This morning it was very cold. But visiting a cemetery, cold never bothered me anyway…
In the commemoration of infants and juveniles, Disney artefacts and images have a prevalent role and can be seen in contemporary cemetery culture throughout the UK. From Winnie the Pooh, Snow White, and Dumbo, to far more recent Disney characters, a brief visit to any baby garden or cemetery will reveal them both represented on gravestones and constituting a significant dimension of the artefacts placed on and around graves of infants and younger children.
I’ve been waiting for the Frozen phenomenon to augment this cemetery culture and today, on a visit to a cemetery, I witnessed it. Three figures – Anna (left), Olaf (centre) and Elsa (right) frame the base of the gravestone. Moreover, two labels hang from the two female figures. Princess Elsa holds a sign denoting the affinity to the deceased child: ‘Little Princess’. Anna expresses ‘Sweet Dreams’.
I may have seen it elsewhere, but I captured it on my camera consciously for the first time during today’s cemetery visit.
Notably, this was a grave to a young person whose life sadly came to an end a good 11-12 months before the release of Frozen in cinemas in 2013.
So Frozen artefacts appear on a grave of an individual who could have never seen the film.
What does this tell us? I think it poignantly reveals something of the role of dialogues between the living and the dead mediated by both gravestones and portable items in modern cemeteries.
Danish archaeologist Tim Flohr Sørensen has argued that modern child’s graves often construct material frameworks to imagine lives unlived – past futures unexperienced and unavailable due to premature death. The playful items are more than toys, they connect the living (kin and friends) to the deceased as a life lived but one incomplete and cruelly cut short. They offer comfort and love, friendship and play, at the grave.
I think these Frozen figures are a powerful example of that phenomenon – the toys and artefacts do not denote a childhood lived, but one of a childhood that might have been. This is the childhood experienced at the graveside by siblings and parents, kin and friends, but not by the deceased. The sisters embody love between siblings, whilst Olaf encapsulates the love between children and their toys.
The memory of the child is not frozen, but lives on, unfolding from the point of death.