Monday, December 15, 2008

The physics of a kindergarten rhyme

It may have been as early as kindergarten when I learned this little poem:

Little rabbit in the woods
Little man by the window stood,
Saw a rabbit hopping by
Knocking at his door
"Help me, Help me, Help me," he said,
"For the hunter will shoot me dead!"
"Come little rabbit, come inside
Safely to abide."

I say poem, not song, because it was never taught to me as a song. Perhaps the teacher didn't know the tune or was not comfortable singing. Also, I learned the last line as, "Safely you will hide," which really makes no difference to the message of the poem.

This morning, that little ditty came up in conversation with Nicole. After sharing the differences between her version and mine (which I just did one paragraph ago - come on, reader, weren't you paying attention?!), I began to think about the implausibility of the rhyme's timeline. I mean, aside from the fact that the rabbit could talk.

Think about this: A little man in a little cabin sees a rabbit hopping by his window. The rhyme's wording, though, implies that the rabbit is simultaneously knocking on his door. How can this be? Is he hopping by, or is he knocking on the door? Can a rabbit do both?

It looks like there are several possibilities here:

1) The rabbit is knocking on the door from a distance.

Since rabbits need four paws upon which to hop, one can assume that he would knock on the door with his ears, or some sort of device that is held by his ears. This would require very strong ears, and an extremely long device which would allow the rabbit to knock on the door while he is hopping by the window.

2) The window is part of the front door.

The rhyme does not specify where the window is (that the little man looked through to see the rabbit). Most people would assume that it is a front window, which would probably be within a couple of yards away fromt he front door - or fewer, considering that this is a little cabin in the woods, and not a standard residential house. But consider this: What if the window was a part of the front door itself? Obviously, it would have to be low enough for a standing little man to be able to see through. Would this satisfy the physical requirements for the rabbit's simultaneous actions (hopping by window, knocking on door)? I submit a tentative yes, in this scenario: The rabbit is at the front door, hopping side to side, and knocking on the door with his ears (see #1). But! I said tentative because the rhyme may not support this, and here's why: If the rabbit was knocking on (at) the door while hopping around, wouldn't the rhyme's words be, "Little rabbit in the woods, little man by the front door stood?" The text itself seems to discredit this, which is why I submit my final theory:

3) The rabbit is actually hopping on top of the front door...

...which was, for some reason, detached from the cabin and lain in front of the window before the rabbit ever came. The act of hopping is a repetitive impact on the surface upon which the hopper, and could, in a court of law, constitute "knocking" if the hopper's appendages, paws in this case, are hard enough to make a rapping sound. Now, while most rabbits who hop are doing so without any sort of hard shoes on their paws, keep in mind that this was a talking rabbit; therefore he has been educated at least to the point of being able to interact with little men. One could postulate that if a creature has been educated enough to talk, he has been taught the benefits of wearing sensible shoes, especially while traversing an unpredictable surface like a forest floor. And when the rabbit came upon the scene, his hopping by would have made a knocking sound on (at) the front door that was laying on the ground in front of the window.

So, if theory number three is the most plausible, then this is the timeline: At some point before the scene, the front door of the little cabin in the woods has been removed for reasons unknown. Then, a shod (and, I like to think, bespectacled) rabbit, who is fleeing a merciless hunter, comes upon the scene, and, noticing the door on the ground, hops upon it in an effort to get the little man's attention. The man sees the plight of the rabbit and hears his cry. He invites the rabbit in to his cabin, where he will safely abide (or hide).

Of course, since the front door is laying on the ground and not attached to the cabin like it should be, the hunter will probably just barge in and start shooting.

Oh, well. Who's hungry for fricassee?

1 Talked Back:

At December 16, 2008 at 8:12:00 PM CST, Blogger Nicole said...

Haha...seems like you've got time on your hands...


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