Christmas Pig 5: The Blue Bunny

Merry Christmas to all the Orthodox Christians celebrating the Nativity of the Incarnate Word of God, Jesus Christ!

I learned in time for this fifth post in my series on Christmas Pig that Oxford University Research Fellow Beatrice Groves, author of Literary Allusion in Harry Potter and a whole body of work on Rowling’s literary touchstones collected here, has written up her first thoughts on the Christmas Pig. It is a delightful and enlightening piece published at The Rowling Library in their December issue with the title, ‘Christmas Miracles in The Christmas Pig and Christmas Carol.’ As with her best writing, it goes well beyond the usual academic game of intertextual ‘Spot the Source’ to touch on the meaning and Christian content of Rowling’s latest book.

I was especially delighted by – and it is the reason I bring up the piece here – Professor Groves’ revelation, to me at least, of several bunny stories in the backdrop of Christmas Pig. I am embarrassed to admit, though I read aloud to my children every night for the better part of two decades, I have never opened Velveteen Rabbit. You’ll want to read Groves’ latest if you’re a fan or if you want to know one of the imaginative and literary points of reference for the Blue Bunny in Christmas Pig.

Today’s post in my series of Perennialist readings of Christmas Pig focuses almost exclusively on said Blue Bunny. I opined in the first post of this series as a kind of apologia or excuse for the in-depth reading I am attempting that Rowling’s latest is a kind of condensation and crystallization of everything she has written before, a paradigmatic work, if you will, that, if properly understood, opens up all her other stories. I think that, of all the symbolism and artistry woven into Christmas Pig, the story of the Blue Bunny is perhaps the richest and most revelatory of ‘what Rowling is about.’ What seems something of a throw-away character, one who can be, who in the story actually is, thrown out the window and forgotten, is perhaps, with Poem, Pretense, and Compass, the most important figure to ‘get right.’

The exegesis of this lapine symbolism comes in five parts: a review of the Blue Bunny passages in Christmas Pig, a discussion of Rowling’s comments about her daughter Mackenzie having found a blue bunny toy in the garden, a survey of rabbit imagery in previous Rowling stories, especially Troubled Blood, the parallel finding of Crusher, the nob-nailed boot, and finally a discussion of the artistry and Paschal meaning of the Blue Bunny in this Christmas tale. All that after the jump!

The Blue Bunny Passages in Christmas Pig

Before we jump into the background, parallels, and meaning of the Blue Bunny, it’s best to review the several appearances of this humble lost toy in Rowling’s latest. He appears in three places: in Mislaid, on the Wastes of the Unlamented, and he departs from the story-line in person if not in spirit at the Gates of the City of the Missed. One at a time, then.

In Mislaid, Jack and CP have succeeded in getting the tickets they need for a prompt allocation from a Princess action-figure and hysteric two-headed monster, inverted perumbrations of the Broken Angel and Blue Bunny to be met later. A Jack-in-the-Box explodes during that encounter. Our two heroes in a bit of a panic because it’s not at all clear how Jack, even in his Pajama Boy action figure persona, is going to get by the Loss Adjusters at Allocation. He doesn’t have a good story and CP is just realizing the boy isn’t a very good liar. Enter the Blue Bunny.

Two Loss Adjusters—a hole punch and a fork—were dragging a small and muddy Thing along between two lines, using the strong and spindly arms that so many Things seemed to grow in the Land of the Lost. Their prisoner was so filthy that it was almost impossible to see what he really was, although he seemed furry.

Please!” the prisoner squeaked. “Please give me a ticket, let me stay for an hour! Oh, please, please, give me a chance! Somebody might want me . . . Oh, let me try—”

As the Loss Adjusters drew level with Jack and the Christmas Pig, Jack saw what the sobbing prisoner was: a tiny blue cuddly bunny who looked as though he’d lain in mud for days if not weeks. Jack couldn’t understand why the Loss Adjusters were being such bullies to the poor bunny. The fork was poking him to force him along faster, and every time the bunny squealed in pain, the hole punch laughed, opening and shutting so that little circles of paper flew from her like confetti. They dragged their prisoner straight past two of the Loss Adjusters’ desks and headed toward what looked like a metal manhole cover in the floor, which Jack hadn’t noticed before.

You belong to the Loser, you do!” said the hole punch. “Now stop making a scene in front of all these decent Things what have got owners Up Top!”

Why are they treating him like that?” Jack whispered to the Christmas Pig, who merely shook his head, looking stricken. “Is it because he’s dirty?” Jack asked, thinking of grubby old DP. What if DP had been treated like that when he’d arrived in Mislaid?

Never mind the bunny,” said the Christmas Pig, suddenly looking determined. “This is your chance, Jack. Crawl.” “What?” said Jack. “Crawl past the Loss Adjusters, quickly, while everyone’s watching the bunny. I’ll meet you on the other side!”

Now Jack understood: everybody was transfixed by the prisoner and his captors, even the Loss Adjusters at the desks. Jack sank to his knees, crawled past the sapphire ring and through the gap between two desks, toward a group of Things that had already been Allocated, and were standing in front of the wooden door. These Things were far too interested in the fate of the prisoner to notice Jack had joined them. Standing up, he turned to watch what was happening to the bunny now.

Please!” he was squealing. “Oh, please, give me a chance—”

There are no chances for Things like you,” growled the fork as the bunny struggled. “Nobody wants you. Nobody cares you’re lost. You’re Surplus.” The hole punch dragged aside the heavy manhole cover, to reveal a dark hole. The bunny gave frightened squeaks as the fork prodded him closer and closer to the edge. At last, the little bunny slipped and fell. They heard his cry of terror growing fainter and fainter, as though he was sliding away down a chute, and then his scream was silenced by the hole punch slamming the metal lid back over the tunnel entrance.

The two Loss Adjusters straightened their black hats and hopped away, looking pleased with themselves. Slowly, all the Things who’d watched this horrible scene began to talk again. A plastic comb standing beside Jack whispered, “Wasn’t that dreadful?” He had an odd appearance, having one eye on each side of him, and was speaking from a gap between his prongs. “Yes,” said Jack, “it was horrible.” He felt as though one of them should have tried to help the bunny instead of watching him get thrown down the chute. He wished he’d done something, but then he might have been recognized as a living boy and perhaps made to leave the Land of the Lost before he could find DP. (71-73)

The Blue Bunny, though unknowingly and unwillingly, saves Jack and CP from capture by the Loss Adjusters and from deportation to the Loser, by acting as a diversion.

The toy appears again on The Wastes of the Unlamented. Jack and CP have traveled from Mislaid to Disposable, escaped in a Lunchbox to Bother-Its-Gone, and just managed to avoid capture by Crusher and the Mayor’s Capture Team. Poem and Pretense, their rescuers, have shown them the way to the Wastes via the tunnel dug by Silver Spoon and introduced them to Compass, the mad guide for Surplus in the No Man’s Land of the Land of the Lost. Enter once again, the Blue Bunny, now in the company of Broken Angel.

After the Broken Angel has shared her story, in which the Bunny appears as one true friend on the Wastes (144-146), we learn at last in chapter 33, ‘The Story of the Blue Bunny,’ the back-story to why he’d been thrown the chute in Mislaid.

Note that ‘The Prince’s Tale’ was chapter 33 of Deathly Hallows and that it was in it we learned the heroic suppressed tale of unrequited love a la Dante and Beatrice of Severus Snape. I think it’s important, too, that Rowling spells out in the title, as she didn’t for Broken Angel in the previous chapter, that this is ‘The Story.’ I will devote a post at the end of this series to Rowling’s notes about her art embedded in Christmas Pig but, for now, note that a character tells the story, a much better one than Compass’, but about which we have been cued to look for the moral.

And so they ran on. After a while, Jack noticed that the little blue bunny hopping along beside him was gazing up at him in admiration. “I’m very sorry to stare,” said Blue Bunny timidly, “but you’re so new and detailed! You must have been expensive! I haven’t seen any Thing as fine as you on the Wastes.” The blue bunny was a badly made little toy, with lopsided eyes and arms sewn on at odd angles.

What are you, if it’s not a rude question?” asked the toy now. “An action figure,” said Jack. “Pajama Boy, with the power of sleep and dreams. I’ve got my own cartoon,” he added, because the Christmas Pig was now talking to Broken Angel, so couldn’t hear. “How wonderful,” sighed Blue Bunny, his dark eyes shining. “But why are you on the Wastes? Surely your owner’s looking for you everywhere?”

He’s very spoiled,” said Jack, repeating what the Christmas Pig had told Specs. “He’s got lots of toys. He hardly noticed he’d lost us.” “That’s awful,” said the little bunny sadly. “I never thought a toy like you would be so badly treated. The likes of me don’t expect much, but you’re different. Your own cartoon! You’re famous!”

Didn’t your owner like you?” asked Jack, because he didn’t want more questions about his cartoon. He couldn’t really think of any adventures that involved sleeping.

No,” sighed Blue Bunny. “He won me in a raffle at the fair. Every ticket won a prize. My owner wanted the football, but he got me instead. He groaned when they handed me to him, then stuffed me in his pocket and took me home. He never played with me. I lay on a shelf until one day, one of his friends visited. The friend threw me out of the open window into a flower bed, as a joke.” The bunny’s voice broke. “Nobody looked for me. Nobody cared. I lay in the flower bed for weeks. It rained. I was so cold, so wet, but I had no choice but to lie in the mud and wait.”

I don’t understand,” said Jack.

I was stuck between two worlds, you see,” said Blue Bunny. “It happens sometimes, if it isn’t clear whether you’ve been thrown away or lost. I was stuck, belonging nowhere, frozen and dirty and waiting for my owner to remember me. If he believed me thrown away, I’d cease to exist. If he thought me lost, I would descend to the Land of the Lost. On Christmas Eve,” Blue Bunny went on, “the boy was packing a cuddly toy to take to his grandparents’ house and suddenly he remembered that I was lost, but he didn’t care or think of looking for me. At that moment, my fate was sealed. I fell straight down here and the Loss Adjusters seized me. They shoved me down the chute that comes out in the middle of the Wastes. I was alone and very frightened, but after a while, I met Broken Angel. We’ve been wandering the Wastes together ever since. It’s been nice to have somebody who understands how I feel. That might sound silly to a Thing like you—”

No, it doesn’t,” said Jack. “I had a friend who always understood me, but then I lost him and it ruined everything . . .” The Christmas Pig glanced back at Jack, an odd expression on his face. Afraid the Christmas Pig was about to tell him off for talking about DP, he changed the subject. “Perhaps you’ll be found by somebody else,” Jack told the blue bunny. Through the swirling snow, he could see patches of darkness where no stars shone, which he was sure were openings onto the Land of the Living.

No, I won’t,” sighed Blue Bunny. “My body’s still in the garden, covered in mud, barely visible. The family’s gone away for Christmas. There’s nobody to find me now. I belong to the Loser, but Broken Angel and I have agreed to face the end together, and that’s some comfort.” Jack felt very sorry and wished he could take the little blue bunny home to his own bedroom, but he was starting to learn the laws of the Land of the Lost and was sure this wouldn’t be allowed.

Before moving on to the Bunny’s discovery and decision at the Gates to the City of the Missed, I want to highlight the relationship he has with Broken Angel. We learned in the previous chapter that he acts as her guide and comfort in her distress; here the Bunny relates, though resigned to their fate in the Loser’s Lair, they mean to “face the end together, and that’s some comfort.”

Christmas Pig’s Blue Bunny and Broken Angel — and the Finale of Tale of Two Cities

When Professor Groves noted the debts owed and pointers to Tale of Two Cities in Pig, I thought of this pair of lost toys and the man and woman who face the guillotine together in the last chapter of Dickenstale of the French Revolution. The “supposed Evremonde” Sydney Carton and the never-named “seamstress” ride the tumbril with one another. It is worth a small diversion here to note a critical point that Dickens drops in a scene that borders on melodrama, one which Rowling has said alweays brings tears to her eyes.

The supposed Evremonde descends, and the seamstress is lifted out next after him. He has not relinqwuished her patient hand in getting out, but still holds it as he promised. He gently places her with her back to the whirring engine that constantly whirrs up and falls, and she looks into his face and thanks him.

‘But for you, dear stranger, I should not be so composed, for I am naturally a poor little thing, faint of heart; nor should I have been able to raise my thoughts to Him who was put to death, that we might have hope and comfort here to-day. I think you were sent to me by Heaven.’

‘Or you to me,’ says Sidney Carton. ‘Keep your eyes upon me, dear child, and mind no other object.’

The “hope and comfort” note I think are echoed in Blue Bunny’s comment to Jack about his relationship with Broken Angel and the role Hope plays in Christmas Pig. Carton as Evremonde sacrifices himself to save the husband of his beloved Lucie (Light) and his last words as he steps to the platform for his beheading nail down his identification with “Him who was put to death, that we might have hope and comfort:” ‘I am the Resurrection and the Life, saith the Lord, he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever believeth and liveth in me shall never die’ (John 11:25).

There is little that can be said here that has not already been said about Carton as Christ, but I’d note two things.

First, the pairing of Carton and the seamstress, her conversation with him at the precipice of death, and their parting kiss (“She kisses his lips; he kisses hers; they solemnly bless each other”) are markers of the union of soul and Spirit in death so common in Shakespearean psychomachian allegory (cf., Martin Lings’ discussion of Romeo and Juliet, Anthony and Cleopatra, and Othello). The love that protects them both from the horrors of the guillotine plaza and those gathered to jeer at them there is, as Carton tells the seamstress, heavenly: “there is no Time there, and no trouble there.” As the names suggest, Sydney was destined for this place – the ‘cart’ pointing to the tumbril and ‘Evremonde’ his transcendence of the world. Our souls, as with the seamstress, in conjunction with this Spirit share in their victory over death.

More important with respect to Rowling, as essential as it is to remember this scene at the Blue Bunny’s finding, is the association with God’s love and a mother:

The two stand in the fast-thinning throng of victims, but they speak as if they were alone. Eye to eye, voice to voice, hand to hand, heart to heart, these two children of the Universal Mother, else so wide apart and differing, have come together on the dark highway, to repair home together, and to rest in her bosom.

I do not know Dickens’ beliefs about the “Universal Mother” and “her bosom” but, whatever they may be, this passage, in Perennialist language, turns on the conjunction of contraries, self-and-other, in the Heart, the locus of the Logos-light in “every man that cometh into the world.” Rowling equates this Love with a mother’s unconditional and sacrificial love; her characters with “messianic features” (deRek) are suffused with it, making them invulnerable to spiritual death, the spells of Lord Voldemort or the grasp of the Loser. If there is a single ‘spot the source’ point of origin for this conceit of Rowling’s, I think it is, outside her own experiences consequent to the death of Anne Volant Rowling and as a mother herself, in the last pages of Tale of Two Cities and Dickens’ invocation there of the “Universal Mother” as supernatural Love.

Back to Christmas Pig.

The story-turn in Pig’s Part 5, the center of the tale’s nine parts, is bracketed by the entrance and exit of Broken Angel and Blue Bunny. Rowling drops the clear pointers to the story-finish here, the ‘meaning being in the middle,’ in the revelations about Holly that Bully Boss and the Bad Habits Gang provide, the appearance of the Loser with the capture of Broken Angel, and the finding of Blue Bunny. The plot seeds that will flower in the Loser’s Lair and the Epilogue are all planted here. More on that in the ring composition post-to-come on Christmas Pig. For this post, we need to focus on the Blue Bunny.

The Loser’s appearance and the consequent scramble has separated Jack and CP from Compass, the Bad Habits Gang, and the Bunny-Angel pair. Jack and CP reach their journey’s nadir at this point and they cross a critical threshold in their relationship. Jack, as will be discussed in as moment, has already been saved from Crusher by his relationship with CP (125-126). Here, though, Christmas Pig comforts the despairing Jack with a warming “hug” and “cuddle.” Jack changes Christmas Pig’s name to the affectionate ‘CP’ at this point, a clear marker of his finally accepting him as DP’s brother and replacement transference token for Mum and her love (161-162). Enter Blue Bunny.

The first service the Bunny renders his friends – after a wonderfully down-to-earth hug that soils their clothes – is acting as their Compass. He doesn’t know which direction to follow the train tracks to get to the City of the Missed but he does provide the clue that points the way. As Jack and CP head off, he rather sheepishly asks if he can join them. “D’you mind if I come?” asked Blue Bunny. “Of course not,” said Jack kindly, so the bunny hopped after them (166). Jack’s kindness here may be a sign of his change from the boy who in Mislaid wished he could have done something to help the Blue Bunny when the Loss Adjusters stuffed him down the Surplus chute.

Which brings us to the Gates of the City of the Missed and Blue Bunny’s apotheosis. This is, of course, the most important passage of the book for understanding the character I think is key to its right understanding so I reproduce it in full:

Jack, the Christmas Pig, and Blue Bunny crouched down out of sight behind another clump of thistles, the snow settling on their heads and shoulders as they stared at the gates, trying to think of a plan. “Perhaps,” Jack whispered, “if we wait until the train comes along, we can jump onto the back of it?” “It’ll be going too fast,” said the Christmas Pig. “You’d get injured.”

Wait—you’re trying to get in?” asked Blue Bunny in amazement. Jack nodded. “They’ll never let you!” said Blue Bunny. “We’re Surplus! We don’t belong in such a fine place as that! That’s where the Things that are truly missed go!”

There’s nothing very special about those gates,” said the Christmas Pig, ignoring the blue bunny. “They seem quite ordinary. It’s the Loss Adjusters who are the problem. They’ll grab us and hand us to the Loser the moment we show ourselves. If only we had a decoy.”

Do you just want to live in nice houses?” asked Blue Bunny. “Or is there another reason you want to get in?” “Yes,” said Jack, before the Christmas Pig could stop him. “Somebody I need’s in there. He’s called DP and he’s my favorite cuddly toy.”

For a long moment, Jack and Blue Bunny stared into each other’s eyes and then Blue Bunny let out a long sigh of amazement. “You’re a boy,” he whispered. “You’re real.” “He isn’t,” said the panic-stricken Christmas Pig. “He’s an action figure called—” “It’s all right, Pig,” said Blue Bunny, “I won’t tell anybody, I promise. You really came all the way into the Land of the Lost to find your favorite toy?” he asked Jack, who nodded. “Then I’ll be your decoy,” said Blue Bunny. “It would be an honor.”

And before either Jack or the Christmas Pig could stop him, the blue bunny scrambled out from their hiding place and gamboled right over to the Loss Adjusters, who all stopped marching up and down and stared at him. “Hello there!” said the Blue Bunny. “Please, could I come and live in your city?”

Don’t be stupid,” sneered the dagger, threatening to jab the bunny. Blue Bunny scampered away a short distance and tried again. “Please let me in! I can do tricks!” He tried to turn a somersault, but landed on his head, which crumpled his ears. The Loss Adjusters jeered, but they didn’t even bother to chase him away.

Just then, there were several loud bangs over their heads. Everybody—Jack and the Christmas Pig, Blue Bunny and the Loss Adjusters—looked up. It sounded as though a gigantic ball was bouncing across the high painted ceiling. This was the first time that Jack had heard a noise from the Land of the Living. There were very few finding holes over the Wastes of the Unlamented, but it so happened that one of them lay directly overhead.

Then, from a long, long way away, came a little girl’s voice. She had an accent Jack didn’t recognize. “My ball’s gone over the hedge! It’s in next door’s garden!” “Squeeze through and get it, then, Jeanie,” said a lady’s voice. Jack, the Christmas Pig, the Loss Adjusters, and Blue Bunny continued to stare up at the big hole in the wooden sky, across which footsteps now echoed. Then they heard the little girl’s voice again, louder and clearer than before. “It landed in a flower bed! I’m glad they’re not home.”

And then a golden shaft of light appeared and hit the little bunny, who stood transfixed, his mouth open, a wild hope gleaming in his dark eyes. “Mum!” said the girl’s voice. “I’ve found a bunny! A blue bunny in the flower bed!” The grubby blue bunny rose a few inches off the ground, tugged upward by the golden light. He looked around in amazement, clearly unable to believe what was happening.

Leave it where you found it, Jeanie!” said the mother far above them. “It’ll belong to one of the boys!” “It must have been here for ages and ages!” said the little girl’s voice. “It’s all covered in mud!”

Blue Bunny rose a little higher in the shaft of golden light. Now he was hanging in midair. The three Loss Adjusters who were supposed to be guarding the gate were all so astonished to see what was happening that they walked forward to get a better view of the hole above them, trying to catch a glimpse of the girl odd enough to like a muddy blue bunny.

“Mum, they’ve left him out here for weeks, they can’t care about him! Please can I—” “Jeanie, no, not if it belongs to one of the boys,” said the mother’s voice. Now the nutcracker, the nail file, and the dagger were standing right beneath the suspended bunny, clearly astounded that a Thing so dirty and badly made might have a chance of being found.

Jack, now,” whispered the Christmas Pig. “Run.” “But—” “It’s our only chance!” said the pig. “We can get through the gates while they’re watching the bunny!” So Jack got slowly to his feet, then dashed toward the glittering gates, and the Christmas Pig followed, holding his tummy. Still the bunny hung, suspended in golden light, between the Land of the Living and the Land of the Lost, and the Loss Adjusters stood openmouthed beneath him, gazing upward.

Please, Mum,” said the little girl’s voice. “Please let me keep him. We’ll wash him and show him to the boys and if they want him back, I’ll give him to them.”

They won’t want me back!” cried Blue Bunny in desperation. “Oh, take me, please take me, let me be yours!” But of course, neither the girl nor her mother could hear the bunny.

Look at his sweet little face, Mum!” said the girl. Jack heard a tiny clink behind him. The Christmas Pig had pushed open the golden gates. Jack slid through them, still looking back over his shoulder at the bunny. “Oh, all right,” came the mother’s voice, half-amused, half-exasperated. “I just hope he doesn’t clog up the washing machine!”

And with a sudden whoosh, Blue Bunny was whipped through the hole and out of the Land of the Lost, but not before waving a single muddy paw at Jack, a look of bewildered joy on his face (168-172).

Now that we’ve laid out the principal appearances of the Blue Bunny, it’s time to lay out why he is so important a figure. To get there, I’ll review what Rowling has said about the character, Rowling’s previous rabbit stories from her first work, Rabbit, to Troubled Blood, and the parallel “finding” to Blue Bunny’s in Christmas Pig, that of Crusher the hob-nailed boot.

The Real-Life Finding of the Blue Bunny and Rowling’s Treasured Token

Rowling’s last sentence on her Acknowledgments page is “All that remains to say that any resemblance between the Things in these pages and the Things our [Murray] family may have lost or found is, of course, entirely intentional” (273). This clever twist, substituting “intentional” for “accidental” or “meaningless,” is rich because it points to there having been real-life models for characters in the story. Rowling has repeatedly told the story of the real toy pigs her son owned, the first beloved pig and the replacement he found and adopted. She has also in a New York Times piece published on Western Christmas Eve admitted that the hilarious pair of diamond earrings we meet in Mislaid and see again in the City of the Missed are earrings she lost herself years ago and found the day she sent off the Pig manuscript for publication.

Most relevant to this post is that her daughter Mackenzie Jean Murray found a soiled blue bunny toy in the garden. As Rowling explained to children participating in a Scholastic sponsored chat about Christmas Pig:

The Blue Bunny was also inspired by a real life incident in my family. My youngest daughter, she found a muddy little blue bunny in the flower bed that had obviously been there for years. And just like the mother in the story, I said, ‘It will break the washing machine if we put that bunny in the washing machine.’ She really begged me to keep it and she still has that blue bunny which must have been dropped by a child in the garden a long time ago but we managed to clean Blue Bunny up pretty well. So that was also inspired by something that happened in my family. (Thanks to Nick Jeffery for the link and time, ~7:50)

I posted this Scholastic discussion here at HogwartsProfessor but did not listen to it. I owe this discovery to Beatrice Groves, who pointed out two things about it. The first is that Rowling has for the first time inserted herself into one of her published stories, something she easily could have done in the 2012 Olympics opening in Lethal White. Next, is that ‘Jeanie’ is the story name she uses for her daughter Mackenzie Jean.

Professor Groves has promised me she will be writing her interpretation of these finds she made. Mine are that we have to add ‘Jeannie’ to our list of ‘Good Guys Named John’ in Rowling’s work as it is the girl’s maternal care for the abandoned, dirty toy doll that saves Blue Bunny and Jack and CP who are able, thanks to the salvific diversion, to sneak inside the Gates.

I’d go so far, too, as to admit I think there is a Logos note being sounded here as well. Rowling’s voice, after all, is the voice or Word of the Creator with respect to this tale, speech from Up There if you will, which explains how those Down Below hear it as a “strange accent.” Jeannie’s love for the Blue Bunny and her begging her Mum to let her save him is the otherworldly love of a child in reflection of a mother’s unconditional love. “Kids are strange,” a Loss Adjuster says about Jeanie’s affection – and he’s right, sad to say. They aren’t like jaded grown-ups in this capacity to love.

If you doubt that Rowling thinks of plush toys as tokens of a mother’s love, read the introductory paragraph of her New York Times piece on Christmas Pig, ‘The Magic of Things.’

I own a cuddly tortoise sewn by my mother, which she gave me when I was 7. It has a floral shell, a red underbelly and black felt eyes. Even though I’m notoriously prone to losing things, I’ve managed to keep hold of that tortoise through sundry house moves and even changes of country. My mother died over 30 years ago, so I’ve now lived more of my life without her than with her. I find more comfort in that tortoise than I do in photographs of her, which are now so faded and dated, and emphasize how long she’s been gone. What consoles me is the permanence of the object she made — its unchanging nature, its stolid three-dimensional reality. I’d give up many of my possessions to keep that tortoise, the few exceptions being things that have their own allusive power, like my wedding ring.

Only the symbol of Rowling’s marriage and, in that, of her own motherhood and love of children, ranks with the token she has of her mother’s love for her, a “consoling” item of “unchanging” “reality” she has held close since 1972, fifty years now. Keep this last in mind as we explore the meaning of the Blue Bunny and the consequences of his discovery that Jack is “real.”

Rowling’s Rabbit Symbolism

As noted, Rowling’s first book, written when she was a young child herself, was called Rabbit. I didn’t make anything of that until Troubled Blood was published and there was sufficient mention of bunnies and of characters who had lapine features and tastes to cause Ian Spence, Jungian Christophobe, to write an article about it, ‘The Rabbit as Psychopomp: Darkness and light in J.K. Rowling’s Troubled Blood.’ His interpretation of the symbolism is comically restricted by his disdain for everything traditional and Christian but, hats off, he was the first to spot the rabbit pattern and its specific instances.

  • “Margot’s daughter Anna hides her photographs of her missing mother in her pajama case, which is in itself, a toy rabbit.”
  • Oonaugh Kennedy, “former Playboy Bunny (now retired vicar) happens to have buck teeth. She also likes a nice cappuccino along with some carrot cake.”
  • Deborah and Samhain Athorn are “a strange mother and son duo with ‘massive’ ears” and “a definite underbite,” in contrast with Oonaugh’s buck teeth.

Spence ties himself into a knot of Jungian dark and light pairings but overlooks the relatively obvious Paschal symbolism of rabbits. There’s a reason chocolate makers sell millions of bunnies before Easter. Spence’s finds make sense in terms of this commonplace correspondence between lapine fecundity — can you say “abundant life”? — and the celebration of Life’s victory over Death at Christ’s resurrection and believers’ subsequent eternal life by becoming members of His Mystical Body.

  • Oonaugh and Margot — Una and the Red Knight ‘Pearl’ of Spenser’s Faerie Queen — play the parts of Playboy Bunnies as a deliberate bit of ego-sacrificing role play to reinvent and elevate themselves in a misogynist culture. As Oonaugh explained to Robin and Cormoran:

“Don’t think Margot and I didn’t know exactly what we were doin,’ corseted up with bunny ears on our heads. What you maybe don’t realize is a woman couldn’t get a mortgage in dose days without a man co-signing the forms. Same with credit cards. I squandered my money at first, but I learned better, learned from Margot. I got smart, I started saving. I ended up buying my own flat with cash. Middle-class gorls, with their mammies and daddies paying their way, they could afford to burn their bras and have hairy armpits. Margot and I, we did what we had to” (264-265). 

  • Oonaugh is the Una of Rowling’s recreation of Faerie Queen in playing the Spirit in her and Red Knight’s psychomachia of soul-and-Spirit. She searches for him when he is deceived into abandoning her and remains faithful and supportive through his several falls, spiritual purification, and final victory over the dragon. Rowling’s Oonaugh likewise never forgets Margot but “spent ten years working with domestic abuse survivors” (267) in her Johannine spirituality contra the authoritarian regime; she is the most openly anti-papist speaker of the novel. Her work as ordained priest to those literally beaten down by men confirmsd what Spence found about the meaning of her name in Gaelic, “lamb” a token of Christ, the “lamb of God.” He neglects the meaning of Una, sadly, not so much ‘one’ as ‘unity’ and ‘correspondence’ via the Logos creating all things.
  • Hats off to Spence, though, for picking up the Athorns’ “massive ears” and “underbite,” and the lapine reflection of their being as shy and simple as they are via Fragile X. That’s a great catch. The Christian symbolism explains why they are guardians of the Pearl’s body in its cement oyster in a room with a cross as its primary decoration, namely, as Paschal symbols they are witnesses outside-of-time who hold the solution to the mystery of life and death, in this book the secret of Margot Bamborough’s disappearance and present existence.
  • Anna’s “toy rabbit” pajama case in which she kept pictures of her mother in secret from her Petrine father, the man most responsible for her death because he refused to speak with Margot the weeks before her disappearance, also partakes of this Paschal meaning. Margot survived her death and became present to her daughter not only in dreams but through the images, a kind of iconography, surreptitiously given Anna by her step-mother.

My favorite bit of rabbit symbolism and the one that nails down the Paschal content of bunnies in Rowling’s work is Strike’s visit to Cornwall on Easter weekend for the “floating” of his Aunt Joan’s ashes from the side of the Jowanet, his Uncle Ted’s boat. He was specifically told by his sister Lucy to bring chocolate eggs for each of her three sons; Cormoran opted instead for “three chocolate hedgehogs (‘Woodland Friends’) because they were relatively compact” (657). He breaks one on the train — and deliberately gives this hedgehog to his least favorite nephew, Luke. They’re a little confused by their uncle’s choice:

Breakfast wasn’t a particularly relaxing affair. The table was so crowded with Easter eggs, it was like being in some cartoonish nest. Strike ate off a plate on his lap. Lucy had bought Strike and Ted an egg each, and the detective now gathered that he should have bought his sister one, as well. All three boys had tottering piles.

“What’s a hedgehog got to do with Easter?” Adam asked Strike, holding up his uncle’s offering.

“Eastertime’s spring, isn’t it?” said Ted, from the end of the table. “It’s when hibernating animals wake up.”

“Mine’s all broken,” said Luke, shaking the box.

“That’s a shame,” said Strike, and Lucy shot him a sharp look (664).

Obviously there are no rabbits here, only eggs and hedgehogs. The egg and bunny symbolism of life and Christ’s victory over death are in parallel, however — the egg corresponds with the hidden life in Christ’s tomb that bursts forth on Easter as mysteriously and undeniably as a chick doers from its shell. I have written at some length about the spiritual meaning of chocolate in the UK and Rowling’s writing because of his association with Quakers and that sect’s “inner light” soteriology, cf. Troubled Blood: The Secret of Rowntree. Strike does not ‘get’ any of this symbolism or meaning, hence his use of chocolates as a token-gift for Robin at Christmas and his indifference to the chocolate gifts he was instructed by his sister to bring at Easter. Despite Uncle Ted’s best effort, hedgehogs are a symbolic non-starter for Easter.

Which makes it, of course, a perfect fit for Strike, captain of Team Rational and cheerleader for the Skeptic World Cup representatives from Cornwall. He despises astrology because correspondences “as above, so below” are ridiculous even dangerous nonsense to him, hence his struggle to deal consciously with the many “coincidences” his sub-conscious mind picks up throughout the book. Symbols of life, too, be they eggs or those rapidly reproducing rabbits, are opaque to him because of the painful associations he has with the idea of having children himself, pain he has courtesy of his own “accidental” existence and difficult childhood and of his experience with supposedly pregnant Charlotte. Strike seems clueless about all this.

The funny thing, though, is that his Easter in Cornwall has him raise Charlotte from the dead after she has spent Holy Saturday, in her words, “in hell” (662). If you’ve read Part 1 of this series of Perennialist readings of Christmas Pig, in which I lay out the importance of the names John and Peter in Rowling’s writing, this will make a lot more sense. Strike has been celebrating a singularly secular Easter until he gets on the Jowanet, Cornish for ‘Joan,’ and takes part in the ceremony or ritual of spreading his Aunt Joan’s ashes over the water, the universal spiritual solvent in Troubled Blood, the series nigredo. He is moved despite himself, finding Ted’s deposit of the floating, soluble urn and the tossing of a rose in memory of his Aunt “affecting, and strangely noble” (666).

Charlotte has been texting him, however, with notes all but saying she is committing suicide and he realizes on reaching land that he must intervene. He has to penetrate the cluelessness of the phone receptionist at Symond’s House but succeeds in the end in getting them to check her room and then to search for her. Charlotte is raised from the dead.

Strike, clueless as he certainly is consciously of Christian symbolism, acts out a Passion Play for Easter. Joan, the Jowanet, the alchemical rose, and the sentiments of eternal memory if not eternal life all afloat in her burial at sea are tokens of Johannine spirituality. Charlotte in contrast is imprisoned in the “hell” of Symond’s House, “a residential psychiatric clinic in Kent,” whose name, as in the St Peter’s Nursing Home where Robin is met by Luca Ricci, the Lucifer of the novel, is all about Petrine anti-spirituality. ‘Symound’ is the spelling for ‘Simon Peter’ used by Wyecliffe according to the Oxford Dictionary of English Surnames that Rowling uses as her reference text (cf. Reaney 410). John trumps Peter once again — and Strike is the agent of this selfless love; he tells Charlotte in the penultimate chapter that he would have done the same for anyone (907).

Though no chocolate bunnies are mentioned in the text, I think it is a given that we are meant to think of them when confronted with Strike’s choice of hedgehogs over eggs. She has her detective make this choice because it highlights both his cluelessness about conscious spiritual life and, at least as important, the native loving reflex, his “saving people thing” that he has from his experience and the example of his mother’s love, specifically with respect to her adoption of Shanker. The Paschal meaning of Troubled Blood and its several bunny rabbit notes are all signs pointing to the meaning of the Blue Bunny in Christmas Pig.

The Finding of Crusher

In the anagogical section of Part 3 of this series, Christmas Pig: The Quadrigal Reading, I explained that, when Jack and the Pig are trapped by the Crusher in Bother-Its-Gone, it is thoughts of his mother’s love and his connection to this love via his toy pig that saves him from the murderous hob-nailed boot:

The boot came hopping nearer, and he was soon so close that Jack could see how two of his shoelace holes had become cruel little eyes. As the nails in his sole glinted in the moonlight, Jack thought suddenly of Mum. If he were stamped on and broken by Crusher, he’d never see her again. Without realizing what he was doing, Jack reached out and grabbed the Christmas Pig’s trotter.

“Wait!” the Christmas Pig begged Crusher, gripping Jack’s hand in return (125).

CP’s argument that Crusher needs to wait on “The thing that will change everything” delays the Loss Adjuster who, alone among his fellows, really doesn’t think about Up There or his chances of being found one day. CP’s Hail Mary version of something like Hope distracts the killer boot just long enough for “a shaft of golden light” to fall “from the sky above” and for this “spotlight” or “golden column” to drag him quite unwillingly “upward toward the Land of the Living” (125-126). Jack and CP are saved here at least as much as Crusher, the only lost Thing who resists the Light.

This and Blue Bunny’s experience in front of the Gates of the City of the Missed are the only two “findings” in Christmas Pig besides the finale in the Loser’s Lair. Both “saves” involve mother’s love, the reciprocal, exteriorized love of a child for a toy, and the appearance of salvific and sanctifying light through a Finding Hole against all expectations. Their simultaneous cause-effect relationship points quite strongly to the equation of the spiritual Heart, the Logos love and light of the Gospel of St John’s Prologue (and the the Beloved Disciple’s First Epistle) with a mother’s self-less, sacrificial, and uncalculating love. Harry Potter incarnates this love in the Hogwarts Saga and it is the power Voldemort knows nothing about, the Dark Lord’s mother having died in child-birth, and deliberately and disdainfully neglects to learn.

I understand that these Perennialist readings of Christmas Pig are very long posts. I ‘get’ that findings like this can get lost (!) as we F-scan and scroll down the page to get to the meat or heart of the argument or just to reach the end and head off to the next reading on the internet. I first read about how online-reading differs from book study in The Shallows by Nicholas Carr and it was hard to miss that my own reading had changed into exactly the skimming and scanning he described much too often, something Carr discovered was demonstrated by eye-movement research, rather than attentive interpretation and retention.

Knowing that rather leaves me at a loss about how to highlight this point. I’ll risk hyperbole.

The principal discovery or revelation in Christmas Pig for this reader, something akin in my mind to literary alchemy, ring composition, and psychomachia in importance with respect to grasping the artistry and meaning of Rowling’s work, is her use of maternal love as a symbol of our metaphysical origin in God’s Love, the Logos, our hope of victory over death. This selfless, sacrificial, unconditional love, typical of that between mother and child, is tied in Rowling’s work, from Philosopher’s Stone to Christmas Pig, with symbols of Christ and triumph over evil and over death. By “tied” I mean it generates these things, just as Jack’s thoughts of his Mum and reaching out to CP as the touchstone of that love create by iconological correspondence the Johannine light breaking through the finding hole in Bother-Its-Gone that saves the boy and his toy from certain death.

The Boy Who Lived, of course, is protected by his mother’s love and sacrificial death from Voldemort’s death curse in the Godric’s Hollow Potter home. Harry’s love for his parents moves him to pursue the Philosopher’s Stone in his first year at Hogwarts – and it is the maternal love that suffuses him so entirely that it burns Quirreldemort as he attempts to kill the boy before the Mirror of Erised which saves him again. His mother appears to him in the Goblet series pivot and in the Hallows finale in the Forbidden Forest walk to his own sacrificial death with similar effects with respect to Christian symbolism – the Stone, the Phoenix Song cage-generation, and the Via Dolorosa markers – and Harry’s rising from certain death or something like death against all odds.

Mum is not so much in visible evidence in the other four books that she is in the series axis of Stone, Goblet, and Hallows, but Harry’s taking the part of the Logos Heart in the soul triptych in those novels, his “saving people thing,” is the exteriorization of his mother’s love, of which love he is the living symbol. As Dumbledore insists over the boy’s objection, this is his unique power and one that the Dark Lord “knows not.”

Re-read the opening of the Hallows dialogue between Harry and the Dark Lord in the Great Hall as they circle each other in their duel to the death. Harry mentions his mother’s three appearances in Stone, Goblet, and Hallows and that it was his intentional doing “what my mother did” that protects everyone fighting Voldemort (738). Poor Tom Riddle, Jr., of course, who never knew a mother’s love, still doesn’t understand; he derides “Dumbledore’s favorite solution, love, which he claimed conquered death” which power “did not prevent me from stamping out your Mudblood mother like a cockroach, Potter” (739).

The “life and light” that “blazed” in the Great Hall after Harry’s victory, the Paschal sunrise at death’s symbolic and salvific death, is the “life and light” of the world, the Johannine Logos. “In [the Logos] was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in the darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not” (John 1:4-5). Maternal love, the purest correspondent, symbol, and vehicle of God’s love in human experience, in Rowling’s work is life-saving and death-destroying when a character identifies with it entirely, to the point of the “accidental” ego-self’s extinction.

Here is not the place for a full exposition of this idea but the place of mother’s love (and its absence) in Harry Potter, Casual Vacancy, the Cormoran Strike mysteries, and the Fantastic Beasts franchise is a project for the New Year. For now, though, we can focus on its place in Christmas Pig and specifically in grasping the Blue Bunny’s role in the story.

In my last rabbit-hole digression before talking about the meaning of the Blue Bunny and the lapine symbolism in Rowling’s work, note how Jack’s Mum relates to hope in his mind. When he lost DP at the beach and his father is making noises about leaving without the beloved toy, it is Judy Jones who “kept telling [Jack] not to give up hope” (3). It is Hope the lost Thing that saves Jack and CP, of course, in the Palace of Power and all the Surplus facing death in the Loser’s Lair when Jack re-members the liberating power of hope.

That we are meant to associate this power with the love of Jack’s mother is evident in Jack’s return to the Land of the Living at the base of the World Axis-Christmas Tree. “A distant voice was calling his name, a voice he knew. ‘Hope?’ he murmured. A door opened” and his mother enters, frantic with a mother’s other-worldly love and fears she had lost her only son (265).

Which brings us at last to the exegesis of the Blue Bunny passages in Christmas Pig, in whose finding hope has a special place. “And then a golden shaft of light appeared and hit the little bunny, who stood transfixed, his mouth open, a wild hope gleaming in his dark eyes” (171). “Oh, all right,” came the mother’s voice, half-amused, half-exasperated. “I just hope he doesn’t clog up the washing machine!” (172).

The Meaning of the Blue Bunny in The Christmas Pig

The Blue Bunny appears in three parts of the story: Mislaid and the Wastes of the Unlamented before his finding at the Gates of the City of the Missed.

  • The Blue Bunny in Mislaid

His place in the story is evident from his his first appearance detailed above in which he acts as a diversion quite unintentionally. Call it Chekhov’s Gun, fore-shadowing, or perumbration, the Bunny’s pathetic resistance to being forced down the Surplus chute in Mislaid is a pointer to the role he will play at the Gates. Jack is able to crawl past Mislaid’s Loss Adjusters at the Allocation tables and enter the Land of the Lost because of everyone’s watching the Bunny’s agony.

Note that this is the second diversion of Jack and CP’s brief time in Mislaid. The first, I think, points to the meaning of the Blue Bunny.

At that moment, a jack-in-the-box burst open unexpectedly, which caused a lot of the toy’s nearby to scream with fright. Jack was glad of this because it meant he couldn’t hear all the embarrassing things the Christmas Pig was telling the plastic princess. Soon, the Christmas Pig was walking back toward him holding two green tickets instead of blue. Over the Christmas Pig’s shoulder, Jack saw the two-headed monster blowing him kisses. He felt his face burning and turned away (66).

There’s a lot to unpack there; I noted in the second post of this series the link between the “plastic princess” and her inverse reflection in Broken Angel and that “two-headed monster” I think may be a comic representation of the Loser, believe it or not, in a fun-house ring comp mirror. The important and more relevant one is the “jack-in-the-box.”

You’ll note that our story is that of a young boy named Jack who willingly is “shrunk” or contracted from his natural form into a sub-creation, a world of much smaller things somehow ‘beneath’ the Land of the Living “Up There.” Jack, voluntary as his mission is, is trapped in the box of the Land of the Lost with no escape plan; he intends to save DP but, as the only exit from the Land of the Lost is being “found” Up There and his ability to leave as in entering is restricted to the Night of Miracles and Lost Causes, our Pajama Boy Jack is a prisoner much akin to the toy jack-in-the-box. Rowling puts down this marker that his escape will be unexpected, sudden, and a relief to Jack in the scene just before we meet the Blue Bunny.

Jack’s response to seeing the Blue Bunny mistreated and shoved down the chute, grateful as he is for the diversion, is telling. He feels no little empathy for the abused doll and wishes he could have helped:

The two Loss Adjusters straightened their black hats and hopped away, looking pleased with themselves. Slowly, all the Things who’d watched this horrible scene began to talk again. A plastic comb standing beside Jack whispered, “Wasn’t that dreadful?” He had an odd appearance, having one eye on each side of him, and was speaking from a gap between his prongs. “Yes,” said Jack, “it was horrible.” He felt as though one of them should have tried to help the bunny instead of watching him get thrown down the chute. He wished he’d done something, but then he might have been recognized as a living boy and perhaps made to leave the Land of the Lost before he could find DP (73).

This first note of empathy, love for an other or at least identification with someone else’s pain as if it were one’s own, is the beginning of Jack’s transformation from the boy who tried to pull off CP’s head to the savior of all Things in the Loser’s Lair. But Jack doesn’t act here; he will not risk exposure and sacrifice lest his mission to get what he wants not succeed. Jack is very much still in the box, his confinement in his ego concerns, one from which he will only be able to explode after seeing and imitating the example of the Blue Bunny’s sacrificial love.

  • The Blue Bunny on the Wastes of the Unlamented

The Blue Bunny in Mislaid is anything but heroic, however helpful his pathetic resistance was to Jack in escaping Allocation examination. For the Bunny’s change we need to go to the telling of his story on the Wastes, an account detailed above. I think we need to note here that he describes himself as a Thing “stuck between two worlds” and one who was thrown out a window into a “flower-bed,” his owner’s “garden” in UK parlance and what Jeannie calls it, what we in the US would call a “yard.”

In the chapter, ‘The Story of the Blue Bunny,’ the dirty toy marvels at Jack with something like adoration. “I’m very sorry to stare,” said Blue Bunny timidly, “but you’re so new and detailed! You must have been expensive! I haven’t seen any Thing as fine as you on the Wastes” (147). He eventually shares the story of his relationship with the boy owner Up There, how he was unwanted from the start, defenestrated and forgotten, “stuck between two worlds,” and, on Christmas Eve, recalled, dismissed, and dropped into the Land of the Lost where Jack and CP witnessed his exit from Mislaid down the Surplus chute.

The parallel with DP’s exit out a window is important, if only in highlighting the difference between Jack’s reaction and the boy who owned Blue Bunny. That is critical in understanding the Bunny’s wonder when he realizes Jack is a Living Boy come to rescue his favorite toy. As interesting, though, is his being a liminal figure trapped between worlds, a status he shared with Broken Angel and with Jack. I think he is in this also a figure of Every Man or Humanity.

That may seem a stretch, but I don’t doubt that Christians of a different era, any time other our own in fact, would find that reading an obscure allegorical ‘reach.’ The Blue Bunny, as a rabbit a traditional symbol of Easter, is represented as a creature who has literally fallen from a high place into a garden. He is lost and “stuck between two worlds,” the Land of the Living and of the Lost, just as post-lapsarian mankind was “lost” outside the Garden of Eden before the appearance of a life-redeeming sacrificial savior of two-natures, also living simultaneously in two worlds, the Logos-Christ remaining the fabric of reality and cause of everything existent even during his incarnation on earth as Man. The Blue Bunny, in more ways than one resonant with Dobby the house-elf, is waiting on the messiah who will act as his means of liberation.

Which brings us to the Blue Bunny’s finding at the Gates of the City of the Missed.

  • The Blue Bunny’s Finding

D’you mind if I come?” asked Blue Bunny. “Of course not,” said Jack kindly, so the bunny hopped after them (166). I noted above that this decision of Jack’s to allow the adoring Bunny to join them demonstrates that his empathy for the toy in Mislaid was authentic. It proves to be essential for Jack’s escape from his soul and spirit ‘box.’ The Bunny had told Jack at their first meeting:

My body’s still in the garden, covered in mud, barely visible. The family’s gone away for Christmas. There’s nobody to find me now. I belong to the Loser, but Broken Angel and I have agreed to face the end together, and that’s some comfort (149).

The Bunny has lost this sole comfort because he was separated from Broken Angel in the chaos following the appearance of the Loser. He had been looking forward to a death akin to Carton’s with the seamstress in Tale of Two Cities but now he is alone except for Jack. Unknown to the Bunny, Jack had tried but failed to save Broken Angel from the Loser. He attaches himself to the Pajama Boy-Christmas Pig mission on their journey to find DP in the City of the Missed.

At the Gates of this city, Blue Bunny realizes what no other Thing in the Land of the Lost has, namely, that Jack is a “living boy” who came into the Land of the Lost to save his favorite toy. Only those present in the Palace of Power deliberations, Santa, and Compass share this knowledge until Jack shares it with the doomed Surplus in the Loser’s Lair to generate hope in their hearts.

Do you just want to live in nice houses?” asked Blue Bunny. “Or is there another reason you want to get in?”

Yes,” said Jack, before the Christmas Pig could stop him. “Somebody I need’s in there. He’s called DP and he’s my favorite cuddly toy.”

For a long moment, Jack and Blue Bunny stared into each other’s eyes and then Blue Bunny let out a long sigh of amazement.

You’re a boy,” he whispered. “You’re real.”

He isn’t,” said the panic-stricken Christmas Pig. “He’s an action figure called—”

It’s all right, Pig,” said Blue Bunny, “I won’t tell anybody, I promise. You really came all the way into the Land of the Lost to find your favorite toy?” he asked Jack, who nodded.

Then I’ll be your decoy,” said Blue Bunny. “It would be an honor” (169).

The Bunny’s recognition here of Jack as a messiah, sacrificial love incarnate, having descended into existence as a Thing himself from Up There where he was a source of the love that “alivens” objects, is one of, if not the most moving event in Christmas Pig. Note the words he uses: “You’re real.”

Rowling has used the word “real” twice before as a marker of reality transcending what we experience in conventional time and space, the sensible world. The first was in what she described as the “key” to the Harry Potter series, “lines I waited seventeen years to write” (Cruz), the end of the Potter-Dumbledore dialogue at King’s Cross:

Tell me one last thing,” said Harry. Is this real? Or has this been happening inside my head?”

Dumbledore beamed at him, and his voice sounded loud and strong in Harry’s ears though the bright mist was descending again, obscuring his figure.

Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” (Hallows 723)

In a Troubled Blood passage meant to echo that dialogue, with “head” and “backside” reflecting the characters inverted grasp of “reality,” Robin and Strike talk astrology:

You’re being affected!” she said. “Everyone knows their star sign. Don’t pretend to be above it.”

Strike grinned reluctantly, took a large drag on his cigarette, exhaled, then said, “Sagittarius, Scorpio rising, with the sun in the first house.”

You’re –” Robin began to laugh. “Did you just pull that out of your backside, or is it real?”

Of course, it’s not fucking real,” said Strike. “None of it’s real, is it?” (Blood 242, highlighting in original).

The Bunny’s simple declaration, “You’re real,” i.e., “from Up There,” the greater reality of the Land of the Living in which Things have their awakening in the love of their owners, clarifies these other usages. Dumbledore shares his wisdom with Harry that the maternal love which saved him, first at Godric’s Hollow and then in the Forest, is the metaphysical sub-stance beneath, behind, and within all other reality. Strike gives Robin a dose of his skeptical ignorance and nominalist first principle that nothing is real but surface appearance subject to measurement and physical sensation, mental grasp of all things being consequent to that.

Christmas Pig‘s “real” moment acts as a key to these others, one evident in the Bunny’s response to the revelation of Jack’s greater ontological status. He does a Dobby, offering to die for Jack as Jack has done in his descent into the Land of the Lost for DP, a surrender of self to near certain death in being given to the Loser he considers an “honor.” He acts spontaneously and selflessly as a “decoy,” a saving replacement in other words, for the “living boy” as Dobby did for the “Boy Who Lived.” The pathetic distraction that saved the DP rescue mission in Mislaid despite himself, crying out in desperation for his own existence, has metamorphized consequent to his experience with Broken Angel and in Jack’s example, into a heroic decoy that allows Jack and CP to enter the City of the Missed.

The Blue Bunny makes out better than the House-elf, too, and this is the key event of the book and the best evidence since the death of Lily Potter, Harry’s defeat of Quirrell, and the demise of the Dark Lord that mother’s love is Rowling’s default symbolism for Christian love in her writing. The Bunny’s choice to act as decoy, his decision to die to his ego-self, generates the life saving appearance of maternal love and its equivalent in the transference attachment a child feels for a beloved toy. The Johannine quality of the light that shines down on him from the Finding Hole and his Elijah-esque elevation nails down the Logos­-love correspondence.

Jack, now,” whispered the Christmas Pig. “Run.” “But—” “It’s our only chance!” said the pig. “We can get through the gates while they’re watching the bunny!” So Jack got slowly to his feet, then dashed toward the glittering gates, and the Christmas Pig followed, holding his tummy. Still the bunny hung, suspended in golden light, between the Land of the Living and the Land of the Lost, and the Loss Adjusters stood openmouthed beneath him, gazing upward.

Please, Mum,” said the little girl’s voice. “Please let me keep him. We’ll wash him and show him to the boys and if they want him back, I’ll give him to them.”

They won’t want me back!” cried Blue Bunny in desperation. “Oh, take me, please take me, let me be yours!” But of course, neither the girl nor her mother could hear the bunny.

Look at his sweet little face, Mum!” said the girl. Jack heard a tiny clink behind him. The Christmas Pig had pushed open the golden gates. Jack slid through them, still looking back over his shoulder at the bunny. “Oh, all right,” came the mother’s voice, half-amused, half-exasperated. “I just hope he doesn’t clog up the washing machine!”

And with a sudden whoosh, Blue Bunny was whipped through the hole and out of the Land of the Lost, but not before waving a single muddy paw at Jack, a look of bewildered joy on his face (171-172).

‘Jeannie’ here, a ‘John’ acting as something of a genie, saves the Blue Bunny, as his sacrificial love created the corresponding opening in the Finding Hole, a parallel with how Jack’s thoughts of his mother created Crusher’s opening to the Up There. The real ‘John’ of Christmas Pig, though, is Jack Jones, both of whose names derive from ‘John.’ Jack in the Loser’s Lair calls the Surplus to hope as the Bunny did in his column of light and in him as the “living boy” who loves them; in his role as replacement there, joining the Christmas Pig who took that role from the moment of his alivening in Holly’s remorse, shows all the “messianic traits” Rowling said she invested in Harry Potter (deRek).

[In case readers might miss the allegorical correspondents, one of the Loss Adjusters at the City of the Missed’s Gates uses the word “saved” as a synonym for the usual Land of the Lost term “found.” “When’s the last time you saw a bit of Surplus saved?” (178).]

The Bunny’s apotheosis allows Jack and CP to enter the Gates and hide in the gondola beneath a “thick velvet wrap,” a “dark blue velvet blanket” (177). This is the only mention of velvet in the book except for the “moth-eaten velvet curtains” in the Disposable saloon (86). I think, especially after reading Beatrice Grove’s Christmas Pig article in the December issue of The Rowling Library e-zine and its explanation of this allusion (17-18), that the gondola wrap must be a hat-tip to The Velveteen Rabbit or How Toys Become Real. The proximity in the story to Blue Bunny’s ‘real’ statement and salvific epiphany, the consonance of ‘velvet’ and ‘velveteen,’ and the correspondences Prof Groves has made between the tales connect those dots.

Especially because the first Thing they encounter in the City of the Missed is Happiness. As I explained in an earlier post, she is more “blessedness” than “delight.” Her light and warmth, evidence of her radiant empathy for the two stow-aways, and her vote in the Palace of Power, not to mention her relationship with Hope, mark her as another symbol of maternal Christic love. The Blue Bunny, a toy become real after meeting the real living boy, allows Jack and CP to enter the City of the Missed with Happiness, who, with Hope, is the agent of their being lifted up in a tapestry out of the clutches of the Loser’s Loss Adjuster’s and Power and transported to paradise, the Isle of the Beloved.

The correspondences here between grades of reality begin with the Logos light, life, and love of the world-transcendent spiritual realm as the point of origin. Reflecting it directly and by parallel characters are (1) the Incarnation of Christ and specifically His appearance on earth at Nativity, the Night of Miracles and Lost Causes, (2) the sacrificial love of Christ in His death on the Cross and Resurrection, (3) the love a mother feels for her child, and (4) the love a child feels for its “transitional object” toy post detachment from mum in which it feels something of that maternal love.

In Christmas Pig, readers see (3) and (4) and are meant, via the Christmas setting and “replacement” and ransom theme of sacrificial love, to experience (1) and (2), and through them the Logos metaphysical and ontological ground of those events, which are both historical and eternal happenings. Though a relatively short work for Rowling-Galbraith, as I asserted at the start, I think Christmas Pig, this Jack-in-the-Box story of a boy’s explosive chrysalis and transformation, is the best introduction to her work as a traditional writer of mythic, traditional allegory, which is to say, psychomachia of the soul’s journey to spiritual perfection.

Conclusion

Christmas Pig is a ‘Christmas Story’ in the Dickensian tradition of such things (Dickens wrote 21 Christmas stories in addition to Christmas Carol) but I think, like the best of these, it really isn’t about Nativity in an exclusive sense, anymore than Christ’s Incarnation or Birth were the end-game of His temporal life. While Christmas in the US has largely been co-opted by capitalist forces and consumer custom to become the most celebrated holiday, Nativity ranks beneath Pascha (‘Easter’), Pentecost, Theophany, and the Annunciation in the traditional Church. Pascha remains the ‘feast of feasts’ among the Orthodox, the center of the annual calendar and the model after which every Sunday liturgy is celebrated; the Russian word for Sunday is ‘Resurrection.’ In America, Easter ranks beneath Halloween and Valentine’s Day in ranking of holidays people celebrate.

I will risk being accused of sermonizing, this being Orthodox Nativity, to say that what importance Christmas has is in its Paschal content and meaning – and that this is true of Christmas Pig as well. Christ’s birth is celebrated because it is the appearance of the Lord’s incarnation, the Logos’ sacrificial descent from heaven to become the atoning sacrifice at Pascha and our means as human beings to eternal life. Rowling inserts this most clearly in Christmas Pig via the Blue Bunny side-story and the sacrificial choices made by CP and by Jack, first by Pajama’s boy’s decision to enter the Land of the Lost and then by his Surplus saving work in the Loser’s Lair, his Harrowing of Hades.

This post is about the Blue Bunny and has jumped around, I know, very much like a scared rabbit, for which I apologize. That the Bunny plays such a central role and that Rowling has used rabbits as Easter symbols in Troubled Blood and perhaps as early as her first work Rabbit makes me conclude that this Paschal message is the heart of her Christmas story. A rabbit’s fecundity makes it an apt symbol of Easter, abundant life with eternal life, especially when paired with chocolate, which as noted in the UK at least has an “inner light” Quaker message in the nougat. As we have it from both Rowling’s discussion of toys as magical “transitional” objects and her testimony about the treasured plush turtle made by her mother and its “consoling” “unchanging” “reality,” she is being explicit here, as she has not been since the beginning, middle, and end of Harry Potter, that a mother’s unconditional, selfless, and sacrificial love is her ‘go-to’ symbol for the otherworldly love that is our hope for victory over death, even hope itself. Her insertion of herself and her daughter in this story at the point of Blue Bunny’s rescue is a fun marker that this part of the book really happened, but also I think that this is what her books are really about, what they aim to do.

Christmas Pig rose out of Rowling’s Lake, no doubt, in answer to her own digestion of the challenges of a blended family and of being the main provider and public face of the Murray clan. She has elevated that inspiration, though it remains an important part of the story’s surface and moral layers, to her usual allegorical and anagogical heights, a psychomachia journey of soul to its transformation in Spirit and elision with Logos and its symbol of a mother’s love. 

For anyone reading this who finds him or herself on the Wastes of the Lamented on this Feast of the Lord’s Nativity, I hope that the allegory of the Blue Bunny and its Paschal meaning is the source of some consolation to you as it is to me. Whether our mothers were loving or not, we all know that such an absolute love exists, on this plane of reality and in the transcendent realm of which our world is only a reflection. “God Bless Us Every One” as Tiny Tim “observed,” and may He grant us to know and incarnate His love in our lives and hearts as a guarantee of victory over death.

Merry Christmas! After a few days off for celebrations, I hope to end this series of Perennialist readings of The Christmas Pig with discussions of the heart symbolism, the story’s ring composition, and the embedded notes Rowling weaves within her story tapestry about the meaning of art and of writing specifically. Talk with you then.

Comments

  1. Ed Shardlow says

    Just a minor point, but I thought the strange accent of the girl and her mother Up There during Blue Bunny’s ascension might have been an acknowledgement of the fact that in Jack’s home, presumably in the UK, the narrative requires the time to be circa 11pm on Christmas Eve at this point in the story. That’s a strange time for a mother to be telling her daughter squeeze into the neighbours’ garden to retrieve a ball and salvage a bunny, so I thought the implication was that this was taking place somewhere else in the world. Maybe the accent was antipodean, where Blue Bunny would arise on a bright Christmas morning. Or perhaps elsewhere, and their speech was in another language, but sounds like English with a strange accent via the magic of the Land of the Lost.

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