I’m often asked what it is about me and rabbits. The honest truth is that I’m not really sure. I could put it down to being called (ahem) Bobsy-Rabbit the Lodger by TLC and her housemate when she and I first starting living together. But that would be a poor excuse, and not really the truth. I’ve never owned a rabbit, although I’d like to. A big, floppy house-trained number. I would stroke him and love him and hug him and squeeze him and call him George. Probably.
It’s the cultural connotations that I find most interesting. The rabbit in myth and legend is a trickster and a herald, the bearer and frequently the source of bad news. Think B’rer Rabbit, or Alice’s White Rabbit. Think Bugs, or Roger. Or Frank from Donnie Darko, come to that. The Ojibwa tribe of North Amerindians have Nanabozho. Kalulu bounces around Central Africa with his tricks and scams.
Frank Kozik’s Smorking Labbit, the image of which has graced my internet presence for some years, is notoriously fluid in appearance, a many-coloured, always-changing little beast. The basic outline and attitude remains the same, but the Labbit can be any colour, his cigarette replaced with a bubble of gum, the pin of a grenade, even a fine moustache. The Labbit is disguise and statement of intent all at the same time.
The Internet is all about masks, aliases, alternate identities. To me the rabbit ties into that perfectly. Look at how many times Bugs will change his costume, his voice, even his sex to get the better of Elmer Fudd. Although I might not slip into a dress and slap on lipstick (sighs of relief all round), I’m not exactly the person I claim to be on the web. None of us are. We all choose the side of ourselves that we want people to see and respond to, and present that to the world.
But there’s something more about the rabbit. The simple fact that I have no real idea how the fascination arose, and indeed how my web alias Conojito developed with no conscious effort on my part, leads me to feel that I have somehow been guided towards identifying with the tricky little creature. Worldwide, cultures revere and are guided by their spirit animals. Is this the case with me? Have I been gifted with a Labbit-shaped, Pullmanesque daemon to help me through this life? I admit, the idea is strangely comforting.
The more I dig into the concept, the more it evades me. I claim that Conojito is a mangling of the Spanish for rabbit, conejo. (Tio Conejo is, you won’t be at all surprised to hear, a Latin American version of B’rer Rabbit). But a truer translation of the phrase con ojito would be “with a little eye”.* Do I have a blinkered view of the world? Does looking at life through a mask somehow obscure one’s vision? Or am I somehow using this disguise to obscure your view of me, to diminish myself, to seem less threatening so I can slip through your defences? That, after all is part of the purpose of camouflage.
That’s the thing about rabbits. They’re tricky little buggers to get a hold of.
*I’d love to take credit for that insight, but it was pointed out to me by Alejandra on the WDW forums. For which much thanks.