I found the lumpy ball of wood in my little brother’s room, placed carefully atop a stack of comic books. Jacob’s floor is covered with Bionicle figurines and Lego starships, miniature firefighters and thimble-sized army men, Beyblades and Pokemonsters. They face each other on his floor, locked in a perpetual pop culture war with rules more complex than chess. This strange object sat apart from the fray. I picked it up and turned it over.
Can you see it now? It’s a stout figure curled in a tight ball. Its massive arms and legs show off rippling muscles. Pointy ears and a mane of hair poke out, but its face is obscured. It is scored with what looks like teeth marks. Is it possible to be equally attracted and repulsed? That’s how I felt.
“What is this?” I asked my mom, holding it far away from me as I walked into the kitchen.
“Oh, Jacob found that in the backyard,” she said casually.
“He just found it?” I asked. “But where did it come from?”
No one had an answer, obviously. Meanwhile, my mind was spinning stories about witch doctor neighbors. This was clearly some sort of totem or voodoo doll. Its dark power would consume Jacob, turning him into one of those horror movie children with red-tinted eyes.
This theory was mostly based on the row of spikes emerging from the figure’s head. In my moment of hysteria, they looked like enormous teeth or a medieval visor. Why did no one else realize how EVIL this thing was? I snapped some shots and swore I’d do a post on it, so that people would at least have a hint of an explanation when we all vanished.
A couple days later, I showed the shots to my friend Dori.
“It’s so cuuuuute!!” she said. At this point, I was flabbergasted. Were we looking at the same thing?
That’s when I noticed that there are teen “teeth,” which, from an art-thropological perspective, means they’re probably actually fingers. This little person was hiding its face, not baring its teeth. The revelation hit me right in the heart.
The unknown artist packed this sculpture with intense emotion. It’s Hercules rendered weak, a visual representation of the way muscles flex in fear. Perhaps it stood apart from Jacob’s various strongmen and heroes because it was so crushingly vulnerable. Ambiguous and grotesque, yes, but not evil.
Of course, I’ll still be checking Jacob’s eyes whenever I go home. Until I get to the bottom of this mystery, witch doctors will remain on my list of theories. That’s not too crazy, right? If it is, I’ll just blame it on the doll.