Adorable Nijntje (or Miffy, in English), isn't Japanese, and she's not related to Hello Kitty. The fictional bunny is the main character in a series of children’s books and was the brainchild of Dutch children’s illustrator and writer, Dick Bruna.
Her original name is derived from the Dutch word "(ko)nijntje", which means "little rabbit" and while her name makes sense in Dutch, it's hard to pronounce for many people around the world. Outside of the Netherlands she became known as Miffy, a name easier to pronounce in most languages.
Image of Dick Bruna from the official Nijntje website
Miffy was inspired by a bunny Bruna had seen hopping around the garden during a seaside vacation near the the dunes of Egmond aan Zee.
Throughout his prolific career Bruna created 124 children's books of which 32 were devoted to Miffy, the first published in 1955. Miffy books have been translated into over 50 languages and more than 85 million copies have been sold worldwide.
The image of Miffy was very basic, using mostly primary colors with thick framing lines.
Images of Miffy from the official Nijntje website
Bruna was known for his simple, line-based illustration style, allowing children to easily recognize imagery and create interpretations. His style is often described as minimalist, taking inspiration from artists such as Matisse, Leger and Braque.
In writing his books, Dick Bruna followed a formula whereby each book contained twenty-four pages, with four lines of verse on the left-hand side of the page and a drawing on the right. This formula gives a welcome familiarity to the books.
The books were printed in a small square format (roughly 6x6), making them easy for small readers and pre-readers to hold. Bruna wanted his intended audience to believe that the books were made for them, and not their parents.
With her beady black eyes, Miffy appeals to children, instilling a sense of security. They identify with her and her adventures. Uncomplicated and innocent, Miffy has a positive attitude and is always open to new experiences. Miffy themes are wholesome and relatable: she plays with friends, loves to draw, goes to the zoo and the beach and helps in the garden.
We do however sell the below corduroy plush toy which is based on the famous character and is available in an array of fabulous colors (about 9 inches high).
Bruna died in 2017 at the age of 89, but his legacy continues. Today many of Bruna's works can be seen in the Nijntje Museum in Utrecht (the city Bruna worked and lived for most of his life), including several variations of Miffy. Some of his works can also be found in the Centraal Museum (also in Utrecht). There is a square in Utrecht (Nijntje Pleintje or Miffy Square) dedicated to Miffy and is home to a bronze statue (created by Dick Bruna’s son, Marc Bruna).
If you have kids (or don't) and are planning a trip to the Netherlands, make sure to add Utrecht and the Nijntje Museum to your itinerary (Utrecht is a walkable city and only a 25 minute train ride from Amsterdam). We promise it will be well worth your while.
To learn more about Miffy and her creator, Dick Bruna, visit: about miffy