Relics, souvenirs, mementoes… It all comes down to STUFF. The magic comes from what we invest in an object. It’s rarely a matter of what the object brings to the table.
A locket with a photo in a sentimental novel, the perfectly balanced shaving/killing blade in Sweeney Todd’s murderous hand, a teacup from grandma’s cabinet, a vial purporting to contain a drop of a medieval saint’s blood, a towel Elvis Presley used and Archie Bunker’s chair—things can become icons, but, again they are still just stuff. It’s the dance we do with special things, as we endow them with emotional content that creates the object’s story.
In storytelling the perfect match of the OBJECT and the PERSON is a classic. It’s used over and over again in fairy tales, myths and fantasy novels, too. The object is waiting for the person to reveal itself OR the adventure begins when the two finally connect. There are mistaken connections too—like when the nursemaid switches the baby boys in H.M.S. Pinafore reversing the fates of two lives with a change of cradle/swaddling fabric. C.S. Lewis’ wardrobe was filled with old coats until the children discovered it was much more! Now, that’s a favorite character/object match!
As a little girl there was something that didn’t track for me about Cinderella and her missing, glass slipper. What if some other girl wore the same size? Would that other girl get to marry the prince? Or did she have to produce the matching shoe to become his princess? And, more to the point, didn’t he remember anything else about her? Even in masks, it’s not hard to tell one person from the next. Still, it’s a great example of the object as the key to the individual’s fate.
I also remember my father reading The Sword and the Stone out loud as a bedtime story. It’s the kiddie version of Excalibur and Arthur, and I loved it. That is a magical object/person connection dancing through every incarnation of the Arthurian legend. As a child I wondered if the sword grew weary of all the other men vying to become king? But that brings us to anthropomorphizing an object—a subject for another Monster Meditation, don’t you agree?
Please share your favorite OBJECTS in fiction.