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The Velveteen Rabbit

The Velveteen Rabbit, or How Toys Became Real by Margery Williams

The Velveteen Rabbit is a beautiful, classic tale of a child's love for his stuffed animal. A motif, as also seen in the Disney movie "Toy Story", of the old toy thrown aside as new, shiny, toys with buttons and lights are received. The stuffed bunny, Velveteen Rabbit, and the Skin Horse wonder about their life as discarded toys.  But Skin Horse assures Velveteen Rabbit,

"When soft toys are loved enough, we can become real."


Given as a Christmas gift to a young boy, the Velveteen Rabbit lives in the nursery with all of the other toys, waiting for the day when the Boy will choose him as a playmate. In time, the shy Rabbit befriends the tattered Skin Horse, the wisest resident of the nursery, who reveals the goal of all nursery toys: to be made "real" through the love of a human. "'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.'"


Write a descriptive sentence "I love my ____ because_____."

Read and then include a writing task: Write a paragraph describing your own beloved stuffed animal. Be creative and write a short story about how your stuffed animal became real. Or a persuasive story about why your stuffed animal deserves to become real.

The Velveteen Rabbit Quotes

“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.

“Real isn't how you are made. It's a thing that happens to you. Sometimes it hurts, but when you are Real you don't mind being hurt.

It doesn't happen all at once. You become. It takes a long time. 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.

 Once you are Real you can't become unreal again. It lasts for always.”



A soft and fluffy Velveteen Rabbit lived in a toybox in a Boy's room.  Each day, the Boy opened the toybox and picked up Velveteen Rabbit. And Velveteen Rabbit was happy.

Then newer, brighter toys came into the toybox.  They had special tricks.  Some would move when the Boy pushed a button.  Others bounced high.  Velveteen Rabbit had no special tricks or buttons. No wonder the Boy started to choose these other new toys.  

At night, when the toys were back all in the toybox, the other toys talked with pride about the fine things they could do. Velveteen Rabbit was quiet.  There was not much to say.

Only one other toy in the toy box was like Velveteen Rabbit.  Skin Horse was also a soft, fluffy toy.  But he was old.  Most of his hair was worn away.  He had only one eye left.  Skin Horse said to Velveteen Rabbit, “Soft toys like us are the lucky ones.  We get loved the most.  And when soft toys are loved and loved, we can become Real.”

“What is Real?” said Velveteen Rabbit.

“Being Real is the best," said Skin Horse.  "You can move when you want to move. When you are Real, if you are loved, you can show your love back.”

"When soft toys are loved enough, we can become Real."

This all sounded fine to Velveteen Rabbit.  But how could that ever happen as long as Velveteen Rabbit was stuck in the toy box?  After all, the Boy was playing with other toys.

One day Nana, who took care of the Boy, flew open the lid of the toy box.  She said in a busy tone, “Oh, dear!  That walking doggie is missing. I must find something else!”  In a second, Velveteen Rabbit was plopped down onto the bed with the Boy.

This began another happy time for Velveteen Rabbit.  Each night the Boy would hold Velveteen Rabbit close in his arms.  In the morning, the boy would show Velveteen Rabbit how to make rabbit holes under the sheets.  If the Boy went outside to a picnic, or to play at the park, Velveteen Rabbit would come with him, too.  

After awhile, with the hugging and holding, much of Velveteen Rabbit’s fur got matted down.  Its pink nose grew less pink with all the Boy’s kisses.  But Velveteen Rabbit did not care.  It was happy.

In a second, Velveteen Rabbit was plopped down onto the bed with the boy.

One day the Boy became sick.  His forehead was very hot.  The doctor came and went.  Nana walked back and forth in fear.  Day after day, the Boy stayed in bed.   There was nothing for Velveteen Rabbit to do but to stay in bed, too, day after day.  

Then at last, the Boy got better.  Such joy in the house! The doctor said the Boy must go to the shore.  How wonderful! thought Velveteen Rabbit.  Many times the Boy had talked happily about the shore, and told of its white sands and big blue ocean.  

“What about this old bunny?” Nana asked the doctor.

“That old thing?” said the doctor.  “It’s full of scarlet fever germs.  Burn it at once!  Get him a new bunny.”

So Velveteen Rabbit was thrown into a sack along with the Boy's bed sheets and old clothes and a lot of junk.  The sack was carried to the backyard.  The gardener was told to burn the whole thing.

"That old thing?" said the doctor. "Burn it at once!"

But the gardener was too busy with picking the beans and peas before nightfall, so he left the sack behind.  “I will take care of it tomorrow,” he said.  The sack was not tied at the top, and Velveteen Rabbit fell out.  The next day when the gardener picked up the sack to take it away to be burned, Velveteen Rabbit was left behind.

Then it started to rain.  Oh, how sad that was for Velveteen Rabbit!  So far away from the Boy, never again to be nice and cozy together!  A tear fell from Velveteen Rabbit’s eye, over his cheek.  It plopped onto the grass.

All at once, at the spot where the tear fell, a flower grew up.  Then the bud of the flower opened.  A Fairy!

“Little Rabbit,” said the Fairy.  “Do you know who I am?”

“I wish I did,” said Velveteen Rabbit.

“I am the Fairy that takes care of toys that are well loved,” said the Fairy.  

By then, Velveteen Rabbit was shabby and gray.  The boy had loved off all of its whiskers.  The pink lining in the ears had long turned grey. Its brown spots, once fresh and bright, were now faded and hard to see.

"Little Rabbit," said the Fairy.  "Do you know who I am?"

“It is time now for me to make you Real,” said the Fairy.  

“I think I remember Real,” said Velveteen Rabbit.  Now, what was it Skin Horse had said?  Ah yes, Velveteen Rabbit remembered.  When you are Real, you can move when you want to move.  If you are loved, you can love back.

With one touch of the Fairy’s arm, Velveteen Rabbit felt different.  Tickly.  All of a sudden, each one of its two legs sewn together tight, could move!  A fly landed on Velveteen Rabbit’s head and it was itchy.  As quick as a wink, that foot was up at the Velveteen Rabbit’s head to scratch it.

“So this is being Real!” said Velveteen Rabbit.  “I can move when I want to!”

“I will show you some new friends,” said the Fairy.  And the Fairy took Velveteen Rabbit where several rabbits ran and hopped about.  Soon they were all great friends.

With one touch of the Fairy's arm, Velveteen Rabbit felt different.

One day, the Boy went to the backyard to play.  From the trees nearby, a few rabbits stepped out.  With care, they hopped close to the Boy.  One rabbit was brown all over, and another one was all white.  A third rabbit had brown spots, most of them faded.

The Boy thought, "Why, this rabbit looks just like my old Bunny that was lost when I was sick!"

What he didn't know was that it was his very own Bunny, come back to see the boy. For he was the reason the Velveteen Rabbit had become Real.


Guidelines for Philosophical Discussion by Alison Coates

The children’s story, The Velveteen Rabbit, raises the philosophical issue of what exactly makes something real. A child is given a gift of a stuffed rabbit at Christmas. The story is told from the point of view of the toy. The rabbit is told that if he is loved enough he will become real. When the child falls ill the toy is to be thrown away, but is given a new life, and a new view of reality. There are several possible definitions of reality given in The Velveteen Rabbit. The first one being, obviously that the velveteen rabbit is an object that can be touched and seen and played with, therefore it is real in the very physical sense. The second is that something can become real when it is loved enough. The third and final definition of reality in the story is when the toy becomes a flesh and blood rabbit. The main focus of the discussion should not only be on what is real and unreal, but also upon whether there are different layers of reality.

Questions for Philosophical Discussion

How many of you have/ had imaginary friends or toys that you thought were real?

  1. Why did you think they were real?
  2. What made them real?
  3. Why did you stop thinking they were real?

“The mechanical toys, like the model train, were very stuck-up and boasted that they were real. But the Rabbit could not claim to be a model of anything, for he didn’t know that real rabbits existed…”

  1. Why did the model trains think they were real?
  2. If you think of something that does not exist, does that mean it is not real?
  3. If something exists, but you don’t know about it, does that mean it is not real? Why?
  4. When in the story does the Rabbit become real?
  5. Is the Rabbit real from the very beginning? Why?

The other rabbits tell the Velveteen Rabbit that he isn’t real, but the little Boy said the Rabbit was real.

  1. Was the little Boy wrong?
  2. Were the rabbits wrong?
  3. Were either of them right? Why?

The rabbits tell the Velveteen Rabbit that he isn’t real because he doesn’t do things real rabbits do. He doesn’t smell right; he doesn’t have hind legs, and he doesn’t dance the way they do. However, the Rabbit does do things that we may call real behaviors, such as crying, breathing, and having emotions.

  1. Is one set of behaviors more real than another?
  2. If you had one and not the other would that make you less or more real?
  3. “‘What is REAL?’ asked the Rabbit one day. ‘Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?’”
  4. What is real?
  5. Can you be made ‘real’ like the Rabbit?
  6. What makes you real?