First published in 1922, by Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit is a classic children’s tale, often rated as one of the Top 100 Books for Children.
It is a simply tale, of a toy rabbit who dreams of becoming ‘real’. Made of velvet corduroy fabric, the velveteen rabbit is given to a young boy for Christmas. Initially overlooked by the boy, the Velveteen Rabbit hears from one of the oldest nursery toys, the old Skin Horse, that toys can become real due to the love of their child. To the Velveteen Rabbit his chances of becoming real are slim.
One night, the boys Nana gives the rabbit to him at bedtime, and soon he becomes the boy’s favourite, accompanying him on picnics and outings. At one summer picnic, the Velveteen Rabbit encounters some real rabbits who point out he cannot hop and so is not ‘real’.
When the boy falls ill with Scarlet Fever, the doctor orders him away to the seaside and all his toys and books burnt. The Velveteen Rabbit, shabby and old, is taken out in a sack to the garden where he sadly remembers his life with the boy. Here he meets a Nursery Magic Fairy who grants him a kiss.
The following spring, the boy is visited by a rabbit who reminds him of his old toy, the Velveteen Rabbit.
A precursor of the very popular “Toy Story” franchise, this story inhabits the world of a child’s imagination, the realm of their nursery and the toys who live there and are active when the lights turn off.
Moreover, it explores the life of these imaginations and whether they take a life of their own, due to being loved. Not unlike the story of Pinocchio, it examines the journey of a toy, to become “real”, a journey for which Pinocchio must follow the character arc of a “heroic quest” to become reborn as a “real boy”.
Either way, these stories illustrate human existential questions. What is beyond this mortal coil? Are we but toys in a grand play room, to become moth eaten and discarded?
If we love and are truly loved, must there be something beyond, a greater “reality” to which be belong- something that lives on because of love?