The Christmas Pig and Old Rabbit

A few weeks ago, I saw a feature film called A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood starring Tom Hanks as Fred Rogers and Matthew Rhys as the journalist Lloyd Vogel [Tom Hood]. The film follows Vogel as he interviews Rogers for what was to become a very famous article in Esquire Magazine. I found the film extremely moving, largely for its exploration of what it is to be a child, from a remarkable man who never lost that ability. As an aside, Fred Rogers and the character of Mr Rogers was entirely unknown to me prior to this film (as I believe he is to most people in the UK).

One point in the film that reflected very strongly with The Christmas Pig is the story of Vogel’s childhood toy ‘Old Rabbit’:

FRED- Didn’t you have any special friends when you were very young, Lloyd?

LLOYD Special friends?

FRED Maybe a special toy, or a stuffed animal you loved very much? Even when it got ratty and well worn, you just loved it all the more?

LLOYD I don’t know, I’m sure I did.

FRED Can you tell me about your special friend?

LLOYD Uh — I think I had a rabbit.

FRED Did your rabbit friend have a name?

LLOYD It was just rabbit –

A real memory rushes in, dislodged from somewhere deep.

LLOYD (CONT’D) It was Old Rabbit.

Fred leans in.

FRED Who gave you Old Rabbit?

Lloyd glares at Fred.

LLOYD My mom.

FRED She must love you very much.

LLOYD That she did. She died when I was young.

FRED I’m sure that if she saw you today, saw the person you have become, she’d be proud of you.

LLOYD I wanna get back to my questions.

FRED You wanted to meet my special friends from the Neighbourhood of Make Believe.

LLOYD No. I asked about the burden you carry.

I enjoyed the film so much I searched out the original article (linked above). In the opening paragraph we learn more of ‘Old Rabbit’.

“Once upon a time, a little boy loved a stuffed animal whose name was Old Rabbit. It was so old, in fact, that it was really an unstuffed animal; so old that even back then, with the little boy’s brain still nice and fresh, he had no memory of it as “Young Rabbit,” or even “Rabbit”; so old that Old Rabbit was barely a rabbit at all but rather a greasy hunk of skin without eyes and ears, with a single red stitch where its tongue used to be. The little boy didn’t know why he loved Old Rabbit; he just did, and the night he threw it out the car window was the night he learned how to pray. He would grow up to become a great prayer, this little boy, but only intermittently, only fitfully, praying only when fear and desperation drove him to it, and the night he threw Old Rabbit into the darkness was the night that set the pattern, the night that taught him how. He prayed for Old Rabbit’s safe return, and when, hours later, his mother and father came home with the filthy, precious strip of rabbity roadkill, he learned not only that prayers are sometimes answered but also the kind of severe effort they entail, the kind of endless frantic summoning. And so when he threw Old Rabbit out the car window the next time, it was gone for good.”

So we have an old, raggedy toy, so old that it’s owner cannot remember not having him. Lost out of a car window. The film was released in 2019 so too late to be an influence (If my time line is correct) but the article was released in the November 1998 issue (on sale from October), right in the middle of Rowling’s first US tour. It isn’t beyond the realms of possibility that J. K. Rowling saw this article and it formed an influence on her most recent story.


  1. Bonni Crawford says

    Interesting! Seems a strong possibility for the inception of Christmas Pig!

  2. Nick Jeffery says

    Thank you Bonni! I thought the article was such a lovely one, that I’m sure it would have stayed with her if she had read it.

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