Miffy, the beloved Dutch rabbit
Miffy is recognisable the world over. There are even museums and parades dedicated to her. This beloved rabbit is actually Dutch, and came to life way back in 1955.
Not only featured in books, Miffy also plays a role in the fashion garment and accessories industry, as well as stationery, amongst others.
The history of Miffy
Dick Bruna is the creator of Miffy, or as she is known in the Netherlands: Nijntje. He came upon the idea to draw this hugely popular rabbit when on holiday in Egmond aan Zee. During this holiday, he told his son bedtime stories about a little, white rabbit that roamed around the garden of their holiday home.
In 1955, Miffy was born, although she looked slightly different to the Miffy we know nowadays.
In his first sketches, Bruna drew Miffy in trousers, but preferring to draw Miffy in a dress, she became a girl rabbit. From 1955 to 1963, Miffy had a different form, resembling a toy stuffed animal, seated and with floppy ears.
In 1963, the Miffy we know appeared, printed in square format books. In these books, Miffy, and her ears, stood up straight and she was drawn looking directly at the reader.
From the start, Miffy has been drawn using a bold black outline, filled in with white, primary colours, and orange and green. These colours make Miffy recognisable and do not complicate her for younger readers. The adventures Miffy goes on are also identifiable for children, reinforcing her appeal.
Over the years, specifically in 1979, 1995, 2001 and 2003, Miffy’s form has changed and adapted. The alterations have made Miffy look rounder, and the proportions of her head and body have also changed.
Why is Miffy called Miffy?
In Dutch, Miffy is called Nijntje. This is a shortening of the word konijntje, which means little bunny. At first, this name was translated into several different languages, as Nijntje was not always easy to pronounce. Then came the name Miffy in 1996, which, despite having no correlation to rabbits, was easy to pronounce. The name Nijntje is now only used in the Netherlands, everywhere else calls the little bunny Miffy.
Who is Dick Bruna?
Dick Bruna, the creator of Miffy, was born on August 23, 1927, in Utrecht. His father was a publisher for A. W. Bruna & Zoon, and Dick was set to follow in his footsteps.
Dick Bruna first started drawing his natural surroundings to occupy himself during the Second World War when he could not go to school. During this time, he resided in a house near the Loodsrechtse Plassen - a lake area in the Netherlands, with his family.
Dick created his first book cover for a book by Arnold Clerx, called “Anne-Marie” when the war was over. He went on to do internships at W.H. Smith in London and another publishing company in Paris. These internships were meant to teach Dick about publishing so that he could join the family company. Dick, however, had other ideas. Originally, he wanted to be a writer.
In Paris, Dick was inspired by artists such as Léger and Matisse, and when he came back to the Netherlands in 1948, he enrolled in the Rijksakademie for fine art in Amsterdam. However, he soon dropped out, as it was not a good fit for him.
In 1951, Dick joined his father’s company, but not as a publisher, as a designer. Dick produced posters and book covers and started his work on picture books in 1953. He ended up producing around 2.000 posters and book covers and more than 120 books and boasted clients such as the City of Utrecht.
Dick Bruna lived in Utrecht for most of his life and had a special bond with the city. In 2007, the Golden Lapel Pin of the City of Utrecht was bestowed upon him. He retired in 2011 and passed away on February 16, 2017.
Dick Bruna created more than 120 books in his lifetime, with the Miffy character being the most popular and starring in 33 books. His books have been translated into more than 50 languages and over 80 million Miffy books have been sold worldwide.
The Miffy books have stayed true to their original format of 12 pages with four lines of rhyming verse on the left page and an illustration on the right. The books are also square, as opposed to the norm of being rectangular. This has been Dick Bruna’s signature format for over 60 years.
Miffy’s adventures were often inspired by the adventures of Bruna’s grandchildren, and he always tried to tell his stories in 12 or 13 drawings before working on the text for the story itself.
The stories also tended to be about simple things that children do or deal with. His book about death, “Dear grandma bunny”, won the Silver Slate Award in 1997 for its text.
Miffy on the big screen
Not only is Miffy extremely popular in books, she also has her own movie: Miffy the movie (Nijntje de film, in Dutch). Miffy the Movie is a Dutch stop-motion film and it made its debut in 2013. On its opening weekend in the Netherlands, it grossed 219.511 euros, playing on 120 screens.
Take a look at the trailer:
Miffy on TV
Movies are not all Miffy has starred in. In 2003 to 2010, the television series Miffy and Friends aired on KRO in the Netherlands. It stayed on for three seasons, each season consisting of 13 episodes and each episode featuring two segments. In Miffy and Friends, Miffy was animated using stop-motion.
This was followed by three seasons of Miffy’s Adventures Big and Small in 2015 to date (2017). Each season is made up of 26 episodes. This television series made the move from stop-motion to CGI animation and each episode ran for seven minutes.
The Miffy series was broadcasted in more than 70 countries.
In addition to TV, films and books, Miffy is a prominent figure in clothing and accessories, especially in children’s clothing. You can find Miffy clothing in stores all over the world, from H&M to Target.
In the Netherlands, there is a whole museum dedicated to Miffy. Situated in Utrecht, it contains 10 rooms, each representing a different mini-world inspired by Bruna’s books. The museum has been specially designed for children ranging from two to six years of age.
At the museum, children can jump into the world of Miffy and play and explore all that the rooms in the museum have to offer.
Take a peek at what the museum looks like:
Just outside of the city centre of Utrecht, there is a square named after Miffy - Nijntje Pleintje - literally translated “Miffy Square”. The square is home to a statue of Miffy, created by Dick Bruna’s son.
You can also find Miffy traffic lights on the Lange Vliestraat in Utrecht.
Miffy is a beloved character worldwide. In 2015, Miffy celebrated her 60th birthday and the world celebrated with her.
A parade, featuring 60 Miffy statues, decorated by artists from Japan and the Netherlands, took place. Of these statues, 45 were exhibited in the Netherlands and the additional 15 went on a touring exhibition in Japan. Amongst other Miffy related celebrations, The Miffy Museum, formerly the Dick Bruna Huis, was opened in the Netherlands.
That year, Miffy also partnered with Bliss in England to fundraise for premature and special care babies.
In China, metro carriages were decorated with pictures of Miffy to celebrate the special anniversary.
These are just a few of the special things that were done to commemorate Miffy’s 60th birthday; worldwide many other events and promotions were held.