Lessons Learned from Beatrix Potter

This year marks 120 years since the publication of The Tale of Peter Rabbit and we can't help but take a moment to admire the accomplishment of stories well told and lessons learned. For years, I have been inspired by Beatrix Potter. Her life, her stories, her illustrations have been immortalized over the course of the last several decades by different writers, filmmakers, and historians, yet how much can we truly understand about her and her wonderful stories?  Reading the stories as a child is a completely different experience to reading them as an adult, but I love the stories just the same. If you haven't picked up one of her tales recently, take a minute and indulge in a tale of friendly animals and formidable foes. If you don't have a copy of the books, shop our collection of books and gifts inspired by her stories.

In her own life, she was cautious with her heart and her trust. After working together for several years, she eventually became engaged to her publisher Frederick Warne. However, a month after announcing their engagement, Frederick died from leukemia. This experience spurred her to purchase Hill Top farm in the Lake District, which is how she became a sheep farmer for the second half of her life. Eight years after the death of her fiancé, she found love again and married a farmer. Both her stories and her personal experiences have taught me a few key lessons that I hope you find you share. 

Treading the line of the human and animal relationship

There has always been a fine line between animal and humans. Friend or food? Pet or predator?  Animals share some emotions and characteristics of humans and yet their fundamental differences make our relationship with them difficult to navigate. The animal world is a Darwinian fraught forest. Where do we fall on the inevitable food chain of carnal existence? 

Beatrix Potter learned well how to navigate this boundary. She was a naturalist and studied animals with a fixated interest. She had a pet rabbit called Benjamin Bunny and would walk him on a leash, an inspiration for several of her little tales. However, later in her life, she was also a savvy sheep farmer making decisions about her flocks as a breeder. 

As cute as Squirrel Nutkin might be, he wasn't exempt from the consequences of teasing Old Brown the owl. Much like Peter attempting to steal from Mr. McGregor's garden, losing his jacket and running for his life. 

Natural consequences of our actions 

The characters that fill her books are a great mixture of good and bad, wise and foolish, or somewhere in between. Stealing from someone else's garden, leads to no end of trouble and almost becoming rabbit stew and fur coat. Or perhaps a fluffy squirrel tale is sacrificed on the altar of cheeky comebacks. Each story is a series of choices and consequences, from which comes a myriad of life lessons. 

As much as Beatrix Potter anthropomorphized her characters, giving them human voices and dressing them up, she was also a realist. She portrayed them in their own habitats alongside other animals both friend and foe. Her characters were aware of the precarious balance and their place in life's grand circle.

Affordable books are read by many

While many of her era would say that kind hearts weren’t suited to business, Beatrix Potter was firm in her business convictions and practices. She must have done something right, because she was able create stories that have had power beyond the grave. She knew her audience well, and wanted her books to be affordable to children. In order to achieve that, the books were printed in a smaller format, measuring just 4x6 inches. Her books have always been published this way and have been read by millions. I love that her books are beautiful and affordable. Shop our Beatrix Potter inspired gift collection for copies of her books. 

April 15, 2022 — Chelsey Newbould

Comments

susannah biggs

susannah biggs said:

“Miss Potter” is a wonderful,charming movie that I hold very dear in my heart. I want to live THAT life!:)

LeAnne Lewis

LeAnne Lewis said:

I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Beatrix Potter and all her
drawings and writings. I just received; ‘The Story of Beatrix Potter’ and ‘Beatrix Potter, drawn to Nature’ books. I have several of her
other books. I wish she were still alive, but she is in MY WORLD.

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