I have a confession. I have been using my three-year-old daughter as my front for acquiring all things Miffy. My daughter likes Miffy, but I love Miffy.
This year Miffy turns 55 so it seems fitting to pay tribute to one of the world’s most iconic rabbits. Dick Bruna created Miffy in 1955 after being inspired by a rabbit he saw in the sand dunes whilst on holiday with his son. Known in the Netherlands as nijntje (a derivative of the Dutch word for ‘little bunny’), the name Miffy was chosen as it worked well in many languages.
Although Miffy has always been a minimalist bunny, over the years she has changed. Initially she looked more like a toy, with floppy ears and shy eyes. Her ‘toddler’ years were represented by a broader face and by 1963 she had ‘grown up’ to the bunny we know today with upright ears and gentle but engaging eyes.
Early Miffy stories were far from a publishing success and the flat, simplistic compositions of Bruna’s illustrations were labelled ‘quite unremarkable’. But Bruna’s audience had other ideas and responded to his simple graphics. Miffy stories all follow the same (highly successful) formula – published as small, square books with bold, strong colours; sixteen pages of story with an illustration on the right hand page and the text on the left; and four lines of verse, with the last word of the second line rhyming with the last of the fourth. All of the stories have a happy ending because Bruna observed in his travels around the world that children under the age of six have much the same expectations regardless of where they live.
There are thirty Miffy stories (although Bruna has published one hundred books for children) and the subject of each is simple and meaningful from Miffy is Crying and Miffy’s Birthday to Miffy’s experiences with a new baby, at the art gallery and going to hospital. Bruna and Miffy have been acknowledged on everything from postage stamps to statues, in museums and as the ambassador for charities (Miffy serves a character spokesperson for Unicef) – there is a terrific summary of the history of Bruna’s achievements on Miffy’s official website.
Miffy can be found in most bookshops and online at Fishpond. If you are a grown-up Miffy fan put her on the coffee table with Dick Bruna, the collected works of Bruna which showcases not only my favourite little rabbit but also the impressive breadth of Bruna’s graphic art.