Barnett’s Cabinet of Curiosities – Exhibit 1: Stringboy

Stringboy came to us some years ago, from Whitby on the North Yorkshire coast. We don’t know how he got to Whitby… some fetish brought over on the ill-fated Demeter, which ferried Count Dracula to those shores, perhaps. Maybe he walked there himself, no taller than the grass, from parts unknown.

What do we know of Stringboy? He was lurking in one of those penny arcade machines, the sort you drop tuppeny pieces into in a bid to dislodge more coins hovering precariously over the edgy of an abyss. Scattered among the coins were cheap plastic cars, mysterious keychains inscribed with names long fallen out of fashion, such as Bev and Karen, rubbery things with uses impossible to fathom.

But there was only one Stringboy. A well-placed coin and a cascade of money brought him crashing down into the tray. Was that a smile on his face, or just a random winding of the string of which he was made? His face is otherwise featureless, save for a pair of midnight-black eyes that catch the moonlight just so and shine with tales of storm-tossed seas and the gossip of gulls.

The question remains: Was Stringboy born, or made? Was he fashioned with love, then lost? Did his creator – a curly-haired child, perhaps, or an old woman with wisdom not learned from any book – breathe life into him and set him free to find his way in the world? Was he once a human boy, buried beneath a curse and confined in an amusement arcade until such time as a lucky coin could free him from his steel and glass prison?

Perhaps we’ll never know. It has been our policy to never unwind him, for fear we are just left with tiny coils of yellow and blue string, the firmness that his body speaks of beneath his fibres lost with the act of unweaving.

Besides, he seems happy enough now.


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