Allison's Book Bag

The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams

Posted on: September 30, 2014

The story of a boy who receives a toy rabbit as a Christmas gift, The Velveteen Rabbit is a beloved classic by Margery Williams. I enjoyed this tale as a child and, although my reasons for enjoying it have changed, to this day I have never tired of reading it. No matter how many picture books and chapter books I outgrew and passed on in my youth, The Velveteen Rabbit is one I knew I’d always keep.

As a child, at least part of the appeal of The Velveteen Rabbit lay in its fantastical element. As its subtitle says, it’s a story about how toys become real. In that way, it’s akin to Pinocchio, another beloved literacy character who wanted to be more than a toy. And, in my earliest years, I wanted to believe that my toys could become real. Not that my imaginings were straightforward. Rather, they were a mix of various fantasies. There was the one where my toys would talk at night when I was asleep. Or the one where my toys could invoke revenge on me if I allowed them to get damaged. And the one where all my discarded toys would end up in the land of misfit toys. All of these jumbled in my head, along with the one about where my toys would become real because of my love. And if I were to qualify any of my toys under the latter stipulation, it would have to be a floppy gaudy green and pink plush dog. It’s hair is worn bare, an eye is missing, and various appendages have been taped to hold them together. For years, I slept with that doll. Today I still have it and it serves as my gravatar.

Eventually, I outgrew my belief that toys could become real. Then the appeal of The Velveteen Rabbit lay solely in its message about love: “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.” In Christian circles, the Skin Horse’s advice can be used to explain to new converts how we start out as babes in Christ but through trials and tribulations become mature adults. Amongst friends, the advice can be used to explain why differences and disagreements are to be expected. As much as we might dislike it at the time, it’s only those individuals who love every good and bad part of us who will become our best friends. In every relationship, the Skin Horse’s advice can be applied. Back in our dating years, my husband and I used to quote the Skin Horse’s various lines about being real as a sentimental but profoundly true way of expressing what growing old together would mean.

While rereading The Velveteen Rabbit this past weekend, I felt struck by a couple of critical questions. Barely two pages in, Williams rambles about how the mechanical toys felt superior to the others. They apparently had modern ideas. A jointed lion even pretended he was connected with the Government. I don’t know what I thought of these lines as a child, but now I’m sure that I completely understand them. Then there was the fact that after the boy got sick with the scarlet fever, all the toys in the nursery were to be thrown away. Immediately I wondered whatever happened to the Skin Horse? Yet these two questions didn’t diminish my enjoyment of The Velveteen Rabbit. As Williams rambled on about the expensive toys snubbed by our hero, I felt mostly empathy for how insignificant and commonplace the Velveteen Rabbit felt. With regards to the Skin Horse, I can only surmise that either he escaped the fate of being tossed or he too experienced a visit from the nursery magic fairy. Only we just hear of her visit to Velveteen Rabbit, because the book is about our hero.

The Velveteen Rabbit has been around since 1922. Since that time, it has remained a classic piece of literature through numerous adaptations in children’s theater as well as on radio, television, and the big screen. Every generation will have a chance to experience its beauty in one form or another. What are your memories of The Velveteen Rabbit?

My rating? Bag it: Carry it with you. Make it a top priority to read.

How would you rate this book?

2 Responses to "The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams"

And why I have a huge plush toy collection. 🙂

I wonder if The Velveteen Rabbit is to blame for why I don’t like getting rid of things.

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