I’m reading through all 23 of Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit tales. The Tale of Mr. Tod stands out as one of the most complex stories in the collection…
To summarize: A stinky badger named Tommy Brock kidnaps Mr. Benjamin Bunny’s newborns, breaks into Mr. Tod’s house (Mr. Tod is a fox), stuffs the baby bunnies in the unlit oven, takes a long nap in Mr. Tod’s bed, wakes just in time to spoil Mr. Tod’s prank on him, and then engages in a violent tussle with Mr. Tod, during which time Benjamin Bunny and his cousin Peter Rabbit venture into the fox’s den to rescue the baby bunnies.
Most of Beatrix Potter’s stories involve themes of eating/getting eaten, environmental disruption, misbehavior, and forgiveness, but this complicated story takes it to the extreme. One quote from Herman Melville’s Moby Dick succinctly captures Potter’s message here:
“…let Ahab beware of Ahab; beware of yourself, old man.”
Mr. Tod and Tommy Brock had enough to be wary of—themselves, the things their minds focused on, and what they were getting themselves into.
But they weren’t mindful (or humble) enough to see it.