Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit story originated in African folktales, expert argues

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Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit story originated in African folktales, expert argues

May 19 2023

Dr Emily Zobel Marshall, in a new essay for The Conversation, has called for wider acknowledgment of the debt Beatrix Potter owed to the Brer Rabbit stories told by enslaved Africans working on American plantations...

Copies of Harris’s Brer Rabbit folktale collections, bearing her father’s bookplate, were found at Potter’s home in the Lake District after she died in 1943.

“These stories had not been published in the UK when Beatrix Potter was a child. It is therefore likely that her early contact with the Brer Rabbit tales (in comparison with the rest of the British public) was a result of her family roots in the cotton industry,” Zobel Marshall writes...

Zobel Marshall points out that it is not necessarily wrong for Potter to have been inspired by the Brer Rabbit stories. “By their nature, stories constantly change to suit the needs of their audiences, and this is particularly the case with oral storytelling”, she writes. In fact, another well-known British children’s author, Enid Blyton, also wrote versions of the Brer Rabbit stories, but unlike Potter, Blyton acknowledged her sources.

“Potter’s actions in shielding the reading public from her sources have fed into a damaging and reoccurring appropriation of Black cultural forms that continues today,” Zobel Marshall said.

Source: The Guardian

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