When I was a child, my paternal grandparents spent a lot of time traveling. They went to some amazing places and visited the majority of the earth’s continents. Every time they went to a new country, they would bring a doll back for my sister and me. These weren’t the type of dolls we were allowed to play with though. Instead, they were the type of dolls that sat on a shelf in our bedroom. And each week, we had to pick them all up, dust the shelf, and put them back.
I remember thinking those were the coolest dolls I owned and would often play with them when my mom wasn’t watching.
As time passed and I grew up, I lost interest in the dolls. I haven’t thought about them in about two decades. But last month, my parents came to visit and brought a few boxes of my old stuff with them.
As I was going through the boxes I came across these old collector dolls from other countries. Some of them were in serious disrepair; their arms or legs were broken off from my repeated disobedience as a child. Others, however, were still in decent shape, albeit dusty from spending 20 years in storage.
One by one I pulled them out of the cardboard box that became their home when I advanced from grade school. I looked at each one trying to figure out where it was from. Some of the dolls had tags that listed their country of origin, but others weren’t as easily distinguishable. Some of the dolls were very pretty, while others… Well, they were just plain creepy. They were creepy in the kind of way an innocent 10-year-old girl would be oblivious to, but my 30-something-year-old self immediately took note.
Seriously, look at this doll. I am guessing it is from one of the Nordic countries due to the pale white skin. It’s kinda creepy though, right? For one, she isn’t smiling. Why isn’t she smiling?! Is she upset about something? Is she not feeling well? That might explain why she is so pale. Is she planning to murder me in my sleep? Aren’t dolls supposed to be happy? Apparently not in the Nordic countries. And secondly, what exactly is she looking at out of the corner of her eye? I just don’t trust a doll that is giving me the side eye.
But this wasn’t the only Creeper McCreeperson doll in the box. As I looked over each doll individually, I noticed several of them were giving the same suspicious side eye glance with RBF.
I present to you Exhibit B: the Venice, Italy dolls. Don’t they also look like they are generally disgusted with life? I can somewhat understand why the two girls look so pissed. I mean, they have got to be in their teens or twenties already and yet their mom is still dressing them alike. That would suck. But what’s with the guy? What does he have to be upset about? I’m guessing he’s pissed because the diva twins refuse to pick up a paddle and help him navigate the gondola, but I don’t know. Maybe after two decades in a cardboard box with the pale Nordic chic, they’re all conspiring against me.
Not all of them were giving the suspicious side eye, however. Some of them were giving the crazy wide eye instead, which isn’t much better. Introducing Exhibit C.
I have absolutely no clue where this crazy-eyed doll is from. But it looks genuinely terrified… or terrifying, I haven’t made up my mind which one it is yet.
Despite their overwhelming creepiness, I still love these dolls… Not enough to display them in my home or anything but enough to hold onto for my daughter.
I kept the ones that weren’t broken. Let’s face it, a creepy looking doll with no arms is even creepier. Those ones had to go. I cleaned up the ones that were salvageable and put them in the attic. Someday, when my daughter is a little older we will pull them out for her to play with, or if she truly wants to she can display them on a shelf in her room and dust around them every week. (Something tells me she won’t want that job.)
One of the coolest things about these dolls is that they were different than my American dolls. It is perhaps why I loved them so much. It made me want to see the countries that they were from, meet the children who played with them, and understand the cultures they represented. I’m sure we will do something similar for our daughter as she grows up. The difference is, she will be right there with us when we visit each new country so she will be able to pick out her own doll or souvenir. Hopefully, she will choose ones that are a little less sinister looking.