At first we didn’t know what to think. They looked a bit like us. There weren’t many of them. Some of them were friendly.
In this passage, the collective marsupial narrator recalls how the marsupials didn't know what to think when the rabbits first arrived in the marsupials' country. The marsupials' initial impression of the rabbits is that they look like similar creatures, some are friendly toward the marsupials, and there aren't many of them. The passage is significant because it shows how the marsupials in no way anticipated how the rabbits would bring millions of their own kind to settle the marsupials' territory and displace the marsupials from their homeland. At first contact, the marsupials simply perceive the rabbits as a curiosity.
They ate our grass. They chopped down our trees and scared away our friends.
As the rabbits take over the marsupials' country, the rabbits use technology such as massive, smoke-billowing harvesting machines to extract resources from the environment. In this passage, the narrator recounts how the rabbits radically altered the landscape and destroyed the indigenous ecosystem by tearing out the grass, chopping down trees, and scaring creatures out of their habitats. The passage is significant because it speaks to how the rabbits, in their unstoppable drive for colonial expansion, completely disregard the established natural balance of the territory they conquer.
They brought new food and they brought other animals. We liked some of the food and we liked some of the animals. But some of the food made us sick, and some of the animals scared us.
In this passage, the narrator comments on how the rabbits bring new animals such as cattle and sheep to the marsupials' country—livestock animals the rabbits cultivate for food production. While the marsupials welcome some of these changes, they are also made sick by certain "food" the rabbits give them. Given the illustration of an empty bottle lying on the ground and the historical context of colonial British introducing certain vices to Indigenous Australians, the illness-causing food in question is most likely alcohol. The passage is significant because it shows how the rabbits exploit the marsupials' unfamiliarity with alcohol's deleterious effects, offering the substance to the marsupials as "food" rather than an addictive drug.
Sometimes we had fights. We lost the fights.
Lacking elaboration, this strikingly simplistic and concise passage reveals the narrator's grief in recounting the battles the marsupials lost against the rabbits. The images accompanying the quote depict several grim battle sequences in which rabbits outnumber marsupials and are equipped with more lethal technology. The passage is significant because of its allusion to the Australian frontier wars, which involved white British settlers killing tens of thousands of Indigenous Australians between 1788 and 1939 in disputes over the Indigenous Australians' territories.
Where is the rich dark earth, brown and moist? Where is the smell of rain dripping from the gum trees? Where are the great billabongs alive with long-legged birds?
The vivid imagery of this passage stands out against a black void-like backdrop, a contrast that underscores the narrator's lament. Colonized by the rabbits, the marsupials' country has lost its fecundity, species diversity, and striking natural beauty. The diction in this passage is significant because Australia-specific terms like "gum tree" and "billabongs" overtly hint at the story's allegorical resonance.
And [they] stole our children.
While recalling everything the rabbits take away from the marsupials, the narrator concludes the list with this passage. The illustration depicts marsupial parents standing on the ground and looking at the sky, where marsupial children sit on box kites pulled by airplanes. The passage is significant because removing children from their parents further emphasizes the inhumanity of the rabbits' colonial project, which is based on the historical example of the Australian colonial government forcibly removing mixed-race children from their Indigenous Australian parents in an effort to assimilate the children into white settler society.
They came by water.
In this passage, the simplicity and brevity of the narrator's statement is juxtaposed with an awe-inspiring illustration of the rabbits' imposing tall ship. Countless sails attached to the intricate mast system draw the boat toward the marsupials' country while rabbits in martial uniforms march on to land. The pageantry and resources put into the arrival suggests the seriousness of the rabbits as they enact their colonial project and begin to settle the marsupials' territory.
The Rabbits Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for The Rabbits is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
A main theme in The Rabbits is environmentalism and culture as well the environmental consequences of technology advancements. The Rabbits enter Australia and soon start shaping it to their image, which involves the destruction of much nature and...
This is generally a literature site but as luck would have it, my daughter happens to be a rabbit expert. She says unlimited hay, unlimited water, fresh veggies (lettuce, broccoli, spinach) once a day. Optional is a small amount of rabbit pellets...