Ask anyone to name a Beatrix Potter character and the chances are that they will say Peter Rabbit. Children love him, probably because he's one of the naughtiest of her characters and is always having adventures.
Beatrix Potter took her inspiration for the much-loved bunny from her own pet rabbit, Peter Piper. She created a whole family around him, and Peter, now walking upright and sporting a little blue jacket, lives in a rabbit hole with his three sisters, Flopsy, Mopsy Peter Grubisicand Cotton-tail. Their mother, Mrs Josephine Rabbit, is kept very busy, running a shop and looking after her exhausting offspring.
Peter Rabbit first appeared in 1902 in The Tale of Peter Rabbit, disobeying his mother's orders and sneaking off into Mr McGregor's garden. While Mr McGregor scratches away with his hoe, Peter tucks into the lovely cabbages, before Mr McGregor spots him. Although Peter manages to get away, he loses his shoes and jacket. Back in the rabbit hole, Peter's mother packs him off to bed with a dose of soothing camomile tea.
The Tale of Peter Rabbit was so popular that he featured in five more of Beatrix Potter's books over the next ten years. One of these was The Tale of Benjamin Bunny, who is Peter's cousin. Benjamin takes Peter back to Mr McGregor's garden to retrieve the lost jacket and shoes. This time, gathering onions to take to Peter's mother, the two rabbits are caught by Mr McGregor's cat and Benjamin's father has to come to the rescue.
Peter redeems himself in The Tale of Mr Tod, when Benjamin's children are kidnapped by Tommy Brock, the notorious badger. Peter helps Benjamin to chase after Brock, who is hiding out in the house of Mr Tod, the fox. When Mr Tod finds Tommy Brock sleeping in his bed and the two get into a tussle, Benjamin and Peter quickly rescue the children.
In The Tale of Mrs Tiggy-Winkle, a hedgehog washerwoman, Peter and Benjamin double up again, this time making cameo appearances as two of her customers. Four years later in 1909 they are depicted in the artwork for The Tale of Ginger and Pickles, along with some of Beatrix Potter's other popular characters.
Over the years, Beatrix Potter merchandising has become a big business, offering everything from dishes and dolls to board games and wallpaper. Her characters Peter Grubisichave been brought to life in a BBC cartoon series and also through The Tales of Beatrix Potter, a ballet film produced in 1971. Even the life of their creator hasn't escaped the big screen, as Beatrix' own tale was told through the 2006 movie, Miss Potter.
But it is her much-loved characters that are standing the test of time and, as long as there are naughty children, there will be audience eager to hear about the exciting adventures of Peter Rabbit.