Who’s afraid of Mr McGregor? Everyone, that’s who! I have suffered from McGregophobia from an early age, and now my sons seem to have it too. It’s clearly genetic, for I’ve never been able to read them the story. What on earth possessed CBeebies to make a show of this tale, I’ll never know – my sons cry and claw the sofa in terror whenever the theme tune comes on. Am I alone, or is Mr McGregor the most sinister figure in literature?
Tis the season to be terrified
As Peter Rabbit is to Easter what Santa is to Christmas, I can’t go into a shop at the moment without wetting myself at the prospect of the Rake-Wielding One lurking behind all those cute stuffed bunnies. One image in particular I seek to avoid: the “chase scene”. Something about the menacing persistence of this has always terrified me – the way Peter can run but he can’t hide. Even when he does hide, in a watering can full of water – usually the end of a chase scene in most films – he gets busted and pursued again. In fact, I think Mr McGregor was clearly the inspiration for the Terminator.
Surely the most chilling chase scene ever?
It’s not that I’m against Beatrix Potter. I adore her illustrations as much as everyone else – except the ones with Him in them, of course. I have, and would be able to read again her other books, but only if someone else gets them out of the boxset for me in case I catch sight of That Picture. But my kids just aren’t interested, even though I’ve tried on many occasions. Without me ever saying a word, they have inherited my McGregophobia.
How not to talk to children
I agree with Beatrix Potter’s position of showing nature as it is (um, apart from the fact that all the animals are wearing clothes). Of course the “sandy-whiskered gentleman” is really planning to eat Jemima Puddleduck: foxes fell fowl. Fact. But in Mr McGregor, she has overstepped the mark. We agonise today about how much we should sugar-coat things for our children – but I think we could all agree that this is a little too plain from Mrs Rabbit, to her presumably pre-school pups:
“But don’t go into Mr McGregor’s garden: your Father had an accident there; he was put in a pie by Mrs. McGregor”.
Put in a pie! Not only a murderer but a devourer of his victims! I know it was Mrs McGregor who actually did the cooking, but it’s him with that rake that made me lie awake at night as a child, rigid with fear. (No Freud please!)
Nothing will ever cure me of my McGregophobia. But I hope that it is a recessive gene, so that, one day, my grandchildren will be able to enjoy these fine works free from fear.
I’ll be McGregophobic for life – but you can make it all better with a BIB nomination! Deadline is this Saturday at midnight.
Pictures courtesy of the Beatrix Potter estate.