Sunday, June 30, 2013

Frenzy For Hello Kitty "The Singing Bone" Fairy Tale Plush in Singapore... (Wait. The What Now?)

McDonalds "Popular Fairy Tales Hello Kitty series" plush of The Singing Bone, sold out
This story has me so excited, I can't tell you. OK I will try. But first, the news:

Fan made - I just had to include this
From WorldNews:
Tempers have flared and police had to be called in as anxious Singaporeans rushed to McDonald's outlets to buy Hello Kitty plush toys being sold by the fastfood chain as a promotion. 
Hundreds had begun queuing from Wednesday night to get their hands on a kitten in a skeleton outfit, depicting a character from the German fairy tale The Singing Bone.
It was the last of a series of six limited-edition Hello Kitty characters dressed in different outfits from popular fairy tales which were being sold by McDonald's this month.
In some outlets, chaos broke out amid rampant queue jumping as supplies of the toys ran out soon after the stores opened for business on Thursday.

So it's a toy collector crazy crowd, so what? I'll tell you what. It's not because I like Hello Kitty. Hello Kitty is great but get this:

Point 1: McDonald's has released a line of Hello Kitty plushes of popular fairy tales (yay!)
Point 2: One of those popular tales is (the German fairy tale) The Singing Bone. (Not kidding. Check the McDonald's official website to see the title.)
Point 3: I LOVE The Singing Bone! (Yay!)
Point 4: There is an actual FRENZY involving this tale. (Pop-culture alert!)

What this means is that:

A) Having The Singing Bone be included as a popular tale by McDonalds says a LOT more people around the world love this story than I realized (You have no idea how difficult it is to try and find art, essays or writing inspired by this tale. Clearly I need to figure out how to Google in Chinese and Malay!)
B) Because of the crazy, LOTS MORE people are going to find out there is this "popular tale" called The Singing Bone (which they know must at least include a skeleton as this particular Hello Kitty plush is showing her bones). There's a good chance curiosity about the fairy tale will surface, people will try to find out what (the heck?) it is and it will slide away from obscurity and back into the collective conscious (always a good thing for a fairy tale).

But I can almost hear many of you scratching your heads saying "Wut? The Singing Bone? Never heard of it."

And THAT'S what I'm so excited about. I can count on one hand the number of people I've met (who aren't folklorists or fairy tale scholars) who are familiar with this fairy tale.

The (Grimm's) Singing Bone is about two brothers: the younger bravely accomplishes a feat (killing a wild boar) but the older kills his sibling to keep the prize for himself (which, of course, includes a girl/princess). A bone is found later and incorporated into a musical instrument which then sings on its own, telling the tale of the murder and outing the dark deed. The King is told, the skeleton dug up and justice is served, The End.

My favorite version of this is The Twa Sisters - a "fairy tale murder ballad" in which, one sister kills the other out of jealousy, throwing her body into the river to dispose of her, and gets the man. Unknown to her, the sister's bones wash up, are crafted into a harp and the remaining hair twisted into strings. The haunted instrument then sings by itself (sometimes at the wedding...) and you can guess the rest.

(As a total aside: It's beyond bizarre inserting Hello Kitty images in between paragraphs discussing murders... And did you see the McDonalds logo for the heart? That kinda creeps me out more than the tale.)

So does the tale ring any bells yet? If you've seen The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm (1962), which included a dramatization of it (with an animated skeleton), it might. Or perhaps if you're a Loreena McKennitt fan the story will sound familiar, as she sang a version of the tale called The Bonny Swans (from the album The Mask & the Mirror). And if you're an American McGee fan you may have seen a version of this too.

Despite the tale having fallen out of popularity in the Western world, it it would seem in both Hong Kong (where this promotion happened earlier in the year) and now in Singapore, The Singing Bone has been included alongside The Frog Prince, Little Red Riding Hood, The Ugly Duckling, The Wizard of Oz (Cowardly Lion suit) and an unnamed, bonus "Mc-Delivery Only Witch". says "The six plush Hello Kitty dolls released were all inspired by different international fairy tales."
So let's see:

  • The Wizard of Oz is from the US
  • The Ugly Duckling is Danish
  • The Frog Prince was popularized by the Grimms but there are many enchanted frog tales in China, Sri Lanka and Korea among other Asian countries (so perhaps Korea?)
  • Little Red Riding Hood I'm guessing they went with Perrault's version, so that'd be French.
  • and The Singing Bone is Grimm, that is, German.

I have had a Pinterest board dedicated to The Singing Bone for a while and am always so pleased when I find new images and retellings to add. I never dreamed I would be adding a Hello Kitty plush to it though!

Fairy tale bonus of the day: There is a new web comic in development for The Singing Bone! You can find the comic, the progress sketches, the Grimm version of the tale, some history and a brief discussion of The Twa Sisters HERE.


  1. Thanks for posting this. I've never heard of the Singing Bone before. Even though I follow you on Pinterest, I somehow managed not to notice it. I would have desperately wanted that Hello Kitty anyway but now I understand the reference.

  2. A special team at Sanrio lead by Yuko Yamaguchi takes care of Hello Kitty, introduces new designs with her image and removes old designs. Every year thousands of new items appear, while an equal number of old items disappear. Most of the items feature Hello Kitty, but it's also possible to find items with her family and friends.

    hello kitty collection

  3. very interesting..thank u... :)

  4. Great stuff. I had a stop-over in Thailand two weeks ago and picked up one of these.