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Literature / The Velveteen Rabbit

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The Velveteen Rabbit or How Toys Become Real is a children's novel written by Margery Williams and illustrated by William Nicholson. The story revolves around a stuffed rabbit's journey to become "Real" through his owner’s love. The book was first published in 1922 and has been republished many times since.

The Velveteen Rabbit was Williams' first children's book and it was the most popular of all her children's books. It has been awarded the IRA/CBC Children's Choice award.

The Velveteen Rabbit was adapted into a video recording in 1985 by Random House Video; narrated by Meryl Streep, with music by George Winston. It received a Parents' Choice Award for Multimedia and was a Grammy award nominee. Also released in 1985 were two different animated adaptations made around the same time. The first was produced in Canada by Atkinson Film-Arts and narrated by Christopher Plummer, while the second was produced by Hanna-Barbera's Australia unit and premiered as a ABC Weekend Special. In 1976 it was very loosely adapted into the Rankin/Bass Productions Holiday Special, The First Easter Rabbit, in which the rabbit goes on to become the Easter Bunny after becoming real. In 1984 it was part of the "Enchanted Musical Playhouse" series, where Marie Osmond played the part of the Velveteen Rabbit. In 2003 it was also adapted into a clay-animated film by Xyzoo Animation. In 2004, a Japanese adaptation in the form of audiobook + vocal album is released by Noriko Ogawa and Yuki Kajiuranote  Last but not least, in 2009 it was adapted into a Human-Focused Adaptation film that combined live action with animation.

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The Velveteen Rabbit has examples of:

  • All of the Other Reindeer: The Boy's "modern" mechanical toys snub the Rabbit for being only a stuffed animal. Until he becomes's the Boy's favorite toy, his only friend is the Skin Horse
  • Aluminum Christmas Trees: It really was true that almost everything associated with a scarlet fever infection was burned. They don't do this anymore.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The Rabbit becomes a Real rabbit in the end, but is separated from the Boy, who is left thinking the Rabbit was burned with the rest of his toys. The 2009 movie makes this a tad happier by making Toby aware that the rabbit became Real, but they still end up separated. Averted in The First Easter Rabbit, where Stuffy becomes a talking, human-like Easter Bunny instead of a wild rabbit and happily reunites with Glinda.
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  • A Boy and His X: A boy and his stuffed rabbit.
  • Bunnies for Cuteness: The main character is a toy bunny much adored by its owner.
  • Companion Cube: The Velveteen Rabbit is this to the Boy before it becomes Real.
  • Did I Mention It's Christmas?: The book opens with the Boy receiving the Rabbit as a Christmas present, but otherwise the holiday has no bearing on the plot. Some stage adaptations and at least one Animated Adaptation change the beginning to the Boy's birthday to avoid pigeonholing the piece as a Christmas story.
  • Either/Or Title: The Velveteen Rabbit or How Toys Become Real. The second half of the title is rarely remembered.
  • The Fair Folk: A fairy (very much the magic-wand-and-sparkles kind) shows up at the end to make the Rabbit Real.
  • Ill Boy: Late in the story, the Boy becomes seriously ill with scarlet fever. He recovers, but all the toys he played with in bed need to be burned to keep the disease from spreading, including the Rabbit.
  • Living Toys: The toys can talk to each other, and to animals, but aren't able to move around by themselves unless they become Real.
  • Love Imbues Life: Played with. According to the Skin Horse, a child's love can make a toy Real. As it turns out, this is Metaphorically True: the Rabbit stays a stuffed animal, but he becomes Real "to the Boy." In the end, a fairy's magic is what makes him a literal flesh-and-blood rabbit. Still, the reason why the fairy comes is because she takes care of all toys that children have loved.
  • No Name Given: The Boy.
    • Averted in the 2009 movie, which names him Toby, and in The First Easter Rabbit, which gender flips him into a girl named Glinda.
    • Also averted in some stage adaptations. The musical version licensed by Music Theatre International names him Steve, while another version names him Andrew, with the playwright giving the option to gender flip him into a girl named Andrea.
  • Parental Abandonment: The Boy's parents are never seen or mentioned, only Nana, his nanny. Some adaptations address this issue and make it a part of why the Boy so needs the Rabbit to love: for example, the 2009 film gives him a dead mother and a When You Coming Home, Dad? father.

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