Thursday, 8 August 2013


Once upon a time, a little girl played with her Gran's thimble collection. She'd sit on the floor and wear them like rings on the tips of her thumbs and fingers. The adults would laugh at her absorbed in the task of studying these ten more closely. Some were metal, some were wood, and some were china; some were commemorative, some were decorative, and some were plain, but none of them were the same as each other. When she wore them she knew her different-ness was somehow protected, and because of this habit she was called Thimbelina.
With a fairytale name, when she went to school she invented her own story. She said she had hatched from a Kinder Surprise, concealed as the toy inside, but a passing fairy had touched her with her ring three times and she had grown in size. Her complexion did indeed match the chocolate: white milky skin with brown hair and dark eyes. When she went to bed, she would only be read 'Thumbelina'; she wanted to be small like her and was obsessed with squeezing herself into tiny spaces.
As Thimbelina approached her teenage years, she told her peers her parents had been cursed by a witch and wearing thimbles stopped her fingers getting pricked. What would happen if they did? They asked, and she replied: I'd be no bigger than a woman's thumb. Many asked if the curse could be broken and she said yes, but she wasn't sure of the ending yet. She thought it had something to do with marrying a kingfisher because her Fairy Godmother said his feathers were as bright as her dreams.
In her adulthood, despite her average height, she still looked for that kingfisher. Someone to see the world with, because although her fingers hadn't got pricked, as a grown up she felt smaller. Now 5ft 6 and daintily boned, next to big people she felt petite, and next to people smaller than her she felt huge, but if she stood next to people of a similar height she felt under-protected. And it wasn't just that that pained her, when she tried to do good, her motives were misunderstood and her individuality was incompatible with ambition. The ways of the modern world made her feel tiny, but not like her childhood heroine Kylie. She wasn't a pretty little thing or elfin, she was a plain, scruffy intellect.
Although Thimbelina knew her myth was absurd, a part of her wanted it to come true. Afraid of doing difficult things in a real world, she wanted to be popped into a pocket or ride atop a giant's shoulders. Being genuinely nice, she had found, was too 'alternative'. If she owned her fictional persona, perhaps she too would have adventures with creatures: be carried off by a moth, captured by a spider, and given shelter by a squirrel, although she drew the line at marrying a prince just her size. If she'd been Thumbelina, she would have stuck with the swallow. Nestled by wings the big, wide world wouldn't seem so harsh and unfriendly.
Perhaps like her, her kingfisher was in disguise: attired in a sapphire blue suit with dyed orange hair, or had less obvious flare, but a vibrant personality. Although she inhabited this giant land, Thimbelina still believed in broken spells and fairy tale endings: only a kingfisher would add glorious colour to her dreams.