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Friday, December 12, 2008

What is Real?

I found an "original edition" copy of The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams at my Barnes & Noble while I was organizing the children's classics bay. This was fortuitous. I generally don't buy things unless they seem as if they were placed there specifically for me to find (or unless I have a really sweet employee discount). I do have a rather large book collection, including many classics, but the majority of them I've liberated from yard sales, library basements, or acquaintances' throw-away boxes.

I used to own a large, beautiful, full-color hardcover picture book edition of The Velveteen Rabbit, but it was tragically destroyed in a flood in upstate New York, along with many other classic children's books I was saving for posterity. That day was a sad day for me.

This day was my first day ever working in the children's section. This copy was the last copy in the store. This unassuming little paperback was hidden amongst all the larger, flashier re-releases of classic children's literature. And with my sweet employee discount it would only cost me two-and-a-half bucks.

This book was waiting for me. This book wanted to come home with me. It's as if the nursery magic Fairy had placed it there just for me to find. Okay, that's a stretch, but the point is, The Velveteen Rabbit went home with me.

The reason I am telling you about this at all is to share my favorite passage of The Velveteen Rabbit. It is the heart of the story. The Rabbit has only two desires: he wants to be there for the Boy who loves him so dearly, and he wants to be Real. He asks the Skin Horse, the oldest and wisest of all the nursery toys, "What is REAL?" Here is the conversation that follows:


"Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. "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."

"Does it hurt?" asked the 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 a long time. That's why it doesn't often happen 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."

"I suppose you are Real?" said the Rabbit. And then he wished he had not said it, for he thought the Skin Horse might be sensitive. But the Skin Horse only smiled.

"The Boy's Uncle made me Real," he said. "That was a great many years ago; but once you are Real you can't become unreal again. It lasts for always."


What is Real?

Real is a becoming.

Real is painful.

Real is beautiful.

Real is everlasting.


Annie said...

Hey "grandson"

As usual, enjoyed your off-beat
way of looking at things. You always make me smile.

Luvya: Ann

Amy said...

I like this. A lot. How did I not see this post before?