Rabbit of Caerbannog
|Rabbit of Caerbannog|
|Monty Python character|
|First appearance||Monty Python and the Holy Grail|
|Created by||Monty Python and Eric Idle|
The Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog is a fictional character in the Monty Python film Monty Python and the Holy Grail. The scene in Holy Grail was written by Graham Chapman and John Cleese. The rabbit is the antagonist in a major set piece battle, and makes a similar appearance in Spamalot, a musical inspired by the movie. The iconic status of this scene was important in establishing the viability of the musical.
In the film
The Cave of Caerbannog is the home of the Legendary Black Beast of Arrrghhh. This is guarded by a monster which is initially unknown. 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 upon merely seeing it, before everyone except Tim sizes it up as merely an innocuous white rabbit. 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 scoffing, 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 Robin asks if running away "more" would confuse it. 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.
Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch
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."
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). 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, 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.
The rabbit was portrayed in the movie by both a real rabbit and a puppet.
The name "Caerbannog", though fictitious, does reference real world Welsh naming traditions. In this case, the prefix "Caer-" implies the presence of a castle, as with Caerdydd (Cardiff) and Caerfyrddin (Carmarthen).
Si li crachait en mi le vis
Et escopi par grant vertu
The rabbit has been reproduced in the form of merchandise associated with the movie or musical. Such items include cuddly toys, slippers and staplers. 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.
The rabbit was declared the top movie bunny by David Cheal in The Daily Telegraph. 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.
In popular culture
The rabbit is sometimes used as a metaphor for something which seems ostensibly harmless but is, in fact, deadly. Such hidden but real risks may even arise from similarly cuddly animals. The humour of the scene comes from this inversion of the usual framework by which safety and danger are judged. 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.
- 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".
- In Apple Inc.'s iOS system, Siri may say that the "Rabbit of Caerbannog" is its favorite animal when asked.
- 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.
- 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.
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