The Adventures of Peter Cottontail
Thornton W. Burgess
Children
1:53 h
Level 2
Thornton Waldo Burgess was an American conservationist and author of children's stories. Burgess loved the beauty of nature and its living creatures so much that he wrote about them for 50 years in books and his newspaper column, Bedtime Stories. He was sometimes known as the Bedtime Story-Man. By the time he retired, he had written more than 170 books and 15,000 stories for the daily newspaper column. The Adventures of Peter Cottontail was published in 1914. Peter Cottontail is a name temporarily assumed by a fictional rabbit named Peter Rabbit. In 1910, when Burgess began his Old Mother West Wind series, the cast of animals included Peter Rabbit. Four years later, in The Adventures of Peter Cottontail, Peter Rabbit, unhappy at his plain-sounding name, briefly changed his name to Peter Cottontail because he felt it made him sound more important.

The Adventures of Peter Cottontail

by
Thornton W. Burgess


I.
Peter Rabbit Decides to Change His Name

PETER RABBIT! Peter Rabbit! I don’t see what Mother Nature ever gave me such a common sounding name as that for. People laugh at me, but if I had a fine sounding name they wouldn’t laugh. Some folks say that a name doesn’t amount to anything, but it does. If I should do some wonderful thing, nobody would think anything of it. No, Sir, nobody would think anything of it at all just because — why just because it was done by Peter Rabbit.”

Peter was talking out loud, but he was talking to himself. He sat in the dear Old Briar-patch with an ugly scowl on his usually happy face. The sun was shining, the Merry Little Breezes of Old Mother West Wind were dancing over the Green Meadows, the birds were singing, and happiness, the glad, joyous happiness of springtime, was everywhere but in Peter Rabbit’s heart. There there seemed to be no room for anything but discontent. And such foolish discontent — discontent with his name! And yet, do you know, there are lots of people just as foolish as Peter Rabbit.

“Well, what are you going to do about it?”

The voice made Peter Rabbit jump and turn around hastily. There was Jimmy Skunk poking his head in at the opening of one of Peter’s private little paths. He was grinning, and Peter knew by that grin that Jimmy had heard what he had said. Peter didn’t know what to say. He hung his head in a very shame-faced way.

“You’ve got something to learn,” said Jimmy Skunk.

“What is it?” asked Peter.

“It’s just this,” replied Jimmy.

“There’s nothing in a name except
     Just what we choose to make it.
It lies with us and no one else
     How other folks shall take it.
It’s what we do and what we say
And how we live each passing day
That makes it big or makes it small
Or even worse than none at all.
A name just stands for what we are;
     It’s what we choose to make it.
And that’s the way and only way
That other folks will take it.”

Peter Rabbit made a face at Jimmy Skunk. “I don’t like being preached to.”

“I’m not preaching; I’m just telling you what you ought to know without being told,” replied Jimmy Skunk. “If you don’t like your name, why don’t you change it?”

“What’s that?” cried Peter sharply.

“If you don’t like your name, why don’t you change it?” repeated Jimmy.

Peter sat up and the disagreeable frown had left his face. “I — I — hadn’t thought of that,” he said slowly. “Do you suppose I could, Jimmy Skunk?”

“Easiest thing in the world,” replied Jimmy Skunk. “Just decide what name you like and then ask all your friends to call you by it.”

“I believe I will!” cried Peter Rabbit.