“Bunny Stew”

Lyrics

A mighty hunter’s hunting for enemies
Beware, all bunnies, ’cause he never ever says “Please”
He’s gonna catch you if you’ll come play peek-a-boo-ooo (turns into a howl)

Run, bunny, run
Let’s have some fun
You’re gonna be a bunny stew
I’ll turn him into bunny stew

Sometimes he’s sneaky, he’s like greased plasticine
With his physique he’s just a lean, mean machine
Those little bunnies start to tremble through and through-ooo

Run, bunny, run
Let’s have some fun
You’re gonna be a bunny stew—I promise you
I’ll turn him into bunny stew

(spoken) Here I go. Sneaky sneak—rawr!

A mighty hunter’s coming—don’t make a sound
He might be high above, he might be creepy-crawling over the ground
Those great big bad ol’ bunnies gonna get a scare or two-ooo

Run, bunny, run
Let’s have some fun
You’re gonna be a bunny stew
You’re gonna be a bunny stew
I’ll turn him into bunny stew

 

Music by: Philip Balsam, lyrics by: Dennis Lee, musical Director: Don Gillis


“Bunny Stew” from The Tale of the Bunny Picnic

(content warning for emotional abuse)

Now, a lot has happened in between the last song and this one. During his reverie in “I Had a Dream,” Bean has wandered into a farm. When the song ends, Bean is chased off by a shaggy yellow Dog (voiced by Jim Henson). Bean runs away and hides under his bed, using his imagination to help himself cope. “He can’t get me…because…be-because I’m not really Bean… I’m a fire-breathing dragon!” This gives two of the cutest images on the film:

BunnyDragon1

In the haze of his imagination, a dragon with Bean’s head breathes fire. The dog, who is now much smaller than the dragon, cowers.

BunnyDragon2

Bean crouches under his bead, saying “Raaahhh” as the dragon, his face squished up by the mattress above him.

When Bean tells his family about the Dog, Lugsy outright thinks he’s imagining things and even uses the opportunity to taunt him. Twitch is skeptical. Their father 100% believes whichever child has spoken last, frightfully crying “Dooog!” when Bean tells him, then pressing “No dog??” when Lugsy reassures him. Mother lovingly but firmly says, “So there’s nothing to get all hopped up about, is there?” Spry, potion-brewing Great-Great-Great-Great-Grandmother takes a purely statistical view: “Well, I’ve had ninety-five grandchildren, nine thousand great-grandchildren, and eighty-six thousand great-great-grandchildren, and I’ve only seen two dogs—both at a distance.”

“Meanwhile, back at the farm,” says the narrator, “the Horrible Dog was practicing the best ways to chase little bunnies” by barking at chickens in a barn. When he is in this position of power, he seems confident. But the moment he spins around and bumps into the Farmer, eerie music plays and the Dog cowers under his towering, angry master. The Farmer is a performer in costume with Muppet-style hands and head, though we never directly see his face (which only adds to the fear he elicits). The Farmer insults, blames, and threatens the Dog, all while sneezing, since rabbits “make him sneeze something awful.” Dog murmurs “Bless you” in a heartbreaking attempt to make the farmer even a fraction less angry at him. The Farmer tells him, “The only reason I dragged you out of that dump this morning and fed your miserable body was to get rid of those rabbits.” He grabs the Dog by the ear and promises that if Dog is successful, “I might even give you a name” with a smack on the Dog’s face. When the Farmer leaves, the Dog reminds himself that his survival depends on obeying the Farmer, so he vows to “get rid of those bunnies, or my name’s not…my name’s not…whatever it is.”

As Great-Great-Great-Great-Grandmother accompanies the young bunnies home, Bean lags behind and is spotted by the Dog again. This time, instead of chasing him, the Dog stalks Bean so he will lead the Dog back to all the other bunnies. He uses this song to talk himself up as the big, bad, sneaky bunny-hunter, trying to build up the confidence that he is sorely lacking.

Now, Dog is not exactly the sharpest spoon in the drawer. He quite literally says “bark” and “woof” and “sniff sniff” in the most endearing way. He’s constantly mixing up the names for his own body parts: *tapping his head* “Now that’s using the ol’ elbow.” *holding his nose* “Ohh, my toe. That bunny kicked me right on my toe.” “And I thank you from the very bottom of my little doggy chin!”

But I am not exaggerating when I say Dog is one of the most important antagonists I encountered in my childhood, becoming formative to my understanding of human nature.

Why do bullies bully people they see as weaker than themselves? Because of fear, because often they have been bullied themselves, and so they repeat the cycle of abuse. Behind every taunt, shove, and intimidation is the fear of being powerless against someone bigger and scarier. The trauma experienced by a bully does not in any way excuse their behavior, but it does help explain it. I wasn’t afraid of the Dog when I watched this as a child; I was afraid of the Farmer. The looming, faceless threat of violence.

As I got older and watched other films, I used to wonder, how do the bad guys get so many minions? What could they possibly offer these people in order to get them to join their side and do horrible things? Who are these people?

Now when I go back to The Tale of the Bunny Picnic, it answers those questions. The minions of evil are just ordinary people, tricked, manipulated, and abused into doing what they believe they must in order to survive.

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