Rabbit of Caerbannog

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Rabbit of Caerbannog
Monty Python character
The Killer Rabbit attacks Lancelot
First appearanceMonty Python and the Holy Grail
Last appearanceSpamalot
Created byMonty Python and Eric Idle
In-universe information

The Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog is a fictional character in the Monty Python film Monty Python and the Holy Grail.[1] The scene in Holy Grail was written by Graham Chapman and John Cleese.[2] The rabbit is the antagonist in a major set piece battle, and makes a similar appearance in Spamalot, a musical inspired by the movie.[3] The iconic status of this scene was important in establishing the viability of the musical.[4]

In the film[edit]

The Cave of Caerbannog is the home of the Legendary Black Beast of Arrrghhh.[5] This is guarded by a monster which is initially unknown.[6] King Arthur (Graham Chapman) and his knights are led to the cave by Tim the Enchanter (John Cleese) and find that they must face its guardian beast. Tim verbally paints a picture of a monster so terrible as to have killed everyone who has tried to enter the cave, and warns them, "death awaits you all – with nasty, big, pointy teeth!". As the knights approach the cave and the rabbit, their "horses" become nervous, forcing the knights to dismount. Sir Robin (Eric Idle) soils his armour from the description of it, before everyone except Tim sizes it up as merely an innocuous white rabbit.[7] Despite the cave's entrance being surrounded by the bones of "full fifty men" fallen, Arthur and his knights no longer take it seriously. Ignoring Tim's warnings ("a vicious streak a mile wide!"), King Arthur orders Bors (Terry Gilliam) to chop the rabbit's head off. Bors draws his sword and confidently approaches it. The rabbit suddenly leaps at least eight feet directly at Sir Bors' neck and bites clean through it in a single motion, decapitating him to the sound of a can opener. Despite their initial shock, Sir Robin soiling his armour again, and Tim's loud laughter, the knights attack in force, but the rabbit injures several of the knights and kills Gawain and Ector with ease. The knights themselves have no hope of killing or injuring the rabbit. Arthur panics and shouts for the knights to retreat ("Run away!"). Sir Lancelot ask if taunting the rabbit could cause a mistake, Sir Robin asks if running away "more" would confuse it, and Sir Galahad suggest bows. Knowing they cannot risk attacking again, they try to find another way to defeat the beast. The Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch is ultimately used to kill the rabbit and allow the quest to proceed.[8]

Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch[edit]

The Sovereign's Orb of the United Kingdom, which The Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch satirises

The Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch is a visual satire of the Sovereign's Orb of the United Kingdom, and may refer to the mythical Holy Spear of Antioch. The Holy Hand Grenade is described as one of the "sacred relics" carried by Brother Maynard (Idle). Despite its ornate appearance and long-winded instructions, it functions much the same as any other hand grenade. At King Arthur's prompting, instructions for its use are read aloud (by Michael Palin) from the fictitious Book of Armaments, Chapter 2, verses 9–21, parodying the King James Bible and the Athanasian Creed:

...And Saint Attila raised the hand grenade up on high, saying, "O LORD, bless this Thy hand grenade, that with it Thou mayest blow Thine enemies to tiny bits, in Thy mercy." And the LORD did grin, and the people did feast upon the lambs and sloths and carp and anchovies and orangutans and breakfast cereals, and fruit bats and large chu... [At this point, the friar is urged by Brother Maynard to "skip a bit, brother"]... And the LORD spake, saying, "First shalt thou take out the Holy Pin. Then shalt thou count to three, no more, no less. Three shall be the number thou shalt count, and the number of the counting shall be three. Four shalt thou not count, neither count thou two, excepting that thou then proceed to three. Five is right out. Once the number three, being the third number, be reached, then lobbest thou thy Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch towards thy foe, who, being naughty in My sight, shall snuff it."[9]

Arthur then pulls the pin, holds up the Holy Hand Grenade and cries out "One! Two! Five!" Sir Galahad (Palin) corrects him: "Three, sir!" (Arthur's innumeracy is a running gag in the picture).[9] Arthur then yells "Three!" and hurls the grenade towards the rabbit. The grenade soars through the air – accompanied by a short bit of angelic choral a cappella – bounces, and explodes. The killer rabbit is defeated, and the hapless knights errant continue on their quest. The noise also attracts policemen who were investigating the murder of a historian by a mounted knight earlier in the film.


The rabbit scene was shot outside the Tomnadashan mine,[10] a cave 4 miles (6.5 km) from the Perthshire village of Killin. For the 25th anniversary DVD, Michael Palin and Terry Jones returned to be interviewed in front of the cave but they could not remember the location.[11][12]

The rabbit was portrayed in the movie by both a real rabbit and a puppet.[13]

The name "Caerbannog", though fictitious, does reference real world Welsh naming traditions. In this case, the element caer- implies the presence of a castle, as with Caerdydd (Cardiff) and Caerphilly, while bannog can have a variety of meanings, the most apposite here being "turreted".


The façade on Notre Dame that gave inspiration

The tale of the rabbit has a parallel in the early story of the Roman de Renart in which a foe takes hubristic pride in his defeat of a ferocious hare:[14]

Si li crachait en mi le vis
Et escopi par grant vertu[15]

The idea for the rabbit in the movie was taken from the façade of the cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris. This illustrates the weakness of cowardice by showing a knight fleeing from a rabbit.[16]


The rabbit has been reproduced in the form of merchandise associated with the movie or musical. Such items include cuddly toys,[17] slippers[18] and staplers.[19] The plush killer rabbit was rated the second geekiest plush toy of all time by Matt Blum of the GeekDad blog on Wired.com, coming second to the plush Cthulhu.[20]


The rabbit was declared the top movie bunny by David Cheal in The Daily Telegraph.[21] It also ranked high in an Easter 2008 poll to establish Britain's best movie rabbit, coming third to Roger Rabbit and Frank from Donnie Darko.[22]

In popular culture[edit]

The rabbit is sometimes used as a metaphor for something which seems ostensibly harmless but is, in fact, deadly.[23] Such hidden but real risks may even arise from similarly cuddly animals.[24] The humour of the scene comes from this inversion of the usual framework by which safety and danger are judged.[25] Four years after the release of the movie, Killer Rabbit was the term used widely by the press to describe the swamp rabbit that "attacked" then U.S. President Jimmy Carter while he was fishing on a farm pond.[26]

Video games[edit]

  • In the sandbox game Minecraft, there is a command that players can run that will spawn in the killer rabbit, or, as it is called in the game, "The Killer Bunny". It is white with red eyes and attacks the player, foxes and wolves, unlike normal rabbits in the game.[27]
  • In the beat 'em up game Dragon's Crown, there is one boss found at the end of Path B of the Lost Woods called "Killer Rabbit". The Rabbit has relatively low HP compared to other bosses but primarily uses high damaging single-target attacks. The Killer Rabbit is a small, white rabbit with red eyes. Although it looks like an ordinary rabbit, once it gets aggressive it opens its mouth wide, revealing many massive teeth that it uses to rip its enemies to shreds. If the player takes too long to defeat the Rabbit, the Highland Knights come out to fight the Rabbit and will continue to come out endlessly. A box of Bombs also appear off to the side near the exit to throw at the Rabbit, another reference to the Holy Hand Grenade in Monty Python.[citation needed]
  • In the MMORPG Old School RuneScape there is a hidden boss called simply 'Rabbit'. Although it has the same combat level as normal rabbits in the area, the boss version has much higher statistics including an incredibly high hitpoints level. In reference to Monty Python the Rabbit drops a grail when defeated.[citation needed]
  • Worms series of games has a Holy Hand Grenade weapon, which is the most powerful grenade in the series. It is a direct tribute to the one mentioned here, has nearly identical appearance, and also has a 3-second timer.[citation needed]
  • In the MMORPG World of Warcraft there is the Darkmoon Rabbit, a clear reference to the Rabbit of Caerbannog. It drops as a pet that can be used as a companion and in the pet battle minigame. It also exists in the connected digital CCG Hearthstone as an epic minion card.[citation needed]
  • In the spaceship salvaging game Hardspace: Shipbreaker, there is a small possibility of a pink rabbit plushie spawning inside the ship. Collecting it awards the player the achievement "The Killer of Caerbannog".


  • In Apple Inc.'s iOS system, Siri may say that the "Rabbit of Caerbannog" is its favorite animal when asked.[28]
  • When a Tesla Model 3 is named "the rabbit of Caerbannog" a link to the Monty Python YouTube channel in the Tesla Theatre will appear.[29]


  • Creatures & Treasures, a sourcebook for Iron Crown Enterprises' Rolemaster tabletop role-playing game, includes a "Killer Rabbit" monster entry. The creature's outlook is given as "Hostile", with a note that it "bounds for the throat, never for another part of the body." Another note in the description instructs the gamemaster to "treat 'exploding' attacks [made against the rabbit] as 'slaying' (H.H.G.O.A.)", a clear reference to the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch.[30]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Steven Gale (1996). Encyclopedia of British Humorists: Geoffrey Chaucer to John Cleese. Taylor & Francis. p. 155. ISBN 0-8240-5990-5.
  2. ^ Johnson, Kim Howard (1999). The First 200 Years of Monty Python. St Martin's. pp. 200. ISBN 9780312033095.
  3. ^ Ben Brantley (18 March 2005). "A Quest Beyond the Grail". The New York Times. Retrieved 3 May 2008.
  4. ^ Eric Idle (2005). The Greedy Bastard Diary: A Comic Tour of America. New York: HarperEntertainment. p. 312. ISBN 0-06-075864-3. "Will there be a Killer Rabbit?" "Yes." "Then I'm coming," he said, and went off gleefully shouting, "Ni!" Mike Nichols looked shocked. And impressed.
  5. ^ Chapman, Graham; Jones, Terry (1977). Monty Python and the Holy Grail (BOOK) / Monty Python's second film: a first draft. London: Methuen. p. 78. ISBN 0458929700.
  6. ^ Derek Albert Pearsall; Derek Pearsall (2003). Arthurian Romance: A Short Introduction. Malden, MA: Blackwell Pub. p. 150. ISBN 0-631-23320-2.
  7. ^ Brian Kaylor (2007). For God's Sake Shut Up!: Lessons for Christians on How to Speak. Macon, Ga.: Smyth & Helwys Pub. p. 22. ISBN 978-1-57312-485-0.
  8. ^ Darl Larsen; William Proctor Williams (2003). Monty Python, Shakespeare and English Renaissance Drama. Jefferson, NC: McFarland. p. 69. ISBN 0-7864-1504-5.
  9. ^ a b John Cleese, Graham Chapman, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones and Michael Palin, Monty Python and the Holy Grail: The Screenplay, page 76, Methuen, 2003 (UK) ISBN 0-413-77394-9
  10. ^ "Panoramio – Photo of Tomnadashan mine". panoramio.com. Archived from the original on 22 June 2017. Retrieved 29 October 2017.
  11. ^ Charles Lavery (20 August 2000). "Monty Python & The Holey Grail". Sunday Mail. p. 29.
  12. ^ "Python's Killer Rabbit Search is a Holy Farce", Alastair Dalton, Scotland on Sunday, 20 August 2000, Pg. 3
  13. ^ Gilliam, Terry; Jones, Terry (2001). Monty Python and the Holy Grail commentary (DVD). Columbia Tristar.
  14. ^ J. R. Simpson (1996). Animal Body, Literary Corpus: The Old French "Roman de Renart". Rodopi. pp. 156–157. ISBN 90-5183-976-6.
  15. ^ Le Roman de Renart, Ernest Martin, ed., vol. 2, Strasbourg: Trubner, 1887, p. 199
  16. ^ Alan Parker; Mick O'Shea (2006). And Now for Something Completely Digital. New York: Disinformation. p. 66. ISBN 1-932857-31-1.
  17. ^ "Killer Rabbit with Big Pointy Teeth". Toy Mania. Retrieved 4 May 2008.
  18. ^ Lisa Traiger (9 June 2006). "Killer Bunnies and Comedy in King Arthur's Court". Washington Post.
  19. ^ Mark Zaslove (November 2007). "Toy Sleuth: It's a Big, Big World Minis and Scary Staplers Fight for the Spotlight". Toy Directory.
  20. ^ Blum, Matt (22 September 2008). "The 10 Geekiest Plush Toys Money Can Buy". Wired.
  21. ^ Cheal, David (5 October 2006). "Top five movie bunnies". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 22 May 2010.
  22. ^ Alba (24 March 2008). "The Diary". The Scotsman.
  23. ^ William W. Betteridge; James F. Niss; Michael T. Pledge (1975). "Competition in Regulated Industries: Essays on Economic Issues". Center for Business and Economic Research, Western Illinois University. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  24. ^ Holger Breithaupt (2003). "Fierce creatures". EMBO Reports. 4 (10): 921–924. doi:10.1038/sj.embor.embor949. PMC 1326407. PMID 14528257.
  25. ^ R Simpson (September 1996). "Neither clear nor present: The social construction of safety and danger". Sociological Forum. Springer. 11 (3): 549–562. doi:10.1007/BF02408392. S2CID 145706377.
  26. ^ Edward D. Berkowitz (2006). Something Happened: A Political and Cultural Overview of the Seventies. New York: Columbia Univ. Press. p. 115. ISBN 0-231-12494-5.
  27. ^ Minecraft For Dummies. John Wiley & Sons. 2015. p. 107.
  28. ^ @montypython (9 July 2015). "Has anyone ever asked Siri what's it's favourite animal is?!#killerrabbit #MontyPython" (Tweet). Retrieved 13 July 2017 – via Twitter.
  29. ^ Media, Ryan Daws | 7th October 2019 | TechForge (7 October 2019). "Tesla will allow users to customise their vehicle's horn and motor sounds". Internet of Things News. Retrieved 28 June 2020.
  30. ^ Charlton, S. Coleman; Short, Lee O.; et al. (1985). Creatures & Treasures. Charlottesville VA, USA: Iron Crown Enterprises. p. 30. ISBN 0915795302.