THE VELVETEEN RABBIT/Margery Williams Bianco

A stuffed toy rabbit (with real thread whiskers) comes to life in this timeless tale of the transformative power of love. Given as a Christmas gift to a young boy, the Velveteen Rabbit lives in the nursery with all of the other toys, waiting for the day when the Boy (as he is called) will choose him as a playmate. In time, the shy Rabbit befriends the tattered Skin Horse, the wisest resident of the nursery, who reveals the goal of all nursery toys: to be made “real” through the love of a human.

This is the one of the December group read of The Filipinos Group in Goodreads, and after seeing that a PDF is available for free in the web, I immediately downloaded a copy. It is a short read, a fast reader can finish it for 10-15 minutes.

First published in 1922, The Velveteen Rabbit has been republished many times since and several film adaptations were made. Margery Williams Bianco, the author, lost her father to a sudden death while she was 7 years old and she coped with this tragedy by transforming pain and loss into literature.

The Velveteen Rabbit is short but charming, a timeless classic which pinches the heart of every reader, young and old. It tells of the transforming power of love and, as in most children’s stories, the desire of every toy to become real.

Here is my favorite portion in the book, my favorite lines highlighted:

“What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. “Does it mean having things 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.

“I suppose you are real?” said the Rabbit. And then he wished he had not said it, for he thought the Skin Horse might be sensitive. But the Skin Horse only smiled. “The Boy’s Uncle made me Real,” he said. “That was a great many years ago; but once you are Real you can’t become unreal again. It lasts for always.”

The excerpt above, for me, is the whole point of the story. I must confess I had a difficult time grasping the concept of “becoming real”, since the story is told from the viewpoint of a toy, an inanimate object, which obviously I am not. I wonder how a child who reads the book could understand it more than I do, since for me being real is a philosophical concept, beyond the grasp of a little child. But who am I to underestimate the wisdom of a child?

Allow me to equate the concept of “real” to being “significant”. This is the closest synonym of the word I could ever come up with in this story. The toy rabbit felt, and became, real because it has served its purpose. As a toy, it has brought joy and comfort to its owner, which, for me, is its primary purpose. If you want to get more of life, or in the case of a toy rabbit, to be alive and real, you must learn to live for and with others. Life is not meant to be spent alone. It should be lived not only for oneself, but more particularly for others. To be able to give and share one’s life with others. For it is by sharing and giving that man feels unparalleled joy. Indeed, one who feels significant, important, needed, feels real for he/she has found meaning and purpose for living.

Recommended for all readers, also for bedtime stories.
4 stars.

Book cover and blurb from Amazon.

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