The Toy Theater



A young puppeteer visits an old retired puppeteer for tips on the trade. Or is something more complicated going on?


The name Stromboli is from the Disney movie version of Pinocchio. The equivalent character in Carlo Collodi's 1883 book is named Mangiafuoco. Disney's Stromboli makes an appearance as a plastic figure in Three Fingers. Stromboli and Maria from this story are also referenced in On a Vacant Face a Bruise.


The Identity of the Pseudo-Protagonist's Puppetmaster -- SPOILERS

Other Puppets and Puppetmasters -- SPOILERS

  • The planet's name, Sarg, could reference both puppeteer Tony Sarg and botanist Charles "Sarg." Sargent.
  • "The Planet of the Roses" -- Margot and Rufus Rose are also famous marionettists, known for bringing to life the well-known Howdy Doody.
  • "Under the rose," or sub rosa means confidential. The rose is a symbol of the Egyptian god Horus. He was a sky, sun, and savior god, but the Greeks and Romans used him as the god of silence, under the name Harpocrates. The symbol has come into Christianity also; roses are often carved on confessionals as a sign that everything said there will be under the seal of confidentiality.
  • "The light ran to sienna and umber and ocher" -- all brown or golden brown pigments that come from clay. All can be changed to other shades by being burnt. It's interesting that they are all paint colors, since the puppetmasters make and paint their own puppets.
  • "Everything looked older than it was" -- like the props in a theater.
  • "...made you think of waxed oak and tarnished gold" -- also like the decor of a theater.
  • The three singing puppets are Julia, Lucinda, and Columbine. Columbine is a famous character used in puppet shows, usually paired with Harlequin. The name Lucinda was coined by Cervantes for Don Quixote -- she is an unfaithful wife. The Julia reference is less certain -- the most prominent theatrical use of that name is Shakespeare's Two Gentlemen of Verona.
    • Two Gentlemen of Verona has this line (referring to Silvia, a rival to Julia): "O excellent motion! O exceeding puppet! Now will he interpret to her." ("Motion" at the time also meant "puppet" or "puppet-show").
  • Zanni is the name for an archetypal comic servant in Italian Commedia dell'arte. The name is the origin of the English word "zany." Harlequin is a Zanni-type character.

Unanswered Questions

  • Does the narrator have a real puppeteer traveling with him, or is Stromboli the only puppeteer?
  • Was Charity unfaithful to the narrator with Stromboli? They had the opportunity, and Stromboli says he hopes the person the narrator is being faithful to is not someone he knows.
  • Who were the two women, Sarah Van Fleet and Amelie Gravereaux, after whom the rose varieties were named? (Note: these are both names of real rose varieties. The first was created by Walter Van Fleet in 1926 and the second by Jules Gravereaux in 1903.)
  • Is there anything significant about Rosine's (sic, actually Rosina's) song from The Barber of Seville? This is the song performed by the puppets Julia, Lucinda, and Columbine. Possibly the use of the name Rosine ties into The Marriage of Figaro, in which the character has become an unhappy wife with a would-be cheating husband.

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