The point is that I hate The Velveteen Rabbit. Not hate in the conventional anger-driven-rage sense, just in the I-can't-stand-the-thought-of-it sense. And I'm trying to remember why. I remember being given the book to read...after that I only remember feeling very sad about it. SO sad that I have since then avoided the book at all costs. I remember something about scarlet fever, something about toys "acquiring" germs when their owners are sick, something about a toy (an animate toy, mind you) being thrown out with the trash. Who knows whether or not these things are actually contained within the aforementioned book, but my adverse association(s) are quite strong. THEN, when I began this post, I found some of the original illustrations from the book.
Does anyone else find this picture horrifying?? The intense warm colors do not soothe a young child's mind, and the red in this particular one makes it look like the rabbit has died a grisly death. This is not to say that the artist isn't talented, but rather it is to say that they evoke a myriad of objectionable emotions in my heart. Very objectionable. Could it have been the illustrations which caused my fear? Perhaps.
Then, I found this quote from the book:
"Does it hurt?" asked Rabbit.
"Sometimes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. "When you are Real, you don't mind being hurt.""Does it happen all at once, like being wound up," he asked, "or bit by bit?"
"It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse. "You become. It takes time. That's why it doesn't often happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or 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."
The Velveteen Rabbit
by Margery Williams
copyright 1984, Running Press
First of all, my recollections were fairly accurate. Second of all, does anyone else think this might be a terrifying storyline for young children? BURNED IN A BONFIRE?! I know that's not supposed to be the focal point, but, come on. By now I've convinced myself that the reason I found this so terrifying was because I thought the rabbit DID turn real and DID get burned (even if in reverse order). This "Nursery Magic Fairy" does not console me. (By the way, Katie, your posts on fear of fire as a young child did not fall on unsympathetic ears. I, too, had a serious fear of fires as a kid. Fortunately, my mom did map out a route with me...but I still thought I would have to jump out my second story window onto some sort of blanket. That's a whole other post.) I shall never read the book again, nor shall my children know of it's existence. I guess I'm one of the people who 'doesn't understand'.
A boy receives a Velveteen Rabbit for Christmas. The Velveteen Rabbit is snubbed by other more expensive or mechanical toys; the latter of which fancy themselves real. One day while talking with the Skin Horse, the Rabbit learns that real is not how you are made, rather a toy becomes real if its owner really and truly loves it.
When the boy's china dog is misplaced, the Velveteen Rabbit takes the place as the boy's constant companion. The Rabbit becomes shabbier, but the boy loves him no matter what.
The Velveteen Rabbit meets very well-made toys with no seams (they are actual rabbits), and the Velveteen Rabbit learns about the differences between himself and the real rabbits.
This companionship lasts through the winter and the next summer, until the boy falls ill with scarlet fever. The boy becomes too ill to play for a very long time; upon his recovery, he is sent to the seaside on doctor's orders. The boy wishes to take the Rabbit with him, but his doctor forbids him to take the diseased toy. Not only can he not take the Rabbit, but the doctor says it must be burned along with all the nursery toys in order to disinfect the house from the germs.
The boy is given a new plush rabbit with glass eyes and is so excited about the trip to the seaside that he forgets his old Velveteen Rabbit. While awaiting the bonfire, in which the Velveteen Rabbit will be burned, the Rabbit cries a real tear. This tear brings forth the Nursery Magic Fairy. The Rabbit thinks he was real before, but the fairy tells him he was only real to the boy. She flies him to the woods, where he realizes that he is a real rabbit at last and runs to join the other rabbits in the wild.
The following spring, the boy sees the Rabbit hopping in the wild and thinks he looks like his old Velveteen Rabbit, but he never knows that it actually was.
Isn't it amazing what the mind can do with memories it doesn't like?