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The Steadfast Tin Soldier, The Brave Little Toaster and The Lonely Kazoo

April 15, 2010

A great mentor and teacher visited this site and noted that the story is, in some ways, a reworking of a Hans Christian Andersen story called “The Steadfast Tin Soldier,” sometimes called “The Brave Tin Soldier.” I had never read the story, but I am tickled by the similarities.

The Steadfast Tin Soldier

In the story, a one-legged tin soldier falls in love with a paper ballerina in a child’s room full of toys. However, he falls out a window and some kids put him in a paper boat and float him down the gutter, where he goes into the sewer and is threatened by some rats. He makes it out to sea, where he is swallowed up by a fish that is caught and sold back to the house he came from. So once again within the same room as his paper ballerina, some boy snatches him up and throws him in the fire for no reason (bastard!). Then the wind tosses the ballerina into the fire, where she instantly burns up. The soldier cries a tin tear drop (That’s right, The Mascara Snake!) then melts into a heart.

This led to a thought experiment. I suppose The Lonely Kazoo is sort of taking lessons from both Hans Christian Andersen and The Brave Little Toaster (makes me wonder if they got that title from the Andersen story).

The Brave Little Toaster

In the Brave Little Toaster, the appliances go on a long adventure after their master abandons them for new, modern appliances AS SEEN ON TV!!!!!

The characters must confront the world as it is, and their new lives as obsolete household items. The story is one of perseverance of character as the group must assert that they still have value. Once they admit their worthlessness, they accept their death.

(Note: Van Dyke Parks wrote some of the songs! Way cool.)

Broken, obsolete, disposable

The Tin Soldier must confront his apparent lack of worth due to his missing leg. The Toaster’s group confronts their obsolescence. Our hero LKZ confronts similar realities, but his story is not so much one of technological advancement or functionality, but of the nature of one-time-use disposable culture. He was a perfectly fine kazoo when he was tossed from the car. His fate rested with the fact that he was cheap to manufacture, and therefore seen as disposable. There is no use in the kazoo trying to assert himself as useful; no one cares to listen. They can just buy a new, clean kazoo if they really want one.

Interacting with nature

The Steadfast Tin Soldier is swallowed up by a fish once he makes it out to sea. That fish is then caught, and he is returned to the human world. Our hero LKZ and his plastic friends in the Pacific choke and kill the sea birds that try to eat them, but they remain in the Pacific and largely unchanged.

(Images by Seattle photographer Chris Jordan.)

Both LKZ and Toaster have interactions with fields and forests. To both LKZ, the bugs and trees and animals are terrifying and unfamiliar. In one of the saddest scenes ever in a kids’ movie, Toaster is forced to dismiss a lonely flower who mistakes its reflection in Toaster’s stainless steel sheen as a companion.

Out of context

In all three stories, items created by humans with a specific purpose have to encounter the world out of context. The absurdity of their creation depresses and alienates them. Yet their conviction to redefine themselves despite the lack of human consideration is heroic and Brave. Their persistent existence reveals how absurd it is for humans to continue to create things that someday become seen as worthless.

One Comment leave one →
  1. April 15, 2010 2:22 pm

    Thank you for this excellent post. This story brings awareness to the real, deadly impacts of a linear system of consumption on our mother earth. Through our compartmentalized and short-sighted vision of reality it is so easy to dismiss our trash and waste as abstract. It is ironic that through the eyes of plastic are we able to see the lasting and tragic implications of our disposable culture. Perhaps it is because we relate far more the highly manufactured plastic kazoo than to the other sentient beings in our world.

    What a sad state of affairs.

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