoking me to literal peals of laughter. If there's one bunny book you should consider required reading in advance of the big guy's arrival in your own backyard, make it Bunnicula.
Chocolat by Joanne Harris
With the immortal role of Vianne given new life by the mesmerizing Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp making the role of Roux his own, it's quite clear that Joanne Harris' Chocolat evolved quite a bit throughout its journey to the silver screen. What lovers of the cinematic version might not know is that the beloved Pontouf who comforts dear Anouk in the form of an invisible kangaroo throughout the film is in the original in fact a bunny of the finest sort. What difference could a bunny make? The answer to that immortal question lies only within the pages of this exceptional novel.
The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter-lovers will certainly remember babbity rabbity and her cackling stump from her first introduction in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. For true fans of the beloved Potter books, or species specific readers with a particular eye for bunny tales, The Tales of Beedle the Bard are an absolute must-read, if only for the charming, cunning, devious and darling tale of babbity rabbity and her cackling stump.
Mr. Rabbit and the Lovely Present by Charlotte Zolotow
Like sunshine on your shoulders or homemade ice cream, the joys of a truly exceptional children's book are nearly limitless, and Mr. Rabbit and the Lovely Present is quite simply one of the best there is. Beautifully illustrated and expertly composed, the story of Mr. Rabbit and the Lovely Present is both exquisitely simple and achingly beautiful, making it a must-read for literature lovers of all ages.
Ulysses by James Joyce
James Joyce's Ulysses is a work of fiction of such depth and range that it often takes up an entire course in its own right within the literature curriculum of liberal arts colleges. Joyce's modernist masterpiece is positively brimming with allusions, perhaps none as beguiling as the mysterious appearance of Brer Rabbit. With an outsize presence and impeccable timing, the place of the bunny in modern literature was all but secured with Ulysses, leaving readers with only the challenge of discovering exactly how this particular bunny fits in to the larger narrative. Happy hunting.
Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
The one and only Brer Rabbit also takes up residence within the pages of Ralph Ellison's unforgettable and illusory classic Invisible Man. The memorable introduction of a bunny into the life and times of the nameless narrator takes up only a brief portion of the novel as a whole, yet the cultural weight of the creature takes some time to fade, even as the action of the narrative marches on. For a nuanced consideration of one particular bunny's place in literary history, Invisible Man makes an excellent companion to Joyce's Ulysses, and a vital, intoxicating read in its own right.
The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo
Kate DiCamillo's extraordinary tale of a china rabbit who comes to life in a moment of utter desolation and sets off on a journey through time and space locates love securely within the realms of the inanimate and the animalian. This heartwarming and harrowing quest for family and friendship is all the more enticing for its fanciful touches, and a true gift to the fiction of bunnies.
A Bunny's Tale by Gloria Steinem
OK, you've got me — Gloria Steinem's A Bunny's Tale is not, technically speaking, literature. A Bunny's Tale is, however, one of the finest pieces of journalism I've ever come across, and an utterly unique representation of the rabbit in print. Taking the form of an exposé, Steinem's reportage from inside the Playboy Club not only helped shape second-wave feminism, but also gave rise to a whole new form of investigation journalism. As a daring new take on the bunny that breaks every available mold, Steinem's groundbreaking work is essential.
Image: Somewhere in the world/Flickr; Giphy