Adam's Reviews > The Rabbits

The Rabbits by John Marsden
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Dec 19, 08

bookshelves: evil-kids-books

So. . . this is a pretty obvious allegory posing as a children’s book, but which will be of interest mainly to Leftist adults. It portrays white Europeans as big rodents moving into, say, Australia or North America and bringing all their baggage and bulldozing the native peoples and environment. And the story (although, this is really a story only by the greatest distortion of the term) ends with this line, dripping with bathos: “Who will save us from the rabbits?”

It’s such a strange, hypocritical idea. After all, to tell their story the book’s creators are using “rabbit” tools, all these newfangled things that first appeared on a large scale as an outgrowth of the Enlightenment and European expansionism: trans-racial empathy, multiculturalism, civil rights allowing minorities to publically criticize the ruling establishment, and the big business of illustrated children’s literature. Additionally, the book was released first in hardcover--something that doubles the cost to the consumer (employing free market capitalism) and sucks up more natural resources.

In the end, this really comes off as a bunch of rabbit self-loathing. . . “Who will save us rabbits from ourselves?” Please.

[shelf: evil-kids-books]
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Comments (showing 1-13 of 13) (13 new)

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message 1: by Sus (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sus Hi there:

Actually, the motif of the rabbits is pretty specific to the colonisation of Australia -- you might want to do some research into the importation of this animal to that continent before assuming the allegory is vaguely about any old place, like, "say, Australia or North America."

I have no comment on the assumptions you're making about what Aboriginal cultures lacked before the Europeans enriched them with it.

I would finally add that it gives me pause to see "self-loathing" applied in this way to the authors. All other things aside, I would question how well the category-lumping of "white Europeans" applies to the co-creator, Shaun Tan. Have you looked him up?


message 2: by Adam (new) - rated it 1 star

Adam 1) This may be an even more obvious, specific and heavy-handed allegory for Australian readers. However, this is a kid’s book, and it was released internationally. If the creators wanted the book to be read as a very specific allegory, I’m afraid they failed in providing enough information for the target audience.

2) Where did I call Tan a white Euorpean? Also, Tan did not write the book; he was the illustrator. However, I will say this: Tan seems largely at home with Western culture. For one thing, he’s built quite a successful career in an environment of free market capitalism. And according to an interview in Locus he even considered studying genetic science at University. So, this doesn’t exactly seem like someone who’s prepared to cut ties with Western “cultural Imperialism.”


message 3: by Renjith (new)

Renjith He "considered" studying to become a geneticist. "-ed". He changed his mind while studying to become an artist.


message 4: by Vlad (new)

Vlad A fantastic, concise review.


message 5: by T.D. (new) - added it

T.D. Whittle This is a bizarre argument, in my opinion. Just because Tan and his co-author are now a part of the establishment, does not make what came before -- and what continues today, in many ways -- okay. I, too, am part of the establishment, but that does not mean that I accept, uncritically, how we came to be who and what we are. My two cents, anyway.


message 6: by T.D. (new) - added it

T.D. Whittle Also, I have read most of Tan's other work, and attended a presentation by him. He is always involved in the story, not a passive illustrator.


message 7: by Vlad (new)

Vlad TD- They are criticizing the "establishment" while growing wealthy and successful from said "establishment", and relying on said "establishment" for their comfort and well-being.

Adam's argument is not "bizarre", but very simple to understand; the writers are a bunch of hypocrites. If they truly were against Western influence, they wouldn't be relying upon all the comforts of Western civilization and employing specifically Western ideology.


message 8: by T.D. (last edited Nov 09, 2013 10:29PM) (new) - added it

T.D. Whittle Vlad wrote: "TD- They are criticizing the "establishment" while growing wealthy and successful from said "establishment", and relying on said "establishment" for their comfort and well-being.

Adam's argument..."


I disagree. I think that argument is lacking in nuance. You can live in a society, and be a part of its established socio-economic and cultural fabric, whist still engaging in thoughtful reflection about how it's become what it is, and offering a criticism of it. As I said before, just because this is where we've ended up, does not mean that we are justified in how we got here (at least not in all ways). Many many people would agree with that, here in Australia, whether they live inside or outside the "establishment".

I am not expecting you or anyone else to agree, necessarily, Vlad, but that is my view on it, and it is not of course, my own unique idea, either.


message 9: by Vlad (last edited Nov 09, 2013 10:43PM) (new)

Vlad T.D. wrote: "You can live in a society, and be a part of its established socio-economic and cultural fabric, whist still engaging in thoughtful reflection about how it's become what it is, and offering a criticism of it."

Which, based upon Adam's review, is not what the book did.

Let's speak in concrete terms; the Aboriginals in Australia lived a violent, dirty, and primitive existence before the arrival of the "evil European settlers".

They died at a young age, treated their women as human property (like most primitive tribes), and were in a constant state of mild warfare and conflict with rival tribes.

If not for the interference of Europeans, they would still be living like this today.

If given a choice, would Shaun Tan prefer that type of lifestyle, or the lifestyle he enjoys thanks to the Europeans he evidently despises? Of course, it's the latter. The idea of actually living like those noble Aboriginal ancestors would never even cross his hypocritical mind!

So my advice to Tan and others it to either put up or shut up. Either accept that European colonization was a mixed bag, with both negative and positive consequences, and that you have decided to partake in its comforts and benefits.

Or else eschew that and live in primitive conditions outside of civilization on the Outback.

But cursing the very thing that makes you comfortable and successful while praising something you avoid like the plague is the most disgusting type of hypocrisy.


message 10: by T.D. (new) - added it

T.D. Whittle Vlad wrote: "T.D. wrote: "You can live in a society, and be a part of its established socio-economic and cultural fabric, whist still engaging in thoughtful reflection about how it's become what it is, and offe..."

Sorry, but I think you understand very little about Aboriginal culture, then or now, as far as how they lived and how they were treated by the white settlers. This is not the place for a history of the Indigenous peoples of Australia, but you have really seriously misrepresented them here, and you are glossing over a lot of serious problems endemic in Anglo and European culture at the time too (re treatment of women and ongoing warfare).

Your arguments are bizarre to me, and lacking in nuance, because you can see only an either/or position that everyone must take, according to you, rather than the much more realistic position that most people do take in life, which is a both/and one: in this case, "I like many things about Western culture and our way of life, but I do not like some of the methods by which we have achieved -- and continue to achieve -- those things." It is only in this way that we can learn to do better.


message 11: by Vlad (new)

Vlad T.D. wrote: "Sorry, but I think you understand very little about Aboriginal culture, then or now, as far as how they lived and how they were treated by the white settlers."

How very predictable. You tell me I'm wrong, but refuse to cite any facts or arguments as to why.

If you can't cite reasons or facts, your claims are baseless and empty.

T.D. wrote: "and you are glossing over a lot of serious problems endemic in Anglo and European culture at the time too (re treatment of women and ongoing warfare)."

It's very true that women lacked many freedoms and opportunities in 19th century European, but are you going to compare it to the way women were treated amongst Aboriginals with a straight face?

Answer me this; would you rather be a woman in 19th century Europe, where you lacked political and working power, but at least had basic human rights and some ability to obtain education and wealth, or a member of an Aboriginal tribe, where men would beat and rape you with no recourse, and you would be expected to bear a child at the age of 12?!

Try to answer that question.

T.D. wrote: "Your arguments are bizarre to me, and lacking in nuance,"

You seem fixated on that word, "bizarre". I'm not sure you understand what it means. As for a lack of nuance, I was about to write the same thing about your position!

Like, did you even read what I wrote one reply earlier?

"Either accept that European colonization was a mixed bag, with both negative and positive consequences, and that you have decided to partake in its comforts and benefits."

With regards to the book (the genesis of this discussion), it most certainly doesn't portray anything positive from said colonization, but presents it in the black-and-white manner you claim to reject.


message 12: by T.D. (new) - added it

T.D. Whittle Vlad wrote: "T.D. wrote: "Sorry, but I think you understand very little about Aboriginal culture, then or now, as far as how they lived and how they were treated by the white settlers."

How very predictable. ..."


Uh huh. I think you have no knowledge at all of Aboriginal history and culture, and that your claims to such knowledge are false.

Sorry, but I don't really see your arguments as anything other than baseless, empty, and predictable myself. I'm done here.


message 13: by Vlad (new)

Vlad T.D. wrote: "Uh huh. I think you have no knowledge at all of Aboriginal history and culture, and that your claims to such knowledge are false."

If that's so it should be very easy to point out all my errors, no? An easy opportunity to win the argument! And yet, you haven't done so, avoiding any discussion of facts or history for the last couple of replies when specifically asked.

You're just full of hot air and arrogant, baseless statements, nothing more.

Also, I love how you avoided my other direct questions.

T.D. wrote:"I'm done here."

You evidently find it fun to criticize and get on your soap-box, but when someone asks you to back up your words, or notes obvious contradictions/inconsistencies in what you wrote, you take your ball and go home.

No great loss.


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