It's a doll's life
The TALE: Tehachapi Art, Literature and Entertainment
September 26, 2020
Thanks to Woody and Buzz and the gang in the Toy Story series, the world learned that dolls and toys have lives, too. That when people are not there, not watching, toys move and talk and have feelings and adventures. A doll’s life includes baby dolls and Barbies, stuffed animals and plastic figures from Little People to superheroes. But long, long ago, it started just with dolls, porcelain dolls and dolls stuffed with straw. Dolls made of rubber all squishy and soft, to dolls stuffed like pillows with button eyes and hair made of braided yarn. Early dolls had an important job in life, and they still do.
In “A Little Princess” by Frances Hodgson Burnett, Sara Crewes was left at a boarding school while her father went off to war. She was pandered to as a little rich girl from a wealthy family, given the best room and the most attention, which made her a pariah amongst her peers. In her loneliness and missing her father greatly, she turned for comfort from her doll Emily. Readers followed along the serial story in the St. Nichola Magazine in 1887. And there was much drama. When Sara’s father went missing in action and rumors of financial loss reached the school, the headmistress Miss Munchins showed her true colors and sent Sara to a room up in the sparse attic, next to the servant girl Becky. Sara was only allowed to bring her doll. All of her other possessions were sold to pay her last school fees.
Over 100 years later, people still discuss this serial that became a book of classic distinction, how the doll not only gives Sara companionship and soothes her sadness, but helps teach her how to be compassionate and kind, to care tenderly for another. It spilled over into Sara’s friendship with Becky and her kindness toward the other girls in the school. Even eventually the mean ones. At one low point for Sara, she yells at Emily during a sad moment of despair and shakes the doll, telling Emily she isn’t real. Which reveals she had actually thought of her as real. Because little girls often do.
In the picture book “Sophie and Rose,” by Kathy Lasky and illustrated beautifully by Wendy Anderson Halperin, Sophie finds an old doll in the attic who had not only belonged first to her mother, but even earlier to her grandmother. Sophie named the attic doll Rose and made Rose her own. She didn’t mind Rose was not perfect. “She was wearing a thin dress with a shredded hem. Her cheeks were faded and had tiny crackles, and her mouth was a dingy pink. But Sophie loved her all the same....” Sophie and Rose became constant companions and they shared all sorts of activities, adventures and even mishaps. A night spent alone in the garden, when Sophie forgot her in the hurry to go in for dinner, Rose was found the next morning with one eye missing, the eye never to be found. Sophie wondered what misadventure Rose had in the dark of the night garden without her. But their friendship was strong, and two eyes or one, it mattered not to Sophie, and Rose continued to be greatly loved.
Ann M. Martin and Laura Godwin manage to take us deeper into the life of dolls with their series “The Doll People.” We learn that dolls must take an oath to live a real life. And there are punishments if they are seen moving by humans. These dolls are allowed to secretly live and move in the quiet hours of darkness, and when their human families are away. But they must always return to the place and position they were left in. And they are not allowed even the teeniest smile or blink in the presence of the family with whom they have made their home.
Annabelle Doll is now Kate’s doll though first she was a gift to Grandma Katherine’s mother 100 years ago. Annabelle and her family have been passed down to three other girls before the doll house was set up in Kate’s room. The Doll family consists of Papa and Mama Doll, Annabelle and her little brother Bobby, Uncle Doll and Aunt Sarah, Baby Doll and the Nanny, who takes care of all of them. As we start the story, we find out that Aunt Sarah had disappeared 45 years earlier! Annabelle finds her aunt’s journal and discovers her aunt had adventured on her own at night, exploring the big house and even the yard outside. But what had happened to her? Was she still out there, waiting to be rescued? How dangerous is it for 100 year old porcelain dolls to venture out in a dark house, up and down steep stairs, and into unknown rooms during the night? And there was the cat, The Captain, to avoid at all costs. Wouldn’t it be safer to stay within their own little house? But how could they not look for Aunt Sara? And there lies the dilemma. To play it safe or to be brave.
We can pretend that dolls are real or pretend they are not real. It matters not your gender or age, from three to 103. Who is to know for sure? If your dolls are very good, you will never see them move. So it is up to you to believe or not in a doll’s life. I believe!
Good books. Good reading.
*Midge Lyn’dee is a fictional character used for the purpose of entertainment though the reviews are real and sincere.