Twenty-five years ago I purchased a small book entitled ” THE VELVETEEN RABBIT ” by Margery Williams. Being a writer, I was fascinated with the theme of the book “How Toys Become Real”. For some thirty years I was on the road doing special meeting work. The airport was my second home and after reading the hardback book of 38 pages a number of times, I became aware of the various toys that kids were bringing on board. As a rule, they were not new toys or wind-ups. They were the Raggedy Ann type of dolls or animals. It was almost as if these stuffed-animals had become real to the kids. They would hug them, caress and kiss them. I listened as they carried on a steady conversation with them. While most of them were old and tattered they had, in a sense become real to the owner.
The story begins with these words; “There was once a velveteen rabbit, and in the beginning he was really splendid. He was fat and bunchy, as a rabbit should be; his coat was spotted brown and white, he had real whiskers and his ears were lined with pink Sateen. On Christmas morning, when he sat wedged in the top of the Boy’s stocking, with a sprig of holly between his paws, the effect was charming.”
The story was simple; the stuffed rabbit wanted to become real. He didn’t even know that real rabbits existed. He thought they were all stuffed with sawdust like himself. For a long time he lived in the rich boys toy cupboard or on the nursery floor.
“The skin horse had lived longer in the nursery than any of the others. He was so old that his brown coat was bald in patches and showed the seams underneath and most of the hairs in his tail had been pulled out to string bead necklaces. He was wise, for he had seen a long succession of mechanical toys arrive to boast and swagger, and by and by break their mainsprings and pass away. He knew they were only toys and would never turn into anything else. For nursery magic is very strange and wonderful, and only those playthings that were old and wise and experienced like the Skin Horse could understand all about it.”
“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 real mean having things that buzz inside you and having a stick-out handle?”
“Real isn’t how you’re made,” replied the Skin Horse. “Real is 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 to become real?” asked the rabbit.
“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are real you don’t mind being hurt.”
“How does it happen?” asked the Rabbit. Does it happen all at once,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”
“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become! It takes a long long time. That’s why it doesn’t often happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or those who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you become real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and look 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.”
“So time went on and the little Rabbit was very happy – so happy that he never noticed how his beautiful velveteen fur was getting shabbier and shabbier and his tail was coming unsewn, and all the pink rubbed off his nose where the boy had loved him and kissed him.”
Weeks passed by and the little Rabbit grew very old and shabby. But the boy loved him just as much if not more. He lost his whiskers and the pink lining turned grey and he even began to lose his shape and he scarcely looked like a rabbit anymore.
There is no way that I can finish this story and remain within the bounds of words allowed in my column. You can order this book directly from Kalman and Polon, Inc., 2175 Lemaine Avenue, Fort Lee, New Jersey (07024). The book will thrill you and marvel at the wisdom of this fairy-tale story, written for kids of young age. I will tell you, like all stories of this kind, that it has a most happy ending.
What surprises me is how much wisdom is packed into this little book of 38 pages. It reminds me of the scripture, “Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? Let him show out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom. This wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace” (James 3:13-18).