Friday, October 9, 2009

Velveteen Stripmine

I made this in honor of a class trip to see "The Velveteen Rabbit" at our local children's theater. It's the titular bunny (lower left) nuzzling the old rocking horse (upper right) who teaches him about love. As a concept, not as an act.
My wife was thrown by the rocking horse, who is a turkey, pastrami and cheese on whole wheat. His handles are made from Fairbury brand hot dogs and they are that red right out of the package. The velveteen rabbit is carved from an apple.
The upshot of the story is that love makes you real. It's specifically true for toys, but I think you're supposed to generalize. I seem to remember liking the book as a kid, but it doesn't bring back good feelings when I think about it. The snapshot in my head is of all the toys awaiting the pyre. The rabbit gets saved by a fairy, I guess, but that part didn't stick with me. Now that I'm older, the story has a real "Occurrence at Owl Creek" vibe for me.
Here's this raggedy stuffed rabbit who's been ridiculed by other toys, rejected by real rabbits and, now, consigned to eternity by the little boy who loves him. He's about to be thrown in a bonfire. Who wouldn't indulge in a little delusion?
I don't feel like I've got a new, bleak outlook on every story from my childhood, either. This one has never sat quite right with me. Here's how it wraps up:

"I am the nursery magic Fairy," she said. "I take care of all the playthings that the children have loved. When they are old and worn out and the children don't need them any more, then I come and take them away with me and turn them into Real." "Wasn't I Real before?" asked the little Rabbit.
"You were Real to the Boy," the Fairy said, "because he loved you. Now you shall be Real to every one." ...

He was a Real Rabbit at last, at home with the other rabbits. 
Autumn passed and Winter, and in the Spring, when the days grew warm and sunny, the Boy went out to play in the wood behind the house. And while he was playing, two rabbits crept out from the bracken and peeped at him. One of them was brown all over, but the other had strange markings under his fur, as though long ago he had been spotted, and the spots still showed through. And about his little soft nose and his round black eyes there was something familiar, so that the Boy thought to himself: "Why, he looks just like my old Bunny that was lost when I had scarlet fever!"
But he never knew that it really was his own Bunny, come back to look at the child who had first helped him to be Real."

So, the "fix" for a toy rabbit who can't be the boy's constant companion anymore is ... to be turned into a "Real" rabbit who can hang around with other rabbits who rejected him for what he was and can welcome him now that he conforms? What if they figure out he's just been turned real? Will they go back to shunning him? Now that he's alive, will he have to die? When? Oh, and he "gets" to see the boy who used to love him but now can't recognize him and has a replacement rabbit. Is he going to be able to watch the kid grow old and die? Also, the fairy bolts, so ... you weren't going to need her for anything, right?
It isn't like the time has come for the boy to leave childish things behind and the rabbit ends up in a trunk in the attic for his old dear friend to rediscover, even for just a moment later in life, or give to his own child. The kid gets a new rabbit, so it isn't even like he isn't needed anymore. The kid just gets sick and the doctors think the rabbit is too germ-ridden to give back to him.
I'm no toy rabbit, but given the framework, I'd have to go with un-Real and loved over Real and in some kind of plush-toy purgatory.
I don't know what the resolution should have been if it were going to satisfy me, but what it is ain't what would. I guess I prefer the "Toy Story" model, where "real" is what you are and "loved" is what you aspire to be. That's why I don't feel like a jerk ripping into a childhood classic a little, because that stinking "When She Loved Me" vignette in "Toy Story 2" chokes me up every time I see it.
Anyway, Primo liked the play and the lunch. I'm not sure whether he thinks the Velveteen Rabbit gets a raw deal, but I do. For Real.

No comments:

Post a Comment