The Velveteen Rabbit,” the children’s book written by Margery Williams (also known as Margery Williams Bianco) and illustrated by William Nicholson, is a true literary classic. First published as a book in 1922, it was Williams’ first children’s story, and is considered by many to be her best. The tale of a toy velveteen rabbit learning about love and what it means to become real reflects the human pilgrimage we all take to discover and hold onto our authentic selves.
Whether you’re revisiting the book as a parent or just want to relive one of your favorite childhood stories, this list of “The Velveteen Rabbit” quotes is sure to make you fall in love with the book all over again.
11 Best Velveteen Rabbit Book Quotes
“What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”
“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 happen often 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.”
“He longed to become Real, to know what it felt like; and yet the idea of growing shabby and losing his eyes and whiskers was rather sad. He wished that he could become it without these.”
“But very soon he grew to like it, for the Boy used to talk to him, and made nice tunnels for him under the bedclothes that he said were like the burrows the real rabbits lived in. And they had splendid games together, in whispers, when Nana had gone away to her supper and left the night-light burning on the mantelpiece. And when the Boy dropped off to sleep, the Rabbit would snuggle down close under his little warm chin and dream, with the Boy’s hands clasped close round him all night long.”
“And so time went on, and the little Rabbit was very happy – so happy that he never noticed how his beautiful velveteen fur was getting shabbier and shabbier, and his tail becoming unsewn, and all the pink rubbed off his nose where the Boy had kissed him.”
“Weeks passed, and the little Rabbit grew very old and shabby, but the Boy loved him just as much. He loved him so hard that he loved all his whiskers off, and the pink lining to his ears turned grey, and his brown spots faded. He even began to lose his shape, and he scarcely looked like a rabbit any more, except to the Boy. To him he was always beautiful, and that was all that the little Rabbit cared about. He didn’t mind how he looked to other people, because the nursery magic had made him Real, and when you are Real shabbiness doesn’t matter.”
“That night he was almost too happy to sleep, and so much love stirred in his little sawdust heart that it almost burst. And into his boot-button eyes, that had long ago lost their polish, there came a look of wisdom and beauty, so that even Nana noticed it next morning when she picked him up, and said, “I declare if that old Bunny hasn’t got quite a knowing expression!”
“Of what use was it to be loved and lose one’s beauty and become Real if it all ended like this? And a tear, a real tear, trickled down his little shabby velvet nose and fell to the ground.”
“Once you are Real you can’t become unreal again. It lasts for always.”
“The Velveteen Rabbit” Book Summary
A boy receives a stuffed rabbit toy made of velveteen material for Christmas. The mechanical toys and expensive nursery playthings looked down on the Velveteen Rabbit and pretended they were real. After a conversation with the Skin Horse, who had lived in the nursery longer than any other toy, the Velveteen Rabbit learned that real is not how they are made, but a toy can become real if a child really loves it for a very long time.
The Velveteen Rabbit became the boy’s constant companion and eventually became shabby with wear. But he didn’t mind becoming an old bunny with worn fur, because the boy loved him unconditionally.
After the boy recovers from a bout with scarlet fever, during which the Velveteen Rabbit snuggled patiently with him until he was well, the doctor ordered the germ-laden toy to be burned to disinfect the nursery. As the Velveteen Rabbit waited outside for the bonfire that would destroy him, he cried a real tear that brought out the nursery magic Fairy. The Rabbit thought he was real before, but he was only real to the boy who loved him. The Fairy flew the Velveteen Rabbit to the woods, kissed him and told him to run and play. Her kiss changed him, and he was truly real, complete with hind legs that hopped, and at home with the other wild rabbits.
The following spring, the boy saw the Velveteen Rabbit playing in the woods behind the house, and he thought the bunny looked familiar, like his old Velveteen Rabbit; but he never knew that it actually was his treasured toy.
“In this story, being real is love, your value and how you see yourself,” says Kristina F. Wolford, MSW, a behavioral health counselor at Fontana Medical Center in Fontana, California. The story confronts some of the most basic questions we ever ask: Who am I? Do I have worth? What is the purpose of life?
“People resonate with this story because it’s like an unconscious life goal of people to become ‘real,’” says Jeshana Avent-Johnson, Psy.D, a licensed psychologist and radio host in Los Angeles, California. “In psychology we sometimes call this holding onto ourselves. We tend to give up our true/real person to avoid pain or rejection, so we become people who need to be validated by others and often lose who that real person is in the process.”
By far, the most inspirational quotes from the story are variations on a poignant conversation between the Velveteen Rabbit and the Skin Horse, who himself became real when he was loved by the boy’s uncle.
Looking for more literary inspiration? Check out these 10 books that will captivate animal lovers.
Monica Weymouth contributed to this article.
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