Saturday, January 10, 2015

In Discussion: "The Brave Little Toaster" & HC Andersen's Tragic Anthropomorphized Objects

The Steadfast Tin Soldier Shigeru Hatsuyama for Thumbelina (and other tales) (Japan, 1925)
Yes! This is one of my favorite things: when passionate discussions of lesser-known fairy tales appear in (seemingly unrelated) social media and pop culture/geek discussions!

If I were fancy and extra organized I'd start a whole series or regular feature on this topic. As it is, I will just add a new tag: #PopFTDiscussions (aka #GOLD!) Hopefully this new tag will have a lot of use in future...

So what incited this particular one, you ask? It was The Mary Sue's article "Anthropomorphizing the Mundane: Five Fictional Objects that Messed Us Up" by Sara Goodwin. Under the following picture of the Brave Little Toaster, the article begins:
I was one of those kids who was absolutely convinced that my toys came to life when I was asleep and led full lives. Not only that, but I can remember getting out of bed to put a pair of shoes together so they wouldn’t have to spend the night alone. ... anthropomorphizing objects has been going on for many years in many cultures. Who doesn’t cry when they think about The Velveteen Rabbit and how badly he wanted to be real? 
Spirits of Used Articles"
by ITO Jakuchu
(1716-1800), Japan
Was Mary Poppins' Umbrella 100 yrs old?
And I was REALLY pleased to see that Tsukumogami was mentioned (the Japanese ritual/celebration of an object's 100th birthday), something which I learned more about last year and am completely delighted by. Another Japanese festival not mentioned is Hari-kuyo: Festival of Broken Needles which "is a solemn rite of respect and thanksgiving in which the worn and broken sewing needles used in the previous year are retired to a sacred resting place."

Interesting note: the most popular image representing Tsukumogami in general is an animated umbrella... *turns to look at Mary Poppins suspiciously*
In Japanese culture, there is a concept called Tsukumogami, which is popularly used to refer to an object that has reached its hundredth birthday and become alive. There seems to be a bit of a divide between the religious interpretations and the popular culture use of this word, but from what I can tell from some quick Google research is that it was commonly associated with religion in the past and has been adopted by modern cultures to describe a kind of anthropomorphism.  
Using animals, objects, etc. to tell a story can have practical uses beyond making us cry when we see a lamp that looks like that adorable, hopping Pixar lamp lying in a dumpster. 
It continues being a great read, complete with a list of Brave Little Toaster-like cousins we've all had tug at our heartstrings, so I suggest you hop on over there and read it in total. It succinctly looks at anthropomorphized objects on film we came to love, then cried for (hilarious), but then I began reading the comments and lo and behold, Hans Christian Anderson's name appeared, and not without a little rage attached! #painandtears 

The comments number well over 100 so I'm posting the HCA portion of the discussion here for your perusal. You can always go to the original page and join in the discussion if you become so inclined!
(Note: I have bleeped and asterix'd some of the language for gentler sensibilities and in an effort to redirect nastier versions of spam far, far away... and be warned that the spacing between comments is really, really weird. I don't have time to transcribe it all so it looks neat etc so please bear with the copy and paste results!)
by Kay Nielsen

Hans Christian Andersen was the -bleeping- worst with this, I swear to God. The man could have written a story from the POV of a tongue scraper and it would have been full of pathos, tragedy, and an unbearably sad ending.
^^ Edit FTNH: This sentence - now in bold, care of moi - is so true! ^^
ETA: lmao I just checked his wikipedia page and look at this sh*t.
A very early fairy tale by Andersen called The Tallow Candle (Danish: Tællelyset) was discovered in a Danish archive in October 2012. The story, written in the 1820s, was about a candle who did not feel appreciated.
by vacation-challenge

  • That's because candles are ***holes. Especially Danish ones.

  • The Andersen book I have is broken up into thematic sections. There is an entire "Anthropomorphic Objects and Animals" section in that book.

    • I remember that! The roots of my malady are slowly being exposed! :-)
    • by Angela Rizza

  • The Tin Soldier story confused me so much as a kid. I couldn't understand the point of a story where no one rescued him.

    • The point is pain and tears. 

      • Isn't that the point of all of Hans Christian Andersen's work? 

        • Not The Snow Queen, aka best fairy tale ever!
          But yeah everything else lol.

          • You forget: Frozen happened to that.


                  • Please. Little Robber Girl/Gerda/Kai post-story friendship and eventual OT3 is where it's at. (SO p*ssed that they basically took all the side characters and turned them into Kristoff. YOU HAD A PERFECT CHANCE TO DO SOMETHING PROGRESSIVE WITH YOUR LINE FOR THE FIRST TIME SINCE LIKE THE 1930S, DISNEY, YOU HAD DAMN WELL BETTER MAKE UP FOR IT IN THE SEQUEL.)
                    (Seriously though I will forgive... not all, but like 65% of that movie's faults if they cash in on its mediocrity and give Elsa a female love interest. If we have to get a sequel, at least give us that.) 

              • That has ALWAYS been my favorite!

          • The point was that he fed on the tears of children. 

          • Totally! I'm so glad you mentioned him and his anthropomorphic ways! That fir tree .... and the Steadfast Tin Soldier .... why, Hans C.A.? Why?

              • from the Andrew Lang Yellow Fairy Book (by Henry Justice Ford)

                I had a picture book of it as a kid and I swear it's traumatized me for life as far as getting real Christmas trees go. I've told other people about it and no one else had heard of it. Their reactions to my summaries were pretty much all along the lines of "J---- C-----!" Looked on amazon and google for Christmas tree children's books, but do you know how many Christmas tree books there are?
                So thank you. (And omg I should have known it was HCA! *shakes fist*)
                ETA: No really. I even described to people how the Christmas Tree felt pain after it was chopped down but bore through it because it was so happy to covered in decorations and lights, just like the Little Mermaid when she got her feet. Fffffffffu- I SHOULD HAVE KNOWN!
                • by P.J. Lynch

                • I'm happy to help you recall your childhood trauma.
                  Mine involves a Mercer Meyer book about a sad rabbit whose friends all forget her birthday and okay I really can't talk about it. Even though they all throw her a surprise party at the end, it does nothing, NOTHING, to make up for the fathomless depths of pain she and the reader have suffered.

              • Apparently a friend of his made a bet with him that he couldn't write a story that would make people feel sympathy for a pin. Hans won the bet
              • *-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*
              Studio Soyuzmultfilm in 1976
              Ah yes:
              "..he fed on the tears of children...".

              Thank you Ms. Goodwin. I will never forget that throwaway comment now. It's fits so very,very well.. (Sorry Mr. Andersen. It was bound to happen when you made us love your characters and then- *neck slicing motion with SFX*!)

              Here is an evil IKEA commercial (brought to our attention by the same Ms. Goodwin) that will not help you at all:
              Told you it was evil. (You had to look...)


              1. Not all of H.C. Andersen's stories were sad. "The Emperor's New Clothes" was okay. As was "The Princess and the Pea". But yeah, the ones starring inanimate objects could be quite the bummer.

              2. I just found your blog! I totally Googled myself to find out if anyone was posting about or discussing my articles! I'm so happy you liked it enough to read it and discuss it later! And seriously - Hans C.A.? I wonder if he has a sad tale about those terrible pie birds? The ones that make me cry? :-) <3

                1. Thank YOU! Really enjoy your writing and topics. And a great post and discussion you got going on those objects! Re the pie birds, I'm pretty sure they were 'post' his lifetime but it's not hard to imagine. You know the history of live birds baked in pies, so they flew out when the crust was cut right? *shudder* Seriously - who needs fiction?
                  PS I can't eat pies that use those pie birds either because -SOB!-