The concept of a doll was already pretty common by the time little me first started playing with them. The real surprise as I got older was how taken for granted and one-sided the marketing of dolls became. When did dolls become a general “girls” toy when there’s such convoluted history surrounding it?
My first impression of the popular Russian nesting doll left me referring to my nana’s knick-knack as “You know. That wooden doll! The Babushka, right? The one with the baby in it.” What I didn’t know, ironically, was how “Babushka” is Russian for grandmother or old woman. I also didn’t know that Japanese culture inspired the creation of what’s now considered the famous Russian nesting doll: The Matryoshka or mother doll. Specifically the Japanese counterpart from Honshu is called a daruma; where –now speaking in snowman terms- while the matryoshka looks to be 2-snowballs high, the daruma is only 1 snowball high. No body. What these two dolls also have in common are exposing round, dominant faces with a shade contrasting the rest of the body. The Matryoshka seemed to be a neutral toy for the most part and was created during a time when Russia had a bit of an identity crisis.
Another doll I found the most stereotyped –I’m guilty too- but with very deep and fun origins is the African effigy doll. Generally speaking, African dolls originally had educational and spiritual value anyways. Although commonly known as the voodoo doll, effigy dolls were symbolic and ritualistic in nature.
My knowledge of African lore and folklore for that matter is lacking but I’m all the more enthusiastically tuning in. Common differences I never knew until college concern what voodoo is. There are three parts to what’s called vodou: Hoodoo (light), bo (dark) and voodoo (a combination of both…well, more or less). What’s called voodoo isn’t necessarily bad or evil any more than, maybe, loa –neutral haitian spirits that simply influence people and nature. The effigy doll, specifically help achieve hoodoo magic, by placing pins in voodoo dolls. With me, so far? Basically, if I understand right by my studies, the purpose of voodoo dolls are to ward off evil, not invite; Contrary to pop culture, voodoo dolls are used for cleansing and purification, it seems, if nothing else. Another way to look at them is they being a means of getting rid of what the spell-caster thinks is bad, if that makes sense; getting rid of a threat but only in a spiritual sense. Pop culture seems to have blurred the lines a bit (If you know better than I, pretty PLEASE comment ^^). Nevertheless, it would seem that buying a child-girl or boy- a voodoo doll, although inviting glaring daggers and possibly awkward stares, in reality doesn’t spell WORST PARENT OF THE YEAR. At least it shouldn’t. Right?
Static After All
Granted the “differences” concerning the use of the doll might not be as apparent depending on where a person is in the world. Some versions of it still have cultural significance despite simultaneously being a toy. A multipurpose trinket, so to speak, which calls in the question of a flipside. The many things that hasn’t changed about the “doll” over the last hundred years. Regardless of how the doll is made: wood, wool, glass, humanlike or animal in likeness, versions of the “doll” are mass produced mostly on a smaller scale. I imagine the reason is both in part concerning ease of marketing or production in general and in part leaving the toy accessible to smaller hands. Although kids like the idea of mySIZE, they also like to carry things with them.
Many U.S. parents, I find, voice their two-cents about the difference between a doll and an action figure. I get it but I don’t buy it. Historically, they both appear the same to me: same superficial purpose, they get slobbered on them the same, FOOD on them the same and even BUILT the same. Don’t believe me? Look up the SKYDANCER toy, then look up the Flying Heroes DC Comics Superman toy. Same. DIFF. I should know. I HAD a Skydancer AND watched the TV show.
Delving via blog post into the entire history of world dolls would mean I’d have to get a PhD along with someone paying for my dissertation. There’s just SO MUCH info! So, readers get mere spark notes of Spark notes. BUT! This topic got me thinking…
Mattel’s Barbie doll may still be the ultimate giant when it comes to the female-branded toy market, but I got privy to a pricey competitor thanks to Deviant Art that has fans enthusiastically giving support. Ever heard of the Ball-Jointed Dolls?
Dracula | RINGDOLL Collection
Sure! Historically, these aren’t new by a LONG-shot. You can go to the nearest arts-and-crafts store and acquire yourself a mannequin worthy of your currency. I’m talkin’ about something a bit more elaborate and holding up better in a collector’s hands than say a 3-year-old’s. Another interesting tidbit is that both men AND women buy these.
These newer, customizable, air-brushed, and swagged-out pieces of ..well…ART were first gaining steam in China (of COURSE). Then the Korean and Japanese industries caught the creative fire. More recently, companies even sprung up in the States to manufacture this niche of an item. This fad gained mixed reviews of course. Experience showed me the poll being split down the middle: some new eyes vote “creepy;” others vote “beautiful.” Fair either way. The doll’s I’ve seen were of a South Korean company and were oddly realistic. Still captivating though. Naturally, my vote ended up the latter regardless ^_^. These dolls are each unique (not all are female either…or human even) of varying sizes, skin tones, ethnicity and features. It better be a niche item with a dollar value worth well over half-a-grand!
WANNA LEARN MORE ABOUT THIS TOPIC?
- Connecticut Doll Artists
- History of Dolls
- Ball Joint Dolls
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