Friday, September 21, 2012

The Little Black Doll Sheds Light On Ancient Custom

From time to time during my black-doll obsession peaks I will entertain myself with Google searches for my obsession to see what results.  A recent "black doll" search on Google led to a classic short story that features a black doll.  In short, the story is about a little unloved girl whose prized possession is an Ancient Egyptian doll.  I found the story interesting and wanted to share.

Read it here,
The Little Black Doll by Lucy Maud Montgomery

or have it read to you on by clicking the play arrow.

Lucy Maud Montgomery's short story should not be confused with Enid Blyton's children's book, The Little Black Doll, first published in 1937 wherein Sambo, the main character, "wants to be washed white, or pink, by the rain."  Blyton's over-told storyline is not a topic for discussion at this time, as I found Montgomery's story about a dearly loved Ancient Egyptian black doll more palatable.

A variety of subsequent Google searches for "Egyptian black doll," "Ancient Egyptian black doll," and similar keyword searches ensued after reading Montgomery's story.  I desired a visual of a doll from that period. These additional searches resulted in information on dolls and toys for play as well as and items used in Ancient Egyptian rituals. 

While Montgomery's circa 1909-1922 story refers to the little black doll as one that "served to amuse a little girl... in the court of the Pharaohs" four thousand years before the unloved girl took ownership of it, and may have originated as a child's toy, there were other dolls in Ancient Egypt.  According to The British Museum's website, Shabti (Ushabti) dolls "first became part of the Egyptian funerary tradition in the Middle Kingdom (about 2040-1750 BC)." 

Shabti figures in a basket

Shabti figures represented servants who would care for the Pharaoh in his afterlife.
Photo courtesy of Mharrsch on

Did you know it was customary, according to funerary practice in Ancient Egypt for the wealthy, specifically Pharaohs, to be buried with multiple hand-carved dolls/figures?  It was their belief that these Shabti dolls would serve as their surrogate servants in the afterlife.  This implies that reincarnation existed in the minds of these ancient peoples who must have believed people would maintain their socioeconomic status, either rich or poor, in their "next" life.

Learn more about Ancient Egyptian toys and Shabti dolls at the following links:
Egyptian Tomb Doll 18th Dynasty
Egyptian Ushabti
Shabti Dolls
Shabti Doll Image
The Handbook to Life in Ancient Egypt (Ushabtis and Paddle Dolls)




  1. Thanks for pointing out this story. I only knew Lucy Maud Montgomery as the author of the Anne of Green Gables books - didn't know she wrote short stories too.

  2. Thank you for commenting, vintagedollcollector-com. For a list of additional stories by Lucy Maud Montgomery, visit the following URL/Link.


  3. Thanks for the info. I am always interested in learning as much history as possible. That funery fact about being buried with dolls is in interesting one. "As a man thinketh...."

  4. I never knew about the dolls and I probably got this from old movies and not from actual taught history or documentaries as I muddle things together anyway. But, I could swear that for some reason I thought that human servants and favorite animals were also entombed alive with their masters to serve them in their afterlife. I can vaguely see that happening now that I write that sentence so that was probably in a Cecil B Demill movie. Never mind.

    But I believe in reincarnation so I find this all very interesting so thanks for posting it!

  5. Thanks for sharing the story of the Little Black Doll. It made me cry.

    If all my dolls are shabti's then I will be very well served in the after life!

  6. Vanessa/Muff/Limbe Dolls

    The funerary ritual of having dolls and other relics buried with the dead was indeed an interesting discovery, Vanessa.

    Muff, I hope the Ancient Egyptians or others who practiced this ritual did not discount human life by burying people alive with the deceased.

    Being buried with a doll or two has been a fleeting thought for me. I decided against it because I would not want to rob the doll of its "life" here after mine ends.

    Limbe Dolls - If there is an afterlife and if you choose to take your dolls with you, you will be well served.



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