Read First, Watch After: The Velveteen Rabbit
Even though Margery Williams wrote this short and sweet children’s book in 1922, it reads as though it was written today… It’s not a timeless classic for nothing.
I don’t recall reading it as a child, but several years ago, I heard passages of it quoted at a wedding, and it was so poignant I immediately bought myself a hardcover copy, complete with the charming illustrations by William Nicholson. The story moved me to tears, and it still does (just got the Kindle edition a few weeks ago – The Velveteen Rabbit is a keeper).
The tale follows the life of a plush toy bunny given to a little boy on Christmas morning. “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 thread 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.”
“There were other things in the stocking; nuts and oranges and a toy engine, and chocolate almonds, and a clockwork mouse, but the Rabbit was quite the best of all. For at least two hours the Boy loved him, and then Aunts and Uncles came to dinner, and there was a great rustling of tissue paper and unwrapping of parcels, and in the excitement of looking at all the new presents, the Velveteen Rabbit was forgotten.”
The toy sits on a shelf for months, unloved. But when the boy falls ill, he’s given a toy to cuddle – The Velveteen Rabbit. Through the boy’s love, the bunny begins to feel real. He wants nothing more than to be real. One of the boy’s other toys tells the rabbit, “Real isn’t how you are made. It’s 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.”
The book description suggests it’s ideal for kids 3 – 7. Needless to say, I disagree! It’s a splendid, thought-provoking read for anyone who appreciates a “real” story.
The power of words, and the reader’s imagination, can never be matched by a film, but The Velveteen Rabbit has been made into movies a few times over the years. The most recent one came out in 2009, and is directed by Michael Landon, Jr. It’s partially live action and partially animated. In order to flesh out a 90 minute runtime, the story is vastly expanded. Rather than seen through the eyes of the Rabbit, it’s from the perspective of the boy.
Toby (Matthew Harbour) is a motherless young boy who lives with his strict grandmother (Una Kay) and distant father (Kevin Jubinville). His discovery of the “magic attic” offers a haven where he finds a stuffed rabbit his mother (Jane Seymour) left him before she passed away. His tears transform the rabbit into a playful animated Rabbit and their adventures begin. Rabbit’s one wish is become Real someday, and Toby’s wish is to have a happy family again. Through lessons learned with the help of a Swan (Ellen Burstyn) and Horse (Tom Skerritt), and the transforming power of love, both wishes come true.
Unfortunately, there is yet to be a definitive cinematic version of this beautiful story. But, in spite of some rather, err… sketchy animation, and a bunny that looks nothing like the original illustrations, the 2009 account is the best yet.
The film is rated G.
Love The Velveteen Rabbit? Which version did you like best? Share with us in the comments below!
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