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

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 (named for the last utterance of anyone who ever saw it).[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 terrible monster with "nasty, big, pointy teeth!", so terrifying that Sir Robin (Eric Idle) soils his armour at the mere description. When the guardian appears to be an innocuous white rabbit,[7] surrounded by the bones of the 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 confidently approaches it, sword drawn, and is immediately decapitated by the rabbit biting clean through his neck, to the sound of a can opener. Despite their initial shock, Sir Robin soiling his armor 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!"). 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 naught 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 music – 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 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 plush 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]

Cultural impact[edit]

The rabbit is now 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" the U.S. President Jimmy Carter while he was fishing on a farm pond.[26]

In Apple Inc.'s iOS system, Siri may say that the "Rabbit of Caerbannog" is its favorite animal when asked.[27][28]

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.[29]

Both the Rabbit of Caerbannog and the Holy Hand Grenade appear in a rendition of the scene from the movie in Monty Python & the Quest for the Holy Grail, a PC CD-ROM adventure game created by 7th Level in 1996 for Windows.

The Holy Hand Grenade has made an appearance in many iterations of the Worms video game series, starting with Worms: The Director's Cut. It is a much-stronger (and somewhat different-acting) version of the "regular" hand grenades, and has the general appearance of the grenade from the film. As in the film, it has a three-second trigger and will usually only bounce once.

The Holy Hand grenade appears indirectly referenced in the game Team Fortress 2. It is in the Lumbricus Lid, a cosmetic item referencing the Worms series, replacing the Soldier's grenades with the Holy hand grenades from Worms, as well as adding a different helmet. Equipping the Lumbricus Lid will change the kill icon for the Kamikaze kill taunt to an image of the holy hand grenade.

One can also find a Holy Hand Grenade in the games Fallout 2 and Fallout: New Vegas, the former having a special monster encounter also referencing the film, in which several Brotherhood of Steel Paladins in Power Armor are fighting an unusually powerful rat.

In Minecraft, there is a special rabbit that is white with red eyes. Minecraft rabbits are normally passive, but this follows and tries to kill the player character and when it does, the death message states: '[Playername] was slain by The Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog'. It can still be summoned using command blocks (an in-game scripting mechanic), but it no longer appears wild as of version 1.8 14w34a. [30]

In Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3, Kitana's Animality involves her transforming into a small rabbit and mauling the opponent, much like the Rabbit of Caerbannog.

In Dragon Age: Inquisition, one of the game locations is Caer Bronach, an alternate spelling of the cave in the film.

In Catacomb Armageddon, the level The Garden of Forgotten Souls features what at first appear to be innocuous rabbits, which then grow into vicious monsters.

In Shadow Warrior, there are rabbits throughout the game. A secret level that has a cave, similar to the film, with pieces of armor lying around and the Holy Grail. The 2013 Shadow Warrior remake also contains rabbits which can sometimes attack the player when provoked.

In Terraria, the Holy Hand Grenade appears as a craftable throwable. While it only appears in the Mobile and 3ds versions, it is credited with the highest base damage of any item in all versions of Terraria. [31]

In Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura, there is a quest in which the player is sent to investigate a rabbit which is in fact a giant monster.

In card game Munchkin, there is a monster which refers to "that rabbit from that movie", most probably the Rabbit of Caerbannog, due to the danger of the foe.

In the World of Warcraft MMORPG, the monthly Darkmoon Faire Island features a cave off the southern coast that is populated by a white rabbit of fearsome combat ability that requires an entire well orchestrated raid group to effectively attack and kill. Attackers have the chance to pick up their own "killer rabbit" pet as part of the loot.

In Dungeons of Dredmor players can find and use Holy Hand Grenades, with the description "O Lord, bless this, thy hand grenade."

In Divinity: Original Sin Enhanced Edition, a Holy Hand Grenade can be found or crafted. Its appearance similar to that of the one from the movie. The grenade heals allies within its radius of effect.[32]

In Dragon's Crown, the Killer Rabbit is the boss of the B Route of the Lost Woods stage, which also features a forest hermit that looks similar to Tim the Enchanter.

In The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, there is a hidden cave near Benek (location of quest "Hidden in the stars"), in whose entrance will be a pile of skulls, bodies, blood spatters, and a single snow hare.

In Divinity 2: Ego Draconis, a powerful level 22 killer rabbit will spawn after the player has killed a certain number of rabbits in the game, which can easily overwhelm low-level players.

In Warlock: Master of the Arcane, there is a lord you can obtain that is immune to physical damage with the appearance of a bunny with red eyes, named a cruel creature.[33]

Monsters known as "vorpal bunnies" are capable of instantly killing player characters with critical hits in the Wizardry series of role-playing games.

In The Madness of Little Emma, there is an item named Beast of Caerbannog, described on collection as having "A vicious streak a mile wide!" and via the in-game item list as "Summons a deadly beast on activation".[34]

In Margonem.pl there is a Titan called Killer Rabbit that has one of the best legendary secondary weapon on Mage "Holy Hand Grenade"

In Steve Moraff's game Moraff's World there is a Holy Hand Grenade weapon that can be found and then used to kill monsters.

In the film Ready Player One there is a Holy Hand Grenade weapon that is bought and later used by Parzival during the battle.

In Quest for Glory IV : Shadows of Darkness, players will encounter 'Vorpal Bunnies', whose appearance and behaviour mimics that of the Rabbit of Caerbannog.

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. p. 200. ISBN 9780312033095.
  3. ^ Ben Brantley (18 March 2005). "A Quest Beyond the Grail". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-05-03.
  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 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 2008-05-04.
  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. ^ "The 10 Geekiest Plush Toys Money Can Buy". Wired. 22 September 2008.
  21. ^ Cheal, David (5 October 2006). "Top five movie bunnies". London: The Daily Telegraph. 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.
  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).
  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. ^ @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.
  28. ^ "These Are The Five Most Disturbing Responses Siri Has To Certain Questions". Sick Chirpse. 2017-01-24. Retrieved 2017-07-13.
  29. ^ Charlton, S. Coleman; Short, Lee O.; et al. (1985). Creatures & Treasures. Charlottesville VA, USA: Iron Crown Enterprises. p. 30. ISBN 0915795302.
  30. ^ Rabbit - Official Minecraft Wiki,
  31. ^ Holy Hand Grenade - Official Terraria Wiki,
  32. ^ Divinity: Original Sin Enhanced Edition Changelist
  33. ^ "Cruel Creature". Retrieved 2016-08-11.
  34. ^ "Beast of Caerbannog". Retrieved 2016-12-12.