Mawaru Penguindrum 12 ~ Mary Had a Little Lamb

Mary and his little lambs.

Well, I’ve decided on impulse to immediately talk about episode 12 of Mawaru Penguindrum after watching it. The events that has transpired within this episode have been revealing, yet still not getting closer to the mystery that is the Penguindrum. However, I would like to point out one core theme of this episode, or rather, the allusion to a famous nursery rhyme that we all surely are familiar with, Mary Had a Little Lamb, along with several other references. SPOILERS WARNING AHEAD!

The apple tree.

In this episode of Mawaru Penguindrum, when Himari collapses after hearing Shoma’s tale of his parents’ involvement in a disastrous incident sixteen years ago, Shoma begins reciting a story that alludes to the nursery rhyme, Mary Had a Little Lamb, with various differences and added references such as double black rabbits and the biblical story of Adam and Eve. The black rabbits symbolizes family, awareness, caution, and curiosity. Family is a powerful theme in Mawaru Penguindrum, we can be sure of that. There is so much to be aware and cautious of in Mawaru Penguindrum as well, since we have a biker-thief, Masako, and the mysterious librarian as well. Curiosity is also a subtle theme as well, since Shoma is curious as to what is exactly written in Momoka’s diary (which we now know about), but so far, I have yet to see any further evidence of curiosity as of writing this post. The color of the rabbits also symbolizes a hidden motive from within shadows, black darkness, and possibly ill intent. We may never know why the rabbits offered their advice about taking the ashes from the Goddess’s torch, but that may be answered soon as we see them as young boys by Watase Sanetoshi (the librarian) near the end of the episode.

Withering apple tree.

The black rabbits.

Shoma’s story also had a similarity to the story of Adam and Eve, where Adam and Eve stole the fruit from God’s tree, tempted by a sinister snake. Shoma speaks of Mary being tempted by the double black rabbits to steal the ashes from the Goddess’s torch to revitalize her (or his judging from the animation?) precious apple tree. We can say that Mary would be the equivalent of Adam, that the Goddess’s Torch alludes to God’s fruit tree, and that the black rabbits alludes to the sinister manipulative snake. Also, the apple’s meaning in Mawaru Penguindrum finally starts to make sense, since the apple could allude to God’s fruit. I am no expert on biblical texts (I’m atheist/Buddhist/Shinto with my own various beliefs), but this is very intriguing to note.

The Goddess's Torch.

The story of Adam and Eve also tells of temptation as well. Now, I am uncertain as to exactly what subjects or objects there are to cause temptation, but I do believe that Momoka’s diary is a subject, though I have only an inkling of it. Also, when Himari stripped naked to initialize the Survival Strategy, there certainly is temptation involved, as she alluringly reaches down into Kanba’s body (soul?) to breathe new life in Himari’s body. This is evocative of Shoma’s tale, when Mary steals the ashes of the Goddess’s Torch to breathe new life in his precious apple tree.

Kanba and Himari initializing Survival Strategy

And now, to the main relevant subject of Shoma’s story. It also invokes the lyrical images from that famous nursery rhyme that we all surely know, Mary Had a Little Lamb. A brief historical background: This nursery rhyme was first written by Sarah Josepha Hale during nineteenth century America, and it was inspired by an actual event that happened to her. Almost everyone knows that song, but it has changed over time since May 24, 1830, its published date, so I shall instead recite the original Mary’s Little Lamb word for word when it was first printed (I actually happen to have a copy of the original with me at the moment for a college project, but I think you can find it on the Internet as well):

Mary had a little lamb,
Its fleece was white as snow,
And every where that Mary went
The lamb was sure to go;
He followed her to school one day-
That was against the rule,
It made the children laugh and play,
To see a lamb at school.

And so the Teacher turned him out,
But still he lingered near,
And waited patiently about,
Till Mary did appear;
And then he ran to her, and laid
His head upon her arm,
As if he said- ‘I’m not afraid-
You’ll keep me from all harm.’

‘What makes the lamb love Mary so?’
The eager children cry-
‘O, Mary loves the lamb, you know,’
The Teacher did reply;-
‘And you each gentle animal
In confidence may bind,
And make them follow at your call,
If you are always kind.’

Now, notice that this original nursery rhyme is very different from the one we hears nowadays today. In this poetic rhyme, the theme is elegant and yet very simple at the same time. It tells of the meaning of kindness and of what we can do when we are kind and subtly, what happens when we are not kind. The little lambs in Shoma’s tale are so endeared with Mary, and Mary had been kind to them. But, when Mary’s precious apple tree withered, he paid no heed to the little lambs’ consoling cries. The punishment for ignoring his little lambs and stealing the ashes from the Goddess’s Torch, was unfortunately cruelly paid. The Goddess chose to take the gentlest, kind, young, little girl lamb away from Mary. “Why take her? Why can’t it be me?” Kanba cries out on Himari’s deathbed. And the Goddess said, “Because the punishment has to be the most unjust.”

Mary's little lambs.

Watase Sanetoshi and the black rabbits.

Fate, love, family, temptation, kindness. These concepts are so very integral to Mawaru Penguindrum, and Shoma’s enchanting story invokes all of these in one way or another. Was it fateful for Himari to die? Can the opposite of love, ignorance, cause terrible harm on loved ones, in this case, the little lambs? Was Mary truly kind to her little lambs, as the nursery rhyme suggests? Has the strong bond of family held straight and true between the Takakura siblings? Is the apple a symbolism of temptation? So many questions, yet so much allusions and mysteries remains, leaving us grasping at old tell-tale hints.



Filed under Anime, Episodics, Mawaru Penguindrum

24 responses to “Mawaru Penguindrum 12 ~ Mary Had a Little Lamb

  1. I knew rabbits were evil, but….:P

    • It certainly seems like it, but we don’t really know much about them, plus we only see the appearance of the boys with Sanetoshi near the end and nothing more. Can’t wait for the next episode of Mawaru Penguindrum!

  2. Kayla


  3. Kayla

    Ohh…my bad. xD I was just all excited, I guess I just realized it myself looking at the last picture and didn’t see it in your post! Well in that case I think you’re right, I think this is the first I’ve come across where someone has actually made that connection…I think. They have the ribbons and cravats and everything, really interesting. Anywho, I agree with your break-down of the “Mary had a little lamb” analogy/theory as well as your comparisons. I was thinking the same thing. 😀 So thank you~ Sorry. xD

    • Ahaha, it’s my fault for not clarifying it clearly. I should have put the last picture together with the rabbits picture to make it easier to draw the connection. No worries and thanks for commenting again!

  4. I thought this is the same version of the song we use today. (Well, except we never get past the second verse). How is the modern version different?

    And how do you get that the black rabbits symbolize family, awareness, caution and curiosity? Not to say that they don’t, it’s just not so obvious to me.

    I like what you pointed out about the ties between the temptation of the torch and the temptation of Kanba by Himari.

    • Yes, this version is different from the today version of the song, but their meanings are the same. However, I felt that the original poem was fittingly and much more clear with regards to its main theme, kindness and gentleness, and that’s why I chose the original poem. The lyrics of the modern version can be found here: See how the last verse omit some parts? The modern version says very simply that the lamb loves Mary because Mary love it back. That’s all. However, the original poem goes a little bit further to get the main theme across, which is when treated with kindness, a gentle animal will come to love you back (in this case, it can be changed to include human beings as well).

      As for the rabbits, it was my impression that rabbits were alert, nurturing, and inquisitive by nature. Rabbits do have many predators, so they must be careful and aware. Also, as you may know, rabbits have a high reproductive rate, which contribute to a larger family to nurture for. Rabbits also tend to be quite active and inquisitive as well, and they do so when placed in new environments. The part about curiosity is loosely based on my experiences with rabbits, so I suppose that this would be the least obvious concept and lacking substance. ^_^”

      By the way, I also like your interpretation how the black rabbits are stained with sin and lost their innocence in your comment reply on your post. ^_^

  5. I find the twisting of stories to fit the plot in an anime to be in bad taste. It’s a way of making the story seem so much grander by saying “look, it’s just like this famous story”. Unless this rewritten Mary Had A Little Lamb story plays a huge part in the series later on, it just doesn’t feel like it fits with the anime.

    Besides that, I was totally shocked with what happened to Himari, I did not see that coming. Now I’m hoping that the Penguin Drum will be able to bring her back, I miss “seizon senryaku” already.

    • It’s true that this story has been rewritten quite a bit with added references, and I have no idea of where this is leading to. Such a tantalizing build-up would be a fittingly term for this episode, and we’ll have to wait and see if it plays a major role in the future.

      I was also very shocked with Himari as well, and I really hope that she makes it, but it doesn’t look like she will come back seeing as Himari’s penguin faded away…

  6. Thanks for putting the original Mary had a Little Lamb lyrics *_*

  7. tsurugiarashix

    Lol. So I guess Shoma’s Mary Had A Little Lamb just added some symbolic interpretation to the whole thing. I am familiar with the rhyme and sure the whole thing didn’t go like that or at least what I remembered, lol.

    • I think you may be more familiar with the modern version, which can be found in a link in my comment reply to draggle above, complete with accompanying music. Though there may be some other variations, I would think. ^_^

  8. So much stuff going on this series. I never really trust Sanetoshi, just like the rabbit, I believe he’s a trickster character. The allusions and symbolisms are being quite confusing for me now. I have no idea how I can make sense of the Mary Had a Little Lamb. As for the concept of dying, I’m somewhat getting tired of it, but not in a bad way. It’s just that, has always been used as a surprise twist and I’m getting so used to it. But overall, I’m enjoying this show.

    • Yes, Mawaru Penguindrum is getting more confusing each episode, eh? Like Nopy said in his comment above, there really isn’t much sense in twisting a story, unless it has big relevance to future episodes. Mary Had a Little Lamb, to me, seems to be one story that’ve been augmented with various other references, and we really don’t know why or how does the story fits in with the series. But the last two lines of the poem does seem sinister, as pointed out to me by ajthefourth over Twitter, and it could foreshadow something. It’s all speculation and tossing theories about here, and I confess that I still have no idea what the heck is going on in this series.

      But I’m still enjoying the show, I suppose. I think I’ll just turn off my critical mind and just enjoy it. :/

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