Thursday, March 01, 2007

The Velveteen Rabbit

I thought of another book this morning and am hard pressed to say if this classic children’s story would replace any of the books on my previous list.

The Velveteen Rabbit
by Margery Williams was my first introduction to tragedy in stories. The entire synopsis of the story is in the link - on Wikipedia - but it is a classic “toy becomes real” story. I don’t know what exactly we likened "becoming real” to as children but I remember understanding it so well on an emotional level. Pinocchio wanted to become a REAL boy. The Nutcracker becomes a REAL soldier and saves Clara from the evil Mouse King. The Velveteen Rabbit is rewarded by becoming a REAL rabbit. And this is so important and what every toy wants and as children we instinctually know this.

In the story, The boy must leave behind his beloved toy when he goes to the seaside to recover and he forgets the Velveteen Rabbit when he is given a new plush rabbit. I was so heartbroken that the boy would forsake his favorite toy. The Rabbit is left to be burned in a bonfire with every other contaminated item from the boy’s sickness. I was horrified. The Rabbit was so alive to me. The Rabbit’s sadness is so great that he cries a real tear and a Magic fairy comes and saves him and takes him to the forest and makes him a real rabbit. Later the boy sees him and thinks that real bunny looks like his Velveteen Rabbit, but never knows that it really IS the same rabbit.

I can examine the content ten different ways from an adult perspective but, more importantly, I know what I took away from it as a child. I learned about unconditional love. I learned that the rabbit was rewarded for being such a good and well-loved and faithful toy - even if the boy would never know or understand what had happened to the rabbit. For me, it was a precursor to the romantic tragedies I read as a teenager. The concept of unrequited or abandoned love written in a language that a small child could understand.

I KNEW the Velveteen Rabbit was a wholly wonderful toy with a good heart and it was abandoned to be burned ANYWAY. But in the end, the rabbit was saved by the fairy and ran in the woods near the house of the boy he was once loved by. I took this to mean that love - love for the sake of love and not for reward or recognition - was in itself something magical.

In retrospect I am remembering that I was a somewhat melodramatic child.

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