Challenge 729 Response
Bewildering Stories discusses
with Ronald Linson
William Quincy Belle’s “The Voodoo Wedding Dolls” appears in issue 729.
a. The wedding dolls were not “voodoo” when they were made. How do they become “voodooed”?
b. What else — other than the wedding doll — could Gus have used to torment Kira?
c. The voodoo pin is said to have been blessed by “Papa Doc.” In light of Haitian history, why might one infer immediately that the “blessing” is actually a curse?
[Ron L.]The wedding dolls were not “voodoo” when they were made. How do they become “voodooed”?
This story is a fine example of how sympathetic magic works, though it is greatly exaggerated for dramatic effect. Sympathetic magic uses symbols, often ordinary objects, to focus one’s will to produce a desired effect.
A voodoo doll is one such symbolic object, usually no more than a roughly human shape, and there is a bit more necessary to its creation than simply buying a doll or fashioning one out of straw or what-have-you. Something personal from the intended victim needs to be incorporated into the doll before one can even contemplate proceeding. A strand of hair tied around the doll is usually sufficient.
The pins — or whatever is used on the doll — are usually common, and aren’t blessed or cursed, though I can imagine that it would help reinforce the user’s belief in the magic.
It also helps if the victim is aware of the voodoo doll’s existence. Even if they’re skeptical, there is still an underlying psychological effect and, if it’s strong enough, the victim will attribute any misfortune to the voodoo doll.
Here’s a question I pose in return: Do the voodoo wedding dolls work because of the voodoo pin, or because of Gus and Kira’s belief in the pin’s efficacy? if so, why do the dolls continue to work even after Kira loses the pin?
[Don W.] Thank you, Ron; very interesting! Now, whom shall we voodoo next? No... not a legitimate Challenge question. Yours is more practical.
The dolls work even after Kira loses the pin because these particular dolls have gone far beyond the realm of sympathetic magic; we’re into deep, dark black magic in this story. The pin has transmitted the voodoo power to the dolls; that’s why Gus and Kira go to blazes when the dolls do.
As for question “b,” Gus is a doofus. He leaves the voodoo pin lying next to the dolls, where Kira is bound to find it. What else could he have used? A full-length photo of Kira.
Question “c” points out that the shopkeeper is telling the readers that she’s giving Gus a warning along with the voodoo pin. Anything “blessed” by the former Haitian dictator “Papa Doc” Duvalier is bad juju.
All told, “The Voodoo Wedding Dolls” is a story that might serve as diverting reading in a divorce lawyer’s waiting room. Clients might feel reassured to think they’re going the relatively easy route.
Copyright © 2017 by Ronald Linson
and Bewildering Stories