1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Doll

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DOLL, a child’s plaything in the shape of a human figure or taken as representing one. The word “doll” was not in common use in the middle ages, “children’s babies” and other terms being substituted for it; the commonly accepted view is that it is abbreviated from the name Dorothy (cf. Scottish “Doroty”). “Idol” has also been connected with it; but the accent is held to tell against this. Another derivation is from Norse daul (woman), with which may be compared O.H.G. toccha, M.H.G. docke, a girl, doll, used also in the sense of butterfly, nightmare, &c., thus connecting the doll with magic and superstition. The same connexion is found in Asia Minor, South India, among the Pueblo peoples and in South Africa; philology apart, therefore, the derivation from “idol” has much to recommend it, and some side influence from this word may well have caused the selection of the form “doll.” Dolls proper should be distinguished from (a) idols, (b) magical figurines, (c) votive offerings, (d) costume figures. The festival figures of Japan, like the bambino of Italy, given to the child only on certain saints’ days, hardly come within the category of dolls.

Dolls were known in ancient Egypt (XVIIIth Dynasty) and Asia Minor; they were common both in Greece and Rome; Persius mentions that girls vowed them to Venus when they got married; dolls found in the catacombs are preserved in the Vatican and the Museum Carpegna. The νευρόσπαστον (Lat. crepundia) of Greek finds of the 6th and later centuries b.c. was a marionette. Dolls were in use among the Arabs at the time of Mahomet, and the prophet’s nine-year-old wife Ayesha is said to have induced him to join her in her play with them. Although Mahommedanism prohibits the making of figures in human shape, dolls do not seem to have disappeared from Mahommedan countries, though substitutes for them are perhaps more common there than elsewhere.

Dolls are extremely common in Africa. There seem to be forms peculiar to different regions, such as the flat, spade-shaped figure on the Gold Coast. Among the Wasaramo the girls carry from the age of puberty till the birth of their first child an object indistinguishable from the ordinary doll; it is called mwana ya kiti (stool-child) because it is placed on a stool at home; it probably has a magical significance. The same may be said of the Australian figurines; others, made of cane, are undoubtedly children’s dolls; excellently moulded wax figures are also found. In Asia dolls properly so-called are apparently rare; but there are specimens in museums from the Malay peninsula, Persia and South India, and in Asia Minor children use cushions, &c., as surrogates. They are found in Alaska among the Eskimo. Most Red Indian tribes had them; a mother who has lost her child carries its dolls and other playthings. Cortes is said to have found Montezuma and his court playing with elaborate dolls; they have been dug up from prehistoric Peruvian graves. In the Gran Chaco metacarpal bones of the rhea are in use, wrapped in a blanket when they represent male, in a petticoat when they are female.

But little attention has been paid to the psychological side of dolls. Though many boys play with them, dolls are mainly confined to girls; and female dolls predominate in the proportion of twelve to one. The culmination of the doll instinct is between the age of eight and nine; but they are not entirely dropped till much later; in fact unmarried and childless women sometimes keep it up for years. In children it is said by Hall to be by no means always a manifestation of the maternal instinct; for dolls are not always regarded as children, and the proportion of adults increases with the age of the children. But the important point is whether the child regarded itself as older or younger than the doll. There is, on the other hand, a tendency to neglect dolls for babies and a reverse current of love of dolls which arises out of love of babies.

Bibliography.—For a list of works see A. MacDonald, Man and Abnormal Man (U. S. Senate Document, 1905, vol. ix. No. 187, p. 275); see also Andree, Ethnographische Parallelen N. F.; Schlegel, Indische Bibliothek. i. 139; Brandenburgia, xi. 28; Delineator, lviii. 927; Globus, lxxv. 354, lxxx. 205; Internat. Archiv f. Ethnog. vii. 45; Ladies’ Home Journ. xvi.; Westermann’s Monatshefte (Feb. 1899, &c.); Man (1903, No. 22). For the psychological side see Paedagogical Seminary, iv. 129, discussed in Contemporary Rev. lxxv. 58; Mrs F. H. Burnett, “The One I know best of all”; Sully, Studies of Childhood; G. Sand, Histoire de ma vie.

(N. W. T.)