Illustration by William Nicholson for Margery William's Velveteen Rabbit.
I must say that I haven't thought of the Velveteen Rabbit for years, not since I tried to read it in Spanish while in Ecuador teaching grade school kids. Obviously, it's a classic, and like many classics, has a message that transcends age or generation. Simon, one of the two British tertians, used it in our morning prayer today and I thought it was worth reprinting here. Make of it what you will...
The skin horse had lived longer in the nursery than any other toy. He was so old that his brown coat was bare in places showing the seams underneath and most of his hair in his tail had been pulled out.
He was wise for he had seen a long succession of mechanical toys arrive to boast and swagger but, in time, their main springs broke and they passed away. He knew that they were only toys and would never turn into anything else.
Nursery magic is a very strange and wonderful thing and only those playthings that become old and experienced, and therefore wise, understood all about it.
“What is real?” asked the Rabbit one day when they were lying side by side, before the Nanny come to tidy the room. “Does it mean having things buzz inside you or a stick-out-handle?”
“Real isn’t how you are made or what you like,” said the Skin Horse. “It is a thing that happens to you when a child loves you, not just to play with, but really loves you. Then you become REAL.”
“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit. “Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, “but when you are REAL, you don’t mind being hurt.”
“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up, or bit by bit?” asked the Rabbit.
“It doesn’t happen all at once. It takes a long time, that’s why it doesn’t happen often to toys who break easily or have sharp edges or must be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are REAL, you can look very shabby: most of your hair has been loved off; your eyes drop out or your joints become loose. But these things don’t matter at all because once you are REAL you can’t be ugly, except to those who don’t understand.”