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Films >> Fast Runner, The (Atanarjuat) (2001) >> Scene Analysis >>

Oki in Wonderland: The Symbol of the White Rabbit in The Fast Runner: Atanarjuat

By Caitlin Prozonic

[1] A rabbit is generally seen as a meek, helpless creature within literature and film. However, it can also be a tricky character that can alter another character’s perception. Towards the end of Atanarjuat, the white rabbit becomes an important figure within the film, causing something strange and wonderful to happen to the antagonist, Oki. Though throughout the film Oki has been nothing but cruel to Atanarjuat, his disposition changes dramatically and instantaneously when he catches and devours a white rabbit in the snow. Though I am no expert in the mythology and symbolism of rabbits and Inuit culture, in The Fast Runner: Atanarjuat, there seems to be some symbolic meaning attached to the white rabbit that is hunted and the rabbit’s feet that are used as a charm against evil.

[2] Oki’s grandmother, Panikpak, knowing that Oki’s father, Sauri, was dead and that Oki now ruled the tribe, calls on her mystical brother, Qulitalik, a shaman, to come protect the tribe from the evil that Oki perpetrates. When he comes to her, he asks for a rabbit’s foot. Following this scene, we see Qulitalik on a rock with two rabbit’s feet, hopping like a rabbit in a circle around a rock three times. We see him reach out with the rabbit’s feet, saying, “Go home to Igloolik!” It seems that he is putting a charm on this area, but why? What is he doing?

[3] In the next scene, we see Oki out hunting, hunched down about to pounce, and, seconds later, he jumps and rolls in the snow with a snow-white rabbit in his arms. But Panikpak sees that this is no ordinary rabbit. In the next scene, Oki and his two companions are eating dinner, Oki cooking his rabbit and bragging about the kill, but something is strange as he instantly falls asleep. His friends laugh as he lies back after his dinner, but they stop, confused, after noticing that Oki is not getting back up. Just as suddenly as he fell asleep, after convulsing some, Oki wakes up refreshed, sitting up, a wide smile across his face without a hint of vengeance. His friends, confused by the sudden change in attitude, stare at him with fear in their eyes, knowing that something odd has happened. What has caused this odd and sudden change? Did the mystical brother perform a magic trick to change Oki’s behavior?

[4] There must be something important about this scene that changes the course of the film. On the DVD itself, the scene is labeled “A Strange Rabbit.” Having its own scene title seems to show that there is something significant going on. There must be a connection between the two white rabbit’s feet that the brother hops around with and the white rabbit that Oki so easily catches. The spell that the mystical brother has cast is about to take effect. But why a rabbit?

[5] The rabbit has many different symbolic meanings and powers within various cultures. Even within the Inuit culture there are multiple personas that the rabbit figure can take on. Regardless of the meaning assigned to the character, the rabbit is a mythological figure that is not to be trifled with. It can change a person’s behavior completely, making him or her into someone we have never seen before. Its power is even strong enough to change someone like Oki as Panikpak’s brother puts a spell upon the rabbit that he is about to catch.

[6] Throughout the film, it is evident that Oki fears Atanarjuat. There would be no reason to kill Ataranjuat if he were not afraid of him. He is afraid of Atanarjuat’s power over him and the superiority that Atanarjuat has shown with his fast running and amazing hunting abilities. He can provide for his own family, but Oki has no family since he did not win Atuat in the battle with Atanarjuat. Oki is ultimately afraid that Atanarjuat will take over the tribe that Oki feels he is meant to eventually take over. Oki is jealous of Atanarjuat. This is why Oki tries so desperately to get rid of Atanarjuat and his brother. He does not want to lose any power that he has left. The figure of the rabbit in this film “symbolizes fear and overcoming limiting beliefs” (Gods, Heroes, and Myth). Oki needs to overcome the fear that he has of Atanarjuat, and the power of the rabbit helps him to do that as Oki’s personality completely changes once he eats the rabbit. He no longer fears Atanarjuat, but he respects him and the power that he has, inviting and welcoming him into the tribe once Atanarjuat returns, even calling him a “friend.” Oki even tells his sister off when she cries about her disgrace and her clothes being torn, saying that she deserves what she has gotten, knowing that she has been no good to Atanarjuat, seeing the evil inside of her. He finally comes to terms with the fact that Atanarjuat is meant to lead the tribe, even if this is an unnatural belief that is powered by magic. But his friends simply comment that “Something is wrong here. Oki ate too much of that rabbit!”

[7] “The more we focus on our fears the more we attract them to us. Rabbit medicine teaches us to attract to us abundance, love, health, and a warm, dry burrow” ( As we watch Oki’s fears coming to a climax throughout the film, he only seems to allow them to take over his life. He fears Atanarjuat so much that he must get rid of everything having to do with him: Atanarjuat, Atanarjuat’s brother, Aamarjuaq, even Oki’s own father, Sauri. Oki rapes Atuat because he wants to have what Atanarjuat has had. By getting rid of his own father and raping Atuat, he has the power and the “wife” that he has wanted, but he still seems to have fear in his eyes. Oki is not convinced that Atanarjuat is dead, no matter how many steps he takes to ensure his power. However, once Oki eats the white rabbit that he catches, he becomes a refreshed individual. It is almost as if the rabbit was some sort of medication that made him wake up to a better attitude, free of fear. Could it have cleansed Oki of the bad spirits that seemed to possess him throughout the film? He is a more loving, understanding character, and he can see the difference between right and wrong, welcoming back our hero, Atanarjuat, when he returns.

[8] In Inuit culture, the rabbit can also represent a trickster figure to other characters in a narrative. In this instance, the rabbit “tricks” Oki as he digests it, making Oki a very different character than we had previously seen. Oki’s friends seem to notice the trick as they are so confused by the change and know that something is wrong with their leader. He is too generous for the normal Oki. The rabbit that Oki eats turns the entire story around, making the antagonist less of a threat to the hero. In a way, Oki has been tricked into being kind to his adversary when he returns with his sudden personality change.

[9] So much of this culture revolves around spirits and magic, and shamans are what ultimately help to get rid of the evil within their tribe at the very end of the film. Qulitalik sends magic through rabbit’s feet to the body of a rabbit that Oki catches so easily so that the evil can be banished and Atanarjuat can make his triumphant return to his family and his tribe. The white rabbit within this story, along with the magic of Panikpak’s shaman brother, dispel the evil magic from the tribe and allow it to return to peace.

Works Cited

Gods, Heroes, and Myth: Native American: Animal Symbols Animal Power Meanings

Paganism/Wicca by Suite 101: Rabbit/Hare is Trickster-Fear Caller: Native American Rabbit Symbolism