Meenutused nukkudest ja nendega mangimisest 1940.–1950. aastate Eestis
MEMORIES OF DOLLS AND PLAYING WITH DOLLS IN ESTONIA IN THE 1940S–1950S
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This paper is based on the contributions submitted to the 2013 competition of folklore collection organised by the Estonian Folklore Archives of the Estonian Literary Museum, in which people born in the 1940s reminisced about the dolls of their childhood. The contributions to this competition were essentially childhood memories of a specific overarching topic, i.e., the topic of playing and games. In folklore studies, such single-topic descriptions are known as thematic narratives. Thematic narratives are written submissions to a competition or written responses to a survey. I call the thematic narratives collected within this particular competition play memories. The contributions highlight the dialogicity of memories: the personal perspective is intertwined with the perspective of the folklore collector; imagined readers are presented with childhood emotions and biographical information. To analyse the contributions, I thematised the data by looking for similar content elements across the texts and used these to form more general categories. One of the distinctive features of the material collected for the folklore archives in this way is precisely that it conveys personal experiences. The analysis revealed that even though childhood memories are affected by the conceptions of the adult rememberer who has written them down, they can nevertheless shed light on the child’s perspective in the form of vivid memories. Many of the recounted occurrences with dolls can be interpreted as vivid memories that convey some first-time or otherwise significant experiences and the related emotions. The contributions include descriptions of dolls and provide insight into their origins or makers. Much importance is placed on the experiences with one’s own doll or the absence thereof. During the lifetime of those born in the 1940s, the phenomenon of toy ownership began to change. Self-made rag dolls began to be supplemented by store-bought dolls. The toy industry started using plastics, and dolls became cheaper and more readily available. The memories submitted to the competition feature descriptions of receiving a doll, but also stories of yearning for one. The contributors occasionally associate poverty and lack of toys with injustice and wrongdoing. Then again, not all the girls loved to play with dolls or felt a need for them. The contributors also introduce the circumstances of their childhood and tell their imagined readers about their past, thus stepping into the role of a folklorist or a collaborator. In addition to relating personal experiences and personal past, the writers also aim to convey and promote their own “truth”, to further their own “agenda”. The contributions of play memories also discuss the scarcity of toys, often attributing a positive significance to it. The contributors depict themselves as vigorous go-getters who were able to overcome their rough circumstances by creating full-fledged play-worlds from whatever means available. Many find the topic of dolls and doll games important, for memories of one’s dolls constitute an essential part of one’s play memories.
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