This children’s tale, first published in 1922, is about a stuffed toy rabbit and its journey into becoming a ‘real’ rabbit through love. The story confronts the most basic philosophical questions that we struggle to answer throughout our lifetime; ‘Who am I?’
The story is rich with profound quotes, depth, and wisdom. It chronicles the story of the rabbit’s desire to become real through the love of his owner, a young boy. The boy at first shows preference for the shinier more advanced toys instead of the old-fashioned velveteen rabbit, but becomes fond of him when the rabbit keeps him company when he falls ill suddenly. The longer the boy loves the rabbit the shabbier and more worn out the rabbit becomes. The rabbit’s insecurity with his appearance is removed when he realises that the love he has experienced has made him a real rabbit. The story ends with the rabbit leaving the nursery to join the other ‘real’ rabbits in the woods.
“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.”
This rich quote is full of complexity and depth. It talks to us about how appearances don’t matter because they are not permanent. The more vulnerable you are, the more you experience life. The more you have loved and have been loved is what matters and what makes you real. Love exposes us to pain, hurt and vulnerability, which in turn makes us stronger and helps us become ‘ourselves’.
“He longed to become Real, to know what it felt like; and yet the idea of growing shabby and losing his eyes and whiskers was rather sad. He wished that he could become it without these.”
I think a lot of people can relate to this quote. We can’t be real without shedding ourselves bare and possibly getting hurt in the process. The thought of being open and vulnerable is scary yet it is something that makes us experience happiness without restrictions.
“He didn’t mind how he looked to other people, because the nursery magic had made him Real, and when you are Real shabbiness doesn’t matter.”
This is applicable in today’s age with social media and the necessity of perfecting our image to the world. The minute we let go of those expectations we can start experiencing true relationships.
This story of yearning to be something and the hard journey it takes to get there speaks to a lot of our own personal stories. Let’s take a leaf out of this book and love a little louder so we can become our authentic selves.
Illustrations by William Nicholson in ‘The Velveteen Rabbit’ by Margery Williams (1922).
From Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository.