This is the first in a new category of post, covering the various story themes seen in Jinty in more detail. As we will see, the story themes are often not clear-cut; many themes overlap or become fuzzy at the edges when investigated further. Nevertheless, definite strands can be traced.
There is a long-running story theme in girls’ comics based around someone or something (normally an object) influencing the protagonist to do things she normally wouldn’t do, in a way that is supernatural or unnatural. The influencing object usually has its own agenda, and in service of this it often ends up taking away the protagonist’s free will, and perhaps even her memory, such are the extremes that are gone to. The object (or, sometimes, person) is often evil, though sometimes it can be just driven by its own underlying requirements, which the protagonist must serve in order to resolve the situation.
Probably the purest form of this story theme in Jinty can be found in the spooky story “Spell of the Spinning Wheel” (1977). Rowan Lindsay pricks her finger on the spinning wheel that her mother has just bought and finds that she is made to fall fast asleep every time she hears a humming sound – like the sound of the wheel when it is being used, but also the hum of a hairdryer, a car, and so on. The spinning wheel is entirely malicious: its agenda seems simply to spoil Rowan’s running career and indeed her life. When Rowan tries to give it away or destroy it to save herself, it responds dramatically by trying to make her go over a cliff, drown in a river, or get knocked down by a car; certainly it’s not possible to just tamely pass it on. In the end it must be destroyed by cleansing fire, but this can only happen once the whole family is united in determination to remove its malign influence: the heroine does not have enough power to get rid of it by herself. (In this story this works partly through the wheel’s power and partly through the mother’s disbelief: although the father is soon persuaded of the spinning wheel’s malice, the mother is turned against her family and refuses to co-operate with them until finally the wheel goes a step too far and shows her its true colours.)
Clear examples of this story theme in Jinty are:
- Gail’s Indian Necklace (1974): Gail acquires a mysterious necklace made of wooden beads in a jumble sale: it originally came from India. Initially it grants some desires that are unspoken, or socially wrong: she cannot afford a bicycle and so the necklace makes her steal one, or she wants her aunt out of the way and the aunt gets knocked over by a car. The necklace has a specific agenda, to be returned to its original location; once Gail complies she is free of its influence and is even rewarded by it.
- Slave of the Mirror (1975): Mia Blake finds an old mirror in her house and it makes her turn against her sister. The mirror possesses her and makes her destroy things in the house, sabotaging her sister’s attempt to run a boarding house. It turns out to be haunted by the ghost of a Spanish serving-girl who was ill-treated by a previous owner of the house; her spirit is set to rest and the possession stops.
- Spell of the Spinning Wheel (1977): see above.
- Creepy Crawley (1977): Jean Crawley comes across an old scarab brooch in a shop; it comes with the promise that it can help her defeat her rival. She doesn’t stay around long enough to listen to the associated warning she would have been given: once it gives her her wish it will go on to further its own ends, up to and including a reign of insects! Very soon she is unable to give up the brooch or gainsay it in any way; the defeat of the evil object has to be done by a friend of Jean’s, and by the rival herself, who has to be persuaded into forgiveness to break the spell.
- Come Into My Parlour (1978): Jody Sinclair is made to wear a cat’s-paw necklace by an evil witch, who uses it to get revenge on the descendents of a judge who hanged her wicked ancestor. At first she is made to do things against her will as if she were a puppet, but her inconvenient conscience is eventually eliminated by changing her personality entirely. In the end she is only freed when the house that the witch has been living in is burned down, with the witch inside.
- Paula’s Puppets (1978): Paula finds some mysterious wax puppets and finds they act like voodoo dolls, and she can make things happen to whoever she makes the puppets resemble. At first the bitter Paula uses them to exact revenge, but eventually she realises she can use them to help her father. (Here, protagonist Paula is the active force behind the influencing object, which differs from usual in this story theme.)
- The Venetian Looking Glass (1980): the protagonist finds a hand mirror which starts to control her life and wreak its revenge, ultimately being revealed as due to an angry ghost. As with other stories above, the spirit can only be laid to rest with the help of a wider group of people than just the enthralled protagonist, and forgiveness plays an important part too.
- A number of Gypsy Rose stories also include this story theme, with a more diverse set of evil or haunted objects such as a handkerchief and a tambourine.
Of course, there are always fuzzy edges around definitions, with examples that don’t match the story theme quite as obviously. Looking at these less clear-cut cases can help to challenge our definitions.
- “The Haunting of Form 2B” (1974) has a whole class being haunted by a ghostly teacher. The schoolgirls are taken over mentally by objects given to them by the ghost, but it’s quite a number of varied objects that are influencing them rather than a specific one or two.
- In “The Haunting of Hazel” (1975) the protagonist is strongly influenced by a ghostly ancestor, but it feels more like a standard ghost story than a case of possession.
- In “The Mystery of Martine” (1976-77), the source of the possession is not very clearly delineated: is it the bangles that Martine clanks together, or is it the script written by the playwright, or is it all perhaps in Martine’s mind?
- Sometimes the object is not that clearly evil, or has an influence without appearing almost anthropomorphic. Tamsin Tregorren finds a silver comb that belonged to her mother in “Combing Her Golden Hair” (1979) and the comb shows her visions and leads her to frolic in the water like a dolphin despite never having learned to swim. Eventually she is brought to the sea where she meets her mother, who is a mermaid, and who wants her to come and live in the sea too. The comb serves the agenda of the mother, who is not evil (and though she is portrayed as selfishly not caring whether or not Tamsin would be able to survive in the same environment, this is never actually proven one way or another).
- In “Child of the Rain” (1980), Gemma West is strongly affected by the rain after a trip to the Amazon rainforest; it is found that some bark from a tree was left in her leg after an accident in the forest, and it is that that is affecting her, rather than any evil object or tennis-mad spirit .
- In “Who’s That In My Mirror” (1977), the special mirror in question does not remove Magda’s free will, though it does seem to tempt her to worse and more selfish actions than she would have done alone. It’s also not entirely clear at the end whether perhaps the mirror might be intended as an ultimately moral force, to make her repent of her selfish deeds?
Related but different
Further away again from my core definition sit some related themes:
- Hypnotism and brainwashing are the keys to “The Slave of Form 3B“, “Prisoner of the Bell”, “Children of Edenford“, and “Jackie’s Two Lives”: the active agents are people, working in ways that aren’t actually strictly realistic but can’t be classed as supernatural.
- Wish fulfillment: “Dance Into Darkness” has the protagonist forced to dance whenever music plays, with her free will eroded by the curse she takes on. It could be classed along the same double-edged gift that tempts Jean Crawley, but it feels more like irony than evil. And of course a wish fulfillment story can also be purely mundane, such as in “Food for Fagin” and “Freda’s Fortune”.
- Not to be confused with: a magical companion, who persuades or helps rather than forcing or tempting. Stories with such a companion include “Guardian of White Horse Hill”, “Her Guardian Angel”, “Daughter of Dreams”. The companion may leave the protagonist in a sticky situation but she is not compelled or possessed.
It’s an old-fashioned sort of story theme, in many ways. The magical objects in question are typically very gendered – mirrors, necklaces, a brooch, a spinning wheel. It feels like a trope from old stories or fairy tales, continued on in girls’ comics as a morality tale. The girl who is affected by the evil object often picks it up initially for the wrong reasons, or is in places she’s not supposed to be: the object promises revenge or oneupmanship, and the seeds of the main character’s undoing are sown because they are heading in the morally wrong direction from the start.