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Doing Things Your Way: The Tale of Beatrix Potter’s Famous Work

Beatrix Potter, image courtesy of Amazon

It’s hard to think of an iconic children’s book without mentioning Beatrix Potter’s “The Tale of Peter Rabbit.” The mischievous rabbit was the first fiction character to be made into a patented stuffed doll, making him the oldest licensed character, beating Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny!

However, some readers may need to be made aware that Potter consciously decided to self-publish her famous work. After being rejected by six publishers, her risk to do things herself paid off as children across generations continue to read Peter Rabbit today.

The Tale of Peter Rabbit Summary:

Peter Rabbit lives with his mother and siblings in a sandbank under the root of a large fir tree. While Flopsy, Mopsy, and Cottontail were “good little bunnies,” Peter was quite naughty and rebellious.

Before heading out shopping, Mrs. Rabbit told her children they could go anywhere they liked and play until she returned. However, there was one place they weren’t allowed to go—Mr. McGregor’s garden was where Mr. Rabbit was caught and baked into a pie.

Peter’s three sisters were obedient as they avoided Mr. McGregor’s garden. As the three went down the lane to gather blackberries, Peter entered Mr. McGregor’s garden, hoping to eat some fresh vegetables.

After squeezing under the gate, Peter eats his veggies until he becomes sick. As he searches for some parsley to soothe his stomach ache, he is spotted by Mr. McGregor, who then chases the naughty rabbit.

Peter ran as fast as he could, causing him to lose his shoes. Not bothering to slow down, he soon falls into a gooseberry net where his jacket’s large buttons have been caught against the material.

Now trapped and hopeless, Peter cries, capturing the attention of some friendly sparrows who fly over and encourage him to exert himself.

Just as Mr. McGregor came to hit Peter with a sieve, the little rabbit soon wriggled out of the net just in time, leaving the jacket behind. Now free from the net, he rushed into the toolshed and jumped into a watering can, keeping himself hidden.

This moment of reprieve was temporary as the can was filled with water. Now cold, Peter let out a loud sneeze which caused Mr. McGregor to chase after him again.

Just as he was about to put his foot upon Peter, the rabbit jumped out the window. The space was too small for Mr. McGregor, who then grew tired of chasing after Peter and resumed work.

Now alone, Peter soon finds himself lost in the vast garden. He encounters a mouse who is busy collecting food for her family. Peter asked for directions, but the mouse was unable to help. After which, the rabbit soon spots a cat sitting by a pond. Wondering if he should ask the cat for directions, he decided against it after remembering his cousin’s warnings about cats.

As he tries to escape, Peter soon notices that Mr. McGregor is nowhere to be found. He uses this time to flee toward the gate. Nevertheless, he was seen by Mr. McGregor, who then went after to chase him once more.

Without stopping for air or to look behind him, Peter makes a mad dash to the gate, wriggles under it, and escapes from the garden. With Peter gone from the garden, Mr. McGregor gathers the thieving rabbit’s abandoned clothes to dress a scarecrow.

After returning home late, Peter is reprimanded by his mother for losing his shoes and jacket. She then sends him to bed without supper. Nevertheless, she does give sick Peter a spoonful of chamomile tea to help his stomach ache. As Peter stays in bed, his sisters enjoy a delicious blackberries, milk, and bread dinner.

History Behind Its Publication:

The Tale of Peter Rabbit was first written for five-year-old Noel Moore, the son of Beatrix Potter’s former governess, in 1893.

In 1901, Potter revised and privately printed the book after receiving multiple rejections from various publishers. Each publisher rejected Potter’s insistence that the book be printed in a certain way, leading to Potter publishing the book on her own. After using her savings, she had 250 copies of the book made and started selling them herself. This success led to a publisher that formerly rejected Potter’s manuscript and offered her a contract.

Since then, the book has gained considerable merchandise for children and adults. These items include toys, clothes, videos, food, etc. Potter was also responsible for such merchandise when she patented a Peter Rabbit doll in 1903, followed by a board game. This savvy business move brought more success to her story. Since then, Peter Rabbit has become an enduring popular character for more than a century!

What Can We Learn from Beatrix Potter?

Beatrix Potter was a talented illustrator with a strong vision of how her book should be published. Since no publisher wanted to publish her book how she wanted, she used her funds to make her dream a reality. This steadfast decision was a gamble, but the risk soon paid off, as it proved to her former rejectors that her work was exceptional.

Another thing we can learn from Beatrix Potter’s journey to publication is being business savvy. After patenting a Peter Rabbit doll, she secured her rights to her character through the protection of intellectual property.

Since then, Potter’s works have become synonymous with elegant illustrations, whimsical animal characters, and an unforgettable childhood staple.

Bottomline:

Beatrix Potter was a remarkable author and illustrator. After receiving many rejections from various publishers, she decided to publish her story using her funds. Believing in her strong vision for her story, the success of her children’s book soon caught the attention of multiple publishers, including those that had initially rejected her.

After publishing her book through a traditional route, Potter also used her savvy business sense to ensure that Peter Rabbit and his likeness stayed with her. By patenting the Peter Rabbit doll, she used her character’s likeness to create multiple merchandises, thus, sealing her character’s enduring success.

Potter’s risks in ensuring she does things her way paid off. While rejections may seem like a failure initially, persistence in keeping your work’s value pays off in the long run.

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