Traditionally, toys are supposed to be relegated to the world of children. Yet, adults still seek to collect them. We play with them, love them, and, sometimes, pass them down to the next generation. Toys are an important factor in the human condition. They appear in our Pop Culture and Myth, as well as our daily lives. We place them in a magical world that doesn’t exist. Why? What do they accomplish? What makes an adult attracted to a toy or toy related myths?
The Origin and Meaning
A long time ago, our ancestors believed in bad fairies, elves, goblins, trolls, and changelings. In some stories, Changelings are evil elf or fairy babies that have been switched for human babies. It is said that evil fairies and elves prefer human babies because changelings are not so easy to appease (think of an infant with super colic, epic smelling diapers, and a constant hunger that is never satisfied). The ancestors began to create dolls to give to the new infant. These dolls were supposed to be blessed with a protective mimic spirit to confuse the evil spirits. So, if they came to steal the baby, they would take the doll instead. This is the origin of the doll.
From that doll, we get the creation of the toy. As time moved forward, adults and children invented many different types of toys, figures, and blocks. More importantly, the toy is an object that creates a sense of security, continuity, belongingness, and identity within a small child. These values are important for child development. When these values are mixed with the love of a child, the doll becomes a magical creature fit for a bedtime story.
Toys in Pop Culture
Myth and Pop Culture has many stories relating to the doll. Disney’s Toy Story and Velveteen Rabbit are still very relatable and popular, to adults as well as children. Of course, that is because even as adults, we can still think back to our favorite toy who protected us from the monsters under our bed or in the closet.
Christopher Robin has many friends who live in the Hundred Acre Wood. He has safety, identity, and belongingness. The continuing adventures establish continuity in his growing world. By imitating these adventures, children learn to create their own worlds based on pre-established characters.
This theme is repeated by Pixar in the character Andrew “Andy” Davis. Andy has established his own imaginary world. This world is filled with safety, belongingness, and identity. As he grows, the continuity of adventures grow. This increases his sense of belongingness in his world, but also prepares him for real life. As he gets older, he learns how to handle real life and begins to break away from the imaginary one. Then before leaving for college, he willingly gives his world over to another child.
Another example is, The Lego Movie is about a child who doesn’t feel belongingness to his father. He is insecure about his connection and identity in relation to his father. So, he sneaks into his father’s imaginary world. The journey leads to an understanding between the father and the son.
The movie, The Toy, starring Richard Pryor is a great example. Eric Bates is home from boarding school. His father, U.S. Bates, does not spend time with his son. Rather, the wealthy Mr. Bates will give his son as many toys as he desires. Since Mr. Bates owns a high-end department store, the son can choose anything he wants. Eric doesn’t want another toy, he wants a place of belongingness and identity with his father. He knows he cannot have that. So, he sees Jack Brown, an employee in the toy department, and declares he wants Jack to be his new toy.
Conversely, Annabelle is about the corruption and loss of security, belongingness, and identity. The trauma surrounding the loss of that security comes back to haunt the family in the guise of Annabelle. That trauma is further corrupted by the parents fear for the safety and security of their new child. The doll represents a horrible crime committed in the child’s nursery in the sanctuary of their home. Consequently, the family cannot run from their inner trauma, which is why Annabelle keeps returning. The doll is haunting them because it took on that identity. As long as the trauma goes unresolved, Annabelle will belong to them whether they like it or not.
To Be Childish
Toys appear in Pop Culture and Myth more often than we think. Toys remind us of our security, belongingness, continuity, and identity. They are just as important to adults as they are to children, bringing us back to our roots, opening our imaginary world where we are our own hero. They inspire us to believe and have hope when the world wears us down. Toys take us back to a simpler time, where everyone is your friend. We need our toys. Most of all, it keeps our inner child alive. This is an important factor to keep the human condition, human.