Thursday

"The Story of Little Kettle-Head"

image via
Remember when I said that one of the few things that really made my skin crawl was gray, blank-faced, flat, blocky, zombie-puppet people?  Well, add to that list the arguably even creepier specter of gray, smiley-faced, kettle-headed people.  Particularly children.

Helen Bannerman, probably most infamous for her children's tale "Little Black Sambo," penned "Little Kettle-Head," a parable in a similar vein to Slovenly Betsy, about a little girl who "was very fond of poking fires."  Our little pyromaniac's uppance comes when she pokes one fire too many and burns her little head off. 

A quick-thinking servant replaces her head with a kettle and even draws a little smiley face on it so her parents won't suspect a thing.  Poor little Kettle-head can't talk anymore; she can only make the noise "Clip - clap - clapper - apper apper."  Her parents, of course, simply scold her for this.

Luckily, when Father Christmas comes that very night, he notices her strange head and leaves her a gift-- the decapitated head of a doll whose body has already been "chopped into little bits."  So, Mombi-style, little Kettle-head plops the doll's head on her burnt stump of a neck and the next day her parents remark favorably on her new good looks.  Of course, she's now stuck having a doll's head for the rest of her life, but, as the story assures us, she never got near fires again, "and that is how her head has never been burned off again." 

Lesson learned:
Burning your entire head off is worth it if it ultimately makes you prettier.


Bannerman, Helen.  "The Story of Little Kettle-Head."  New York: Stokes, 1904.
Read the full story here.

1 comment:

  1. Little Kettle-Head was one of the stories included in the Jumbo Sambo book which I had as a child. It was a ghastly story with grisly illustrations (by Helen Bannerman), including the little girl burning her head off. It freaked me out when I was little and gave me nightmares, and it still creeps me out to think about it. I wish I had never read it, because those pictures have stayed in my mind forever.

    ReplyDelete