i heart toy soldiers

toy soldiersI have this thing about toy soldiers...

Not the little green plastic army men type (or the 1991 movie featuring Sean Astin's buttocks, although I did have a thing about it at the time), but the classic toy solider that you tend to see a lot around Christmas (and with less than two months to go, Christmas is starting to creep into the collective consciousness once again, which is what made me think about this post)... the type with the big black hat and the red tunic with the white belts and blue pants. Like those two in the photo...

If I had to pick my favourite Christmas symbol, it would have to be the toy soldier (an odd choice, I know, but I've never been particularly conventional)...

I think that they're based on the British Army uniform from Days of Yore, but simplified down to it's basic graphical interpretation obviously...

I couple of weeks ago, when Ma and I were at West Lakes, we wandered through the Christmas display in David Jones and I happened to see a flat, silver (silvery really, because I'm sure it's not actual silver) toy soldier Christmas ornament, so I had to have it and it got added to the Away For Christmas Abyss...

But it got me thinking... and just kind of bubbled away in the back of my brain for a while until it resolved itself into a question...

"Where the hell did this obsession with toy soldiers come from?"

And you know what? Even after pondering it for some time now, I still have no idea where the obsession came from, I don't even remember when it started, but me and Christmas and toy soldiers, it's a thing...

I was never particularly into soldiers and war toys as a kid (although give me a plastic sword and shield and I was happy for months, or until it broke, whichever came first), so it's not just a general "war" thing... and it's a very particular type of solider too.

If I had to delve into the pop culture zeitgeist looking for toy solider explanations, the first one that springs to mind is the one from The Nutcracker Suite... but it's not like I've ever even seen it, at least not that I remember (and Ma mentioned that she hadn't ever taken me to it when I was little... and I might have seen all of about five minutes of it on teevee at some stage, but that's it)... so it can't come from there.

Which would at least make some kind of sense, because the wooden nutcrackers that creep onto the shelves around Christmas tend to be dressed up as various kinds of soldiers, but I'm not really that fond of some of them... partially because they usually have the "wrong" outfit (or they covered in glitter like one we saw last weekend... which is a shame, because he was on a "music box" and drummed to the music, and I could have been up for getting one... but, hello... tacky glitter)... but I still have to have a look every time I see them, just in case I find the "perfect" one.

Actually they have some halfway decent ones in The Reject Shop of all places (which was also home to the Music Box Abomination), so maybe this is the year to get one.

The only other pop culture reference to toy soldiers that I can think of is from Hans Christian Anderson's story The Steadfast Tin Soldier. Now, that I DO remember from when I was a kid, although I don't quite remember whether it was a story on tape that I had or if I actually read it (I'm guessing that wherever it was from it didn't come with a whole lot of pictures)... but I know that I've always loved that story, tragic though the original version is (and don't even get me started on the travesty of the Walt Disney Corporation version that they released as part of their Fantasia 2000 project... happy ending my arse)... so maybe part of it comes from there (that might also account for my occasional slight fondness for people missing body parts... although that's a whole other, much more twisted, story).

But I can't really point to any one thing and say "THAT'S why I like toy soldiers"... story of my life really... I like what I like because I like it, and that's usually enough for me without a lot of soul searching.

The entire toy soldier concept is very wrapped up (no pun intended) with Christmas though, they're usually one of the items that can be seen poking out of a Santa sack (traditionally anyway, who knows what the hell he's got in there these days), and I'm pretty sure some of them would have showed up in the (then) John Martin's Christmas Pageant (actually that could be at least part of it, because I saw a lot of Christmas Pageants in my youth)...

Other than the whole Pageant thing, the earliest Christmas toy solider I remember must have been on one of my Christmas stockings... but I can't remember if that was part of the cause or if I got it because I already liked toy soldiers by that point. I also found a toy solider glass ornament (not technically a bauble, since it's roughly toy solider shaped) at some point, which sadly doesn't get put on the tree anymore since we switched to "all balls".

I don't actually know what I'm going to do with the silver one... maybe I need to buy one of the nutcrackers, liberate the glass ornament from Ma's place, buy the wind-up drumming toy soldier from the newsagent near work and have a little toy soldier shrine this Christmas...

But no matter where it comes from, I do indeed heart toy soldiers!

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