I came across this little gem on Bellabelle's Blog this morning, and naturally it spawned at least an hour or so of displacement activity as I got to thinking about the duality of dolls, and how, while they have the ability to delight, comfort and soothe, there is also an element of the truly creepy about them.
Even as a doll aficionado, I find something extremely unsettling about this for example...
Naturally, the horror genre has legion examples of cute little dolls turning out to be crazed killers. Who can forget the sharp-toothed, snapping jawed dolls attacking Jane Fonda in Barbarella, or the scary clown doll from The Poltergeist?
Not to mention the eponymous Chucky.
There are even websites and blogs dedicated to scary dolls.
Perhaps due to my overactive imagination, I wasn't particularly keen on dolls as playthings when I was a child. One Christmas, my uncle, who was a sailor in the merchant navy, brought me a walking, talking doll which was as tall as me. The walking action was achieved by my holding her hands and sort of staggering her across the floor, one stiff leg after the other. It was walking, but only after a fashion. To make her talk I had to bend her forward to activate her voice box. She wasn't a great conversationalist as I recall, her vocabulary being limited to 'Mamma' and a sort of mewling crying sound.
She had blonde curls and her blue eyes opened and closed.
I called her Elizabeth, and tried to be very grateful and appreciative, but in truth I was a bit scared of her. At night she sat straight-legged on a little cane chair, and I used to watch her outlined against the window, alert to any small movement or sound she might make.
Eventually I managed to break her while teaching her to walk down the steps from the front door. Due to her clumsy gait she toppled over and smashed her head open on the stone path, revealing her eye movement mechanism. I think I managed to be a little upset, but mostly I was relieved that she wouldn't be sitting in the corner of my bedroom any more.
I can't remember what happened to her. Perhaps we buried in the garden but I'm sure I would remember that, especially as in the summer months I was allowed to sleep outside in my little tent, and I certainly would have conjured up visions of her clawing her way out of her grave and staggering zombie-like across the grass to wreak revenge on her murderer.
Like I said, I was an imaginative child.
I kept her eye mechanism for years, in a little box of treasures. Strangely I didn't find the disembodied eyes at all creepy, and often played with the clacking, eyelash-rimmed eyes, making them open and close repeatedly.
The other dolls of particular note, again brought home by my sea-faring uncle, were a Mexican Gaucho, and a Zulu Warrior. The Warrior in particular was very splendid, with a real animal hide shield with tiny teeth embedded in it. His facial expression was rather fierce and he carried a spear with a sharp real metal tip which would give the Health & Safety brigade a fit of the vapours and be instantly banned nowadays. Because he was so fragile though I never really 'played' with him and he was displayed on my little bookshelf. I used to worry that he was cold, as aside from beads and a little fur skirt he was completely naked. Oddly I didn't conjure terrifying visions of him creeping across to my sleeping form and plunging his spear into my eye. Perhaps he was just too lifelike, whereas doll-like Elizabeth was the stuff of nightmares.
Of course, having said all that, I feel that I now have to defend my position as a dollmaker. However, doll's house dolls are mostly meant to represent actual characters, real or fictional, in realistic situations. And of course my little toy dolls are so sweet and unassuming that they could never be construed as anything other than delightful.
Although, I have been trying to make a two-faced baby, just 1" long, as a child's toy. The plan is that the head will rotate inside a little fixed bonnet to reveal one waking and one sleeping face.
My Dr.Frankenstein-like experiments thus far have been chilling to say the least. I now have a selection of genetically engineered two-faced baby heads which are really rather unsettling. Perhaps they will look less so when I crack the problem of stringing them down through a tiny body while still permitting them to turn smoothly on a neck flange thingy.
It's a work in progress.