Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Potter, Beatrix

(1866-1943) UK children's writer and illustrator whose art is focused on the acute manipulation of fantasy and reality.

Her stories, beginning with The Tale of Peter Rabbit (privately printed 1901; commercially published 1902) belong in the nursery tradition of Talking-Animal stories. Peter is a young rabbit with a rabbit's taste for garden produce, yet he wears a blue coat and shoes; Mrs Tiggy-Winkle (a hedgehog) takes in laundry; Ribby (a cat) invites Duchess (a dog) to an elegant tea-party; etc. However, BP's animals largely behave true to type – although the party invitation is delivered by a postman and Mrs Rabbit shops at the baker's. There is a clarity of vision and an unsentimentality in her tales which is based upon accurate observation of both the physical forms and inner instincts of her subjects. She creates a genuinely novel invented world.

BP, an isolated child from a rigidly conventional middle-class Victorian background, turned to art and storytelling as a means of escape. Although several of her stories – including Peter Rabbit – were created with specific children in mind, she never "wrote down", and thus her tales are sometimes mini-epics with a potentially disturbing edge. Even the simplest, such as The Story of a Fierce Bad Rabbit (1906 chap), can be savage little morality tales, though this darker undercurrent is lightened by her delicate art (often done from life). Many of the books written after her move to Sawrey in the Lake District (where she became a farmer) use the real scenery and countryside and the actual fittings of her cottage. While her settings and plots are cosily domestic, the vocabulary is as challenging and ironic and the undercurrents as wild as in any novel for adults.

Beatrix Potter's seclusion and settings are used as the springboard for Bryan Talbot's graphic novel The Tale of One Bad Rat (graph 1995). [AS]

Other titles: The Tailor of Gloucester (1903 chap); The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin (1903 chap); The Tale of Benjamin Bunny (1904 chap); The Tale of Two Bad Mice (1904 chap); The Tale of Mrs Tiggy-Winkle (1905 chap); The Pie and the Patty-Pan (1905 chap); The Tale of Mr Jeremy Fisher (1906 chap); The Story of a Fierce Bad Rabbit (1906 chap); The Story of Miss Moppet (1906 chap); The Tale of Tom Kitten (1907 chap); The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck (1908 chap); The Roly-Poly Pudding (1908 chap); The Tale of the Flopsy Bunnies (1909 chap); Ginger and Pickles (1909 chap); The Tale of Mrs Tittlemouse (1910 chap); The Tale of Timmy Tiptoes (1911 chap); The Tale of Mr Tod (1912 chap); The Tale of Pigling Bland (1913 chap); Appley Dapply's Nursery Rhymes (1917 chap); The Tale of Johnny Town-Mouse (1918 chap); Cecily Parsley's Rhymes (1922 chap); Peter Rabbit's Almanac (1929 chap); The Fairy Caravan (1929 chap); The Tale of Little Pig Robinson (1930 chap); Sister Anne (1932 chap); Wag-by-Wall (1944 chap); The Faithful Dove (1955 chap).

further reading: The Tale of Beatrix Potter (1946) by Margaret Lane.

Beatrix Potter


This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.