A friend of mine gave me a book of short stories by Paul Gallico to read. The one she wanted me to read in particular was Love of seven dolls. I wonder why?

No, seriously… I would not have understood the story entirely, had I not started making puppets myself.

The story was written in the early 1950’s and is set in France. It is about a puppeteer, called Captaine Coq, who saves a young girl from throwing herself into the Seine by letting the puppets talk to her. The girl and the puppets become good friends, but Captaine Coq himself is a real bastard. As the girl has nowhere to go, the puppets invite her to join the show. She interacts with the puppets naturally, and endures the treatment of the Captain. After the show becomes a success, the girl finds an admirer who wants to marry her. She is set to leave and the puppets are terribly sad, but Captaine Coq couldn’t give a toss. Only at the last minute is he able to express his own love for the girl.

In the reviews the girl is always the heroine, who saved the nasty puppeteer through her love for the puppets. If I hadn’t started puppet making, I would have seen it in exactly this way. But now that I know the spell hand puppets cast on their puppeteer, I know the puppets were the real heroes and ultimately Captain Coq saved himself by creating these puppets. The girl could have been replaced by another girl or another incident. But without the puppets, he would have lost touch with the real world entirely. He could not have escaped the shell he was in, a shell that was forced upon him by war.

The story tells us he had started making the puppets in a POW camp out of boredom and he started to entertain his fellow prisoners. Through his experiences in the war he had obviously lost his believe in the good in people. The war crippled him emotionally. A sarcastic bastard in real life, he could act out his caring and benevolent side through the puppets. In this way he could maintain a little flame of warmth.

Believe me, I have thought a lot about the crippling emotional effect of war. After all I am German… Emotional coldness is a black neck swan!