Why are there so many menacing bunny rabbits in medieval manuscripts?

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Images like these have been very popular on the internet recently, with this listicle from The Poke giving some great examples of the genre, as well as the great Sexy Codicology website, and a lot of fantastic accounts on Twitter.

The image of cute little bunny rabbits doing horrible violence to people is strangely adorable – watching the twitchy nosed little guys beat the hell out of people who’d normally have then for dinner with Rosemary, thyme and sage – but it does beg a simple question: what the hell is going on?

The Ordinary Imagery of the Rabbit

The usual imagery of the rabbit in Medieval art is that of purity and helplessness – that’s why some Medieval portrayals of Christ have marginal art portraying a veritable petting zoo of innocent, nonviolent, little white and brown bunnies going about their business in a field.

The other association of the rabbit is more commonly known – that of fertility. In the same way as the name of a male chicken has long been associated with the male member (there are some very instructive statues on the island of Delos that date back as far as 4BC), there’s no mistake that the Anglo-French word for rabbit (“conil”) metamorphed into the 14th century word coney, and the Spanish root word for rabbit, conejo (which is pronounced almost exactly the same as the rather perjorative modern word coño) metamorphosed into a term for the lady’s area.

The reasons are pretty damn simple: we’ll talk about fur and burrows, and leave it at that.

This article continues at [Jon Kaneko-James] Why Are There Violent Rabbits In The Margins Of Medieval Manuscripts?

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