The Velveteen Rabbit or How Toys Become Real is a children’s novel by Margery Williams. It tells the story of a stuffed rabbit who lives in a nursery. He was given as a Christmas present to a little boy who initially forgets about him. The other presents are more modern and mechanical and the boy is distracted by them. They have all the bells and whistles and at first the boy doesn’t appreciate the Rabbits beauty. He is put away in the cupboard and forgotten about. The other toys, they look down on the Rabbit because of his simplicity. All except the Skin Horse who is the oldest toy in the nursery. He is wise and he becomes friends with the Rabbit. What the Rabbit wants more than anything in the world is to become real. One day he asks the old Skin Horse how he can achieve his goal of becoming real. The Skin Horse explains this process to the Rabbit. The Rabbit learns from the Skin Horse that he can only become real if the little boy loves him. Love can make him real and it can never be reversed. The Skin Horse tells him that he was made real by the boy’s uncle years ago.
“What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, …. “Does it mean having thing’s that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”
” Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”
“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit. “Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.” “Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?” “It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”
Eventually the Rabbit is reunited with the boy and he becomes his best friend. The boy truly loves the rabbit and the rabbit finally understands what the Skin Horse was talking about. The boy loved him so much that he made him real. The Velveteen Rabbit was Williams first children’s book and her most successful by far. It was first published in 1922 and it has been republished many times due to its popularity. It was awarded the CBC Children’s Choice award. The was also adapted into a video recording and soundtrack in 1985 by Rabbit Ears Productions and is narrated by none other than Meryl Streep. The music is by George Winston. It received a Parents’ Choice Award for Multimedia and was nominated for a Grammy award.
This story deserves all the praise it receives. It is a great children’s book but there is also a very important message in it for adults too. It teaches the reader the power of love and that if you are loved enough you can become real. This can never be undone and it can happen to anyone as long as they aren’t too hard, or have sharp edges or break too easily. This message is as relevant today as it was in the 1920’s. I never read this story as a child. I had heard of the book several times but it was not a feature of my childhood in the way Rould Dahl’s stories or Charlotte’s Web was. I was recently reintroduced to it by my sister and although my childhood was quite a while ago the wonder was not lost on me.
The conversation between the Rabbit and the Skin Horse, quoted above, is so poignant and yet so simple. As well as reading the story I also listened to Meryl Streep’s audio version. It really is a treat to the senses. In the end when the Rabbit is transformed by a magic fairy into a real live rabbit. He can finally jump around and play with the other rabbits, as he always wished he could. Although he no longer belongs to the boy he always watches over him because he also truly loves him. The boy will always be the first person who made him real and therefore he will always be special. I really enjoyed this book and I would defiantly recommend it to others in the future. It is so important for all of us to hear this message, especially as a child. I think that knowing that you are “real” is like knowing that you matter and every child has the right to feel that way. This story will stay with you long after you read the last page. Sometimes the simple stories are the best ones and that is why they stand the test of time.