Monday, May 30, 2016

Frozen Charlotte and king cake

examples of Frozen Charlotte dolls

I can officially confirm—the Internet is a rabbit hole that would terrify even the bravest Alice the world can produce. I started searching for Victorian toys for boys. (The initial search for Victorian boys toys was…creepy.) And, somehow, I ended up on a chase for Frozen Charlotte dolls. (The male counterpart to these dolls was a Frozen Charlie.) These were tiny, immobile porcelain dolls that cost about a single penny, so Victorian families could afford them. They were also called pillar dolls and bathing dolls. The backs of the dolls were unglazed, so they floated in water, making them an ideal toy for bath play.  The more elaborate dolls had hair, eye detail, pink lips, and cheek color painted on prior to glazing and were also clothed. 

this little one is just creepy 

Believed to have their origins in a poem and folk ballad that was first printed in 1843 in The Rover, a Maine newspaper. The poem and ballad can be seen as a cautionary tale of the price of vanity, because in the ballad, young Charlotte is cautioned by her mother to wrap up in a blanket before a cold sleigh ride to a New Year’s Eve ball. Charlotte is more concerned with her party dress being wrinkled. There is some debate if the ballad was based on an actual event. (The poem is printed at the end of this blog post.) There are even some frozen Charlotte dolls which come in a tiny coffin. That's just too creepy for me.

one of the more elaborate dolls

Frozen Charlotte dolls were on the Western frontier, as many have been found in old homestead sites and even more have been passed down through the generations. 

Arguably, and based on local lore, there is another place these little dolls continue to appear and that is in the king cakes connected with Mardi Gras. Originally, a single bean was baked into the cake and the person who found the bean in his or her piece of cake became the king or queen of the next ball, creating a series of balls that would culminate with the final grand event on Mardi Gras evening. Over the years, the practice spread beyond Mardi Gras royalty. The person who received the prize — which instead of a bean could be a nut, a coin or even a ring — would be king or queen for the day and in charge of hosting the next party or supplying the next king cake, a tradition that remains today.

However, in the 1940s, McKenzie's Bakery owner Donald Entringer baked and sold king cakes to locals. One day, a traveling salesman visited the baker and had an overabundance of little porcelain dolls he hoped to sell. Entringer bought the dolls to hide in the king cakes and a new tradition was born. 
plastic baby getting ready to hide in a king cake prior to baking

For what’s worth, I am the proud owner of a baby from a king cake. That plastic baby has an honored spot in my tack box and so far, it seems to be bringing me pretty good luck this year. 

Young Charlotte
by Seba Smith

Now, Charlotte lived on the mountainside,
In a bleak and dreary spot;
There was no house for miles around,
Except her father's cot.

And yet on many a wintry night,
Young swains were gathered there;
For her father kept a social board,
And she was very fair.

One New Year's Eve as the sun went down,
Far looked her wishful eye
Out from the frosty window pane
As merry sleighs went by.

In a village fifteen miles away,
Was to be a ball that night;
And though the air was heavy and cold,
Her heart was warm and light.

How brightly beamed her laughing eye,
As a well-known voice was heard;
And driving up to the cottage door,
Her lover's sleigh appeared.

"O, daughter dear," her mother cried,
"This blanket 'round you fold;
It is a dreadful night tonight,
You'll catch your death of cold."

"O, nay! O, nay!" young Charlotte cried,
And she laughed like a gypsy queen;
"To ride in blankets muffled up,
I never would be seen.

"My silken cloak is quite enough,
You know 'tis lined throughout;
Besides I have my silken scarf,
To twine my neck about."

Her bonnet and her gloves were on,
She stepped into the sleigh;
Rode swiftly down the mountain side,
And o'er the hills away.

With muffled face and silent lips,
Five miles at length were passed;
When Charles with few and shivering words,
The silence broke at last.

"Such a dreadful night I never saw,
The reins I scarce can hold."
Fair Charlotte shivering faintly said,
"I am exceeding cold."

He cracked his whip, he urged his steed
Much faster than before;
And thus five other dreary miles
In silence were passed o'er.

Said Charles, "How fast the shivering ice
Is gathering on my brow."
And Charlotte still more faintly said,
"I'm growing warmer now."

So on they rode through frosty air
And glittering cold starlight,
Until at last the village lamps
And the ballroom came in sight.

They reached the door and Charles sprang out,
He reached his hand for her;
She sat there like a monument,
That has no power to stir.

He called her once, he called her twice,
She answered not a word;
He asked her for her hand again,
And still she never stirred.

He took her hand in his - O, God!
'Twas cold and hard as stone;
He tore the mantle from her face,
Cold stars upon it shone.

Then quickly to the glowing hall,
Her lifeless form he bore;
Fair Charlotte's eyes were closed in death,
Her voice was heard no more.

And there he sat down by her side,
While bitter tears did flow;
And cried, "My own, my charming bride,
You never more will know."

He twined his arms around her neck,
He kissed her marble brow;
His thoughts flew back to where she said,
"I'm growing warmer now."

He carried her back to the sleigh,
And with her he rode home;
And when he reached the cottage door,
O, how her parents mourned.

Her parents mourned for many a year,
And Charles wept in the gloom;
Till at last her lover died of grief,
And they both lie in one tomb.

1 comment:

Juliet Waldron said...

Love the dollies--such interesting Victoriana. Little girls -- even the tomboys, I've found -- usually gravitate toward them.

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