Years ago, I found a couple of Frozen Charlotte dolls among the things left in old houses after relatives moved away. Of course, when I was little I didn’t realize the porcelain dolls were Frozen Charlottes, but I liked them anyway and have kept them safely in my care for decades.
The dolls, usually small, are made of white bisque. Sometimes they might have painted-on red lips and dark hair, but they do not have joints, making them appear frozen. In the mid- to late-nineteenth century, the dolls might be baked into cakes in a similar fashion to the King Cake babies that are popular now. Some were able to float, and were bath-time toys for children.
Their arrival in the U.S. coincided with Seba Smith’s popular poem, “A Corpse Going to a Ball,” a cautionary story of a how a young girl named Charlotte froze to death on a sleigh ride to a dance because she disobeyed her mother by refusing to wear a blanket over her pretty new dress. The poem was set to music and became a hit song that warned young ladies about the dangers of ignoring their parents’ good advice. The popular mind associated the doll with the song.
Millions of Frozen Charlotte dolls were produced, and there was also a male counterpart, Frozen Charles.
I’ve had Charlotte on my mind this week for two reasons. One is obvious. A few days ago, my friend Mary, knowing my fondness for the dolls, gifted me a Charlotte doll when we went to lunch together.
The other reason is more tenuous: I can’t remember a hotter summer. I am usually cold-natured, but find this summer’s heat almost unbearable. I catch myself worrying that the damage humans have done to the environment may soon be irreparable if we, like Charlotte, keep ignoring those who are wiser than ourselves –scientists and Mother Nature – and the plainly visible symptoms of a sick planet.
I ponder with dread Robert Frost’s deceptively simple poem in which the speaker mulls over whether the next “end of the world” will be from Fire or Ice. Frost’s speaker “holds with those who favor fire,” but I wonder if somewhere in the dark corners of my mind I find Charlotte’s frozen sleigh ride in the snow preferable to more and more deadly storms, wildfires, droughts, epidemics, and extinctions.
The best choice, it seems to me, would be neither fire nor ice, but an effort on all our parts to respect the Creator by protecting the Creation.
Marian Carcache welcomes
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