Concerning the New Banner Design

It is my understanding that some people do not like the new banner/header design, with a specific complaint being that the little girl is a terrible artist. This, to me, is rather beside the point. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but children on the whole are not terribly accomplished artists. In fact, the messiness of her writing, and the fact that she clearly takes pride in it anyway, is, I think, far more characteristic of what children are like, and therefore a better reflection of what Pigtails represents. I know there may be some tendency among certain followers of our site to romanticize young girls. That’s fine to a point, and we have certainly not eschewed art that falls along those lines, but that is not, and never has been, the point of Pigtails in Paint. Before I say more, I would like to take the opportunity to post what I have said in private to Ron with respect to the new banner:

I rather like the idea that the title is not immediately legible and that it takes a few seconds of work to make it out. That will make it more memorable, since people must actively engage with it instead of just glossing over it. Which, I think, is a fundamental reflection of what good art is about, so the banner better represents what our site is. There are layers to it. It would be easy to make it all very pretty and simple—that’s how my earliest banners looked—but girls aren’t just pretty and simple, and that’s the point. The title reflects that they can be rough around the edges sometimes, but to me that adds to their charm. And it’s one thing to have a simple design when you’re just starting out, but we’ve hopefully moved beyond that. We are a well-established site now, and we’ve been through a lot. The new banner I think captures that complexity. The girl has made her mark, so to speak, and it cuts against the status quo, violates the simply ornamental. Like our girl (maybe we should give our mascot a name), we have made a mark, and we did so on our own terms. Anyone could post images that are simply pleasing and non-challenging—what we’re doing is exploring aspects of girlhood that much of society would rather we didn’t. There have been several attempts to silence our voice, but we didn’t let that stop us, did we?

That is the philosophical basis for the new design. I think it is a respectable goal for us to move past the pleasingly ornamental, which can be equated with vapidity, sentimentality and triviality. We are an art blog, and art takes many forms, not all of them immediately pleasant to the eye. As an artist myself, I know that the best art is often initially challenging to the viewer. That being said, a banner must first and foremost be functional. If it does not convey the information it is meant to convey, then it fails. Some followers of the site have expressed that the ‘Pigtails in Paint’ lettering is much too difficult to read, particularly for those viewers for whom English is not their first language, and that is problematic.

Thus, I will alter the banner design in the next few days to make the lettering more legible. I will not redesign the entire banner, or stray too far from the original concept—I stand by that. I will, however, try to make the lettering more legible to Pigtail’s readers, including our foreign fans. The new banner should be completed sometime before this coming weekend. Thank you. – Pip

Poster Art: ‘Logan’

I’m doing a new series that focuses on poster art for girl-related films, television shows, etc., starting with the upcoming X-Men film Logan. This film is set in the near future when most of the mutants have been wiped out. In this context Logan, a.k.a. Wolverine, is charged with protecting a young mutant named Laura, better known as X-23, who, in the comics at least, is actually a female clone of Wolverine. The character is portrayed by the super-talented Dafne Keen.  If she is, in fact, Logan’s clone, then she was well-cast because their resemblance is remarkable. I don’t know about you but I am quite excited for this film, which hits theaters on March 3rd in US venues.

The first poster is actually the official poster for the film. It only shows X-23’s hand, but I love the juxtaposition of her small, seemingly vulnerable hand against Woverine’s deadly claws.

Artist Unknown – Logan (poster)

The next one was illustrated by comic book artist Babs Tarr (best known for her stint on the Batgirl series). I think it perfectly captures X-23 in all her adorable fierceness. I certainly wouldn’t want to cross her!

Babs Tarr – Logan (poster)

This last one is my favorite. It references all those fantastic illustrated film posters from the late 70s and the 80s we all know and love, most of which were done by Drew Struzan. This poster is for the IMAX edition of the film and was illustrated by Dave Rapoza.

Dave Rapoza – Logan (IMAX poster)

 

Poetry in White: Will and Carine Cadby

I get to meet a lot of people in the course of producing this site and, in one case, this has resulted in a deep friendship. Not only is Stuart a great fan of this site, but he informed me that anything he can scan from his collection is at our disposal. This was an especially generous offer because, from his descriptions, he appears to have one of the world’s biggest collections of little girl lore. With such an extensive collection, I assumed he could fill many of the gaps I have been trying to fill in. But alas, no collection is perfect and he does not recall owning any of the postcards from ‘La Journée de Suzette’ by Armand Gaboriaud. However, when I mentioned that series, it reminded him of a charming book called A Child’s Day (1913) using photographs by Will and Carine Cadby and accompanied by the poetry of Walter de la Mare. The samples he sent were just so precious and so I requested he scan the entire book.

There is not much biographical information available except for a kind of curriculum vitae. The couple were English and lived in London until settling later in Kent. Will Cadby, in particular, was personally known by Alfred Stieglitz and they maintained a written correspondence. Will began taking photographs in 1891 and his first exhibitions were in 1893. In 1894, the couple were elected members of The Linked Ring and began exhibiting in The London Salon. In 1896, Will began experimenting with white-on-white photography with models dressed in white shot with a white background. This signature style is apparent in A Child’s Day. The couple published their first of several children’s books in 1902, Dogs and Doggerel. For the most part, Carine did the writing and production while Will provided the photos. From 1912–1932 the Cadbys wrote a column called “London Letter” for Photo-Era magazine until its demise.

The Cadbys’ work had an international following and was appreciated in the United States as well as the European subcontinent. A particularly delightful example is Die Heilige Insel (The Holy Island, 1917). This kind of book would have been well-received during this heyday of Europe’s fascination with fairies.

Will Cadby – Die Heilige Insel (1917) (1)

Will Cadby – Die Heilige Insel (1917) (2)

It is remarkable that there have been so many books published in various languages containing images of little girls accompanied by poetic description. What follows are excerpts from de la Mare’s writing followed by the image that appears on the opposing page. We are introduced to our subject thus:

But nevertheless, as sweet as I can,
I’ll sing a song to Elizabeth Ann—
The same little Ann as there you see
Smiling as happy as happy can be.
And all that my song is meant to say
Is just what she did one long, long day,
With her own little self to play with only,
Yet never once felt the least bit lonely.

Will and Carine Cadby – A Child’s Day (1912) (1)

… At last from the pillow,
With cheeks bright red,
Out comes her round little
Touseled head;
And out she tumbles
From her warm bed. …

Will and Carine Cadby – A Child’s Day (1912) (2)

… So in her lonesome,
Slippety, bare,
Elizabeth Ann’s
Splash—splashing there;
And now from the watery
Waves amonje
Stands slooshing herself
With that ‘normous sponge.

Will and Carine Cadby – A Child’s Day (1912) (3)

… But sailing the world’s wide ocean round,
In a big broad bale from Turkey bound,
All for the sake of Elizabeth Ann
This towel’s been sent by a Mussulman,
And with might and main she must rub—rub—rub—
Till she’s warm and dry from her morning tub.

Will and Carine Cadby – A Child’s Day (1912) (4)

Now twelve above,
And twice six beneath,
She must polish and polish
Her small, sharp teeth.
The picture, you see,
Entirely fails
To show how nicely
She nipped her nails. …

Will and Carine Cadby – A Child’s Day (1912) (5)

Here all we see
Is Ann’s small nose,
A smile, two legs,
And ten pink toes,
Neatly arranged
In two short rows.

Will and Carine Cadby – A Child’s Day (1912) (6)

… Yet—though, of course, ‘twould be vain to tell a-
Nother word about Cinderella—
Except for a Mouse on the chimney shelf,
She put on her slippers quite—quite by herself,
And I can’t help thinking the greater pleasure
Is to dress in haste, and look lovely at leisure.
Certainly summer or winter, Ann
Always dresses as quick as she can.

Will and Carine Cadby – A Child’s Day (1912) (7)

And there she is (on the other side),
The last button buttoned, the last tape tied.
Her silky hair has perched upon it
A flat little two-stringed linen bonnet.
Each plump brown leg that comes out of her frock
Hides its foot in a shoe and a sock.

Will and Carine Cadby – A Child’s Day (1912) (8)

… While all the pigs
From York to Devon,
Have finished their wash
Before half-past seven.
But Elizabeth Ann
Gets up so late
She has only begun
At half-past eight
To gobble her porridge up— …

Will and Carine Cadby – A Child’s Day (1912) (9)

The following passage does not seem to make sense. Throughout the book, de la Mare incorporates the girl’s activities with those of wild beasts as in the pig reference above. In this case, it seems the poet did not have anything to say about the image itself.

… But Time, she nods her head—
Like flights of the butterfly,
Mammoths fade through her hours;
And Man draws nigh.
And it’s ages and ages ago;
Felled are the forests in ruin;
Gone are the thickets where lived on his lone
Old Bruin.

Will and Carine Cadby – A Child’s Day (1912) (10)

When safe into the fields Ann got,
She chose a dappled, shady spot,
Beside a green rush-bordered pool,
Where, over water still and cool,
The little twittering birds did pass,
Like shadows in a looking-glass. …

Will and Carine Cadby – A Child’s Day (1912) (11)

Please to look and see it there,
Dangling in her fleecy hair.

Will and Carine Cadby – A Child’s Day (1912) (12)

… “Happy, happy it is to be
Where the greenwood hangs o’er the dark blue sea;
To roam in the moonbeams clear and still
And dance with the elves
Over dale and hill;
To taste their cups, and with them roam
The fields for dewdrops and honeycomb.
Climb then, and come, as quick as you can,
And dwell with the fairies, Elizabeth Ann!” …

Will and Carine Cadby – A Child’s Day (1912) (13)

But this little morsel of morsels here—
Just what it is is just not clear: …
… But it’s all the same to Elizabeth Ann.
For when one’s hungry, it doesn’t much matter
So long as there’s (something) on one’s platter.

Will and Carine Cadby – A Child’s Day (1912) (14)

Now fie! O fie! How sly a face!
Half greedy joy, and half disgrace;
O foolish Ann, O greedy finger;
To long for that forbidden ginger! …

Will and Carine Cadby – A Child’s Day (1912) (15)

… And see! That foolish Ann’s forgot
To put the cover on the pot;
And also smeared—the heedless ninny—
Her sticky fingers on her pinny.
And, O dear me! Without a doubt,
Mamma has found the culprit out. …

Will and Carine Cadby – A Child’s Day (1912) (16)

… And here upon the stroke of three,
Half-way ‘twixt dinner-time and tea,
Cosily tucked in her four-legged chair,
With nice clean hands and smooth brushed hair,
In some small secret nursery nook,
She sits with her big Picture book. …

Will and Carine Cadby – A Child’s Day (1912) (17)

As soon as ever twilight comes,
Ann creeps upstairs to pass,
With one tall candle, just an hour
Before her looking-glass.
She rummages old wardrobes in,
Turns dusty boxes out;
And nods and curtsies, dances, sings,
And hops and skips about. …

Will and Carine Cadby – A Child’s Day (1912) (18)

… But now, dear me!
What’s this we see?
A dreadful G—
H—O—S—T!
A-glowering with
A chalk-white face
Out of some dim
And dismal place. …

Will and Carine Cadby – A Child’s Day (1912) (19)

“But now, my dear, for gracious sake!
Eat up this slice of currant cake;
Though certain sure, you’ll soon be screaming
For me to come—and find you dreaming. …”

Will and Carine Cadby – A Child’s Day (1912) (20)

But soon as Nurse’s back was turned
Ann’s idle thumbs for mischief yearned.
See now, those horrid scissors, oh,
If they should slip an inch or so!
If Ann should jog or jerk—suppose,
They snipped off her small powdery nose! …

Will and Carine Cadby – A Child’s Day (1912) (21)

But higgledy-piggledy
Slovenly Ann
Jumps out of her clothes
As fast as she can;
And with frock, sock, shoe,
Flung anywhere,
Slips from dressupedness
Into her bare. …

Will and Carine Cadby – A Child’s Day (1912) (22)

… This brief day now over;
Life’s but a span;
Tell how my heart aches,
Tell how my heart breaks,
To bid now farewell
To Elizabeth Ann. …

Will and Carine Cadby – A Child’s Day (1912) (23)

I was informed that there was some confusion about the date.  I had originally placed the date of 1913 for A Child’s Day which may have been confused with a film produced that year.  A colleague has informed me that the first edition was published in 1912 by Constable and was in a 12″ by 9¾” format, while the second edition was 9¾” by 7¾” and published in 1915 with a third reprint in 1920—sometimes referred to as the second edition by those who are now reproducing copies of many of these books with expired copyrights.

Official Walter de la Mare Society Website

Fudge Factors

Today is Pigtails in Paint’s 6th anniversary.  Not an auspicious one to be sure and I admit to some reservations.  For one thing, even though this site was founded by Pip 6 years ago today, it cannot be said that we have been in continuous operation that long due to technical issues and outright censorship.  Recently, Pip designed a little banner to celebrate our 1000th post, but again I have reservations.  As the site evolved, it made sense to consolidate a number of shorter posts and, on occasion, posts were deleted out of necessity.  And then there is the issue of monthly updates: do they count as posts or only those that contain images?  Some posts are long and some very short.  So I decided that, so that Pip’s efforts would not go to waste, I would post his celebratory banner on this anniversary date.  Thanks go to all our readers for their support particularly during these trying times.  -Ron

Johann Baptist Reiter

Austrian painter Johann Baptist Reiter found success as a portraitist in the Biedermeier era, which somewhat overlapped Neoclassicism. He studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna, and then got his start painting porcelain, doing a few paintings in between. After winning the Lampi-Preis for an exhibited work, he switched to doing paintings pretty much exclusively, building up his career with genre pieces and then portraits.

What’s interesting about this piece is that it is quite an informal pose, a rarity for the period. I’ve seen plenty of photographs of children in similar poses, and even a few more contemporary paintings and illustrations, but this may be the earliest example of this pose in a painted portrait. Face propped upon one arm, the girl wears a somewhat bored expression. You can easily picture her swinging her feet back and forth as she waits for Herr Reiter to hurry up and finish painting her portrait so she can go outside and play.

Johann Baptist Reiter – Die zernagte Puppe (1845)

Three from Mabel Rollins Harris (And One from William Fulton Soare)

Mabel Rollins Harris was a pinup/calendar artist whose most popular period was in the 1930s. She specialized in cheesecake-style women, female nudes and little girls. I confess I’m not particularly fond of her work overall. I find it generally uninspired, and I prefer strong lines and darker colors to the soft glowing look of Harris’s work. In fact, I’m not a huge fan of pastels in general. But she did produce a few notable pieces. The curly-top look of some of her little girls was clearly inspired by Shirley Temple, who was enjoying her greatest success during the same period. And the half-dressed toddlers in Look Who’s Here are fairly charming, I think.

Mabel Rollins Harris – Contemplating the Cookie Jar

Mabel Rollins Harris – Bedtime

Mabel Rollins Harris – Bedtime (detail)

Edit: I originally had two versions of the following image posted here, neither of which I was fully satisfied with. I have now replaced them with this superior version sent to me by one of our readers. Thanks, Lester! – Pip

Mabel Rollins Harris – Look Who’s Here

Mutoworld: Mabel Rollins Harris

Compare Harris’s work against this piece  by William Fulton Soare, which, while rendered in the same style and medium, I find to be a much more interesting and accomplished piece. Soare studied under master artist Dean Cornwell, and it shows.

William Fulton Soare – Mother and Child

Pulp Artists: William Fulton Soare

A Girl Playing Astragaloi

This is one of the earliest known works of art in which the sole subject is a little girl. There are older works—primarily ancient Egyptian wall art—that include girls as part of a family portrait, as well as some funerary stele for deceased Roman children that may be older, but this is a rare example of Greco-Roman art focusing on the young girl as a subject in her own right (though this piece too may have served as a memorial for a young daughter who had passed away), and that makes it particularly fascinating for lovers of girl art. The ancient Greeks and Romans of course created a lot of sculpture that captured the adult form—male and female—and occasionally young boys, but it seems girls were considered of very little interest to classical aesthetes.

The game she’s playing, astragaloi—sometimes called knucklebones—is one of the oldest known games in existence and provides us with the origin of the modern games of dice and jacks.  Although the game was called knucklebones, it was usually played with the astragalus (ankle or hock) bones of sheep, hence the name.  The girl appears to be somewhere between ten and twelve years old and is probably upper class, perhaps the daughter of a senator.  Though the sculptor of this piece is not known, it has been dated to 150-200 CE and is known to have originated in Rome.  The original version is now housed in the Altes Museum in Berlin.

Artist Unknown – A Girl Playing Astragaloi (ca. 150-200 CE) (1)

Artist Unknown – A Girl Playing Astragaloi (ca. 150-200 CE) (2)

Artist Unknown – A Girl Playing Astragaloi (ca. 150-200 CE) (3)

Artist Unknown – A Girl Playing Astragaloi (ca. 150-200 CE) (4)

Artist Unknown – A Girl Playing Astragaloi (ca. 150-200 CE) (5)

Artist Unknown – A Girl Playing Astragaloi (ca. 150-200 CE) (6)

Now, here’s something really cool.  Sketchfab has a complete three-dimensional scan of this that you can spin around with your cursor and observe from any direction.  If only every other sculpture of interest to us had one of those!

Henri Émile Martinet

Here’s a lovely little Art Deco sculpture from Henri Émile Martinet. What I most love about this piece is the easy, unforced stance the little girl takes. There’s very little about Martinet on the web, but I do know he was a student of sculptor Charles Valton, and he became well-known in his lifetime for his sculptural portraits of early 20th century luminaries.

Henri Émile Martinet – Jeune fille nue debout (1930) (1)

Henri Émile Martinet – Jeune fille nue debout (1930) (2)

Henri Émile Martinet – Jeune fille nue debout (1930) (3)

Maiden Voyages: January-February 2017

As we had to shut down in December, it was not possible to make a January ‘Maiden Voyages’.  A lot has happened and I am proud that through our supporters, the site was essentially up and running again within a month!

Our New Banner: By now, you have noticed the new banner.  This one is a breakthrough in two respects: 1) it is an original work of art by a U.S. painter with a background designed by Pip and 2) Pip always liked the idea of a banner with the girl actually drawing the letters of the site’s title.  The old banner has been archived in Pigtails’ third anniversary post along with all the earlier incarnations.  The banner is only the start as we modernize and organize this site to make it more accessible.

I rather like the idea that the title is not immediately legible and that it takes a few seconds of work to make it out. That will make it more memorable, since people must actively engage with it instead of just glossing over it. Which, I think, is a fundamental reflection of what good art is about, so the banner better represents what our site is. There are layers to it. It would be easy to make it all very pretty and simple—that’s how my earliest banners looked—but girls aren’t just pretty and simple, and that’s the point. The title reflects that they can be rough around the edges sometimes, but to me that adds to their charm. And it’s one thing to have a simple design when you’re just starting out, but we’ve hopefully moved beyond that. We are a well-established site now, and we’ve been through a lot. The new banner I think captures that complexity. The girl has made her mark, so to speak, and it cuts against the status quo, violates the simply ornamental. Like our girl, we have made a mark, and we did so on our own terms. Anyone could post images that are simply pleasing and non-challenging–what we’re doing is exploring aspects of girlhood that much of society would rather we didn’t. There have been several attempts to silence our voice, but we didn’t let that stop us, did we? -Pip Starr, February 1, 2017

Our Domain Name: The change of the domain name was originally a practical matter because we were having trouble reaching the domain registrar to forward searches to the new IP.  This has now been remedied.  All links and references to pigtailsinpaint.com will now be forwarded to the corresponding pigtailsinpaint.org page.  Please make the necessary adjustments to your search engines as the old name will be permanently retired in November 2017.  The decision to stay with the .org designation was to give Pigtails in Paint a more institutional feel as the site becomes a more important clearinghouse on materials connected to the topic of little girls.  One of the side effects of this change is that, for the time being, Russians now have access once again.  In fact, Russian visitors currently outnumber Americans two to one!  If this site should be blocked in your country, there is also a mirror site pigtailsinpaint.uk which will have a distinct IP address once the complications of mirroring have been solved..

Vindication after the Witch Hunt: Pip has mentioned the case of Mike Diana before on Pigtails. He’s the only legitimate artist ever to have been convicted on obscenity charges for his underground comic Boiled Angel that featured graphic depiction of violence and sexual abuse. There is a documentary in the works about this case. It will feature interviews with such comics luminaries as Neil Gaiman, Peter Bagge and Steve Bissette. You can see a teaser here, which is called The Trial of Mike Diana. The producers have been seeking funding for it on Kickstarter and they have been so successful that not only is the film completely funded, but they used some of the additional money to clear an outstanding arrest warrant on Diana in the state of Florida.

Closing the Barn Door: One of my associates discovered this interesting document online.  It lists material considered inappropriate for viewing by imprisoned sex offenders in the UK. They include artists like Graham Ovenden, Jan Saudek, Hajime Sawatari, Jock Sturges, Sally Mann, Oliver Hill’s Garden of Adonis and nudist magazines.  It also includes various texts on sexology and pedophilia which do not contain any “offending” images.  The Ministry of Justice also flaunts its ignorance a bit; one of the banned books is Thomas Hamilton’s The Age of Innocence!

Will the Real Artist Stand Up? The October 2015 ‘Maiden Voyages’ showed two photographs falsely attributed to Lewis Carroll.  An associate has found that one belongs to nude photographer J.L.M.E. Durieu mentioned in a short Pigtails post.  The site identifying the real artist can be found here.

Orphans Looking for Names: When Pip became semi-retired from Pigtails in Paint, he wanted to make sure that important images and other materials were not lost and would eventually find a place here.  These included a number of intriguing but unidentified photographs.  So in addition to the restored ‘Dream Girls’ images that have yet to be identified, there is a new batch.  So please take another look at the ‘Little Orphan Images’ page and help us find homes for these wayward pictures.

Bonds of Blood: Two Adaptations of a Vampire Story

* * * Spoiler Alert * * *

For some reason, one of our readers took me to task for reviewing the film, Le tout nouveau testament. One of the titles he suggested I review instead was Let Me In (2010), a British-American film directed by Matt Reeves. In the mean time, a good friend of mine told me about a film he had just watched called Let the Right One In (2008), a Swedish film written and directed by John Ajvide Lundqvist. When Pip informed me they were based on the same story, I was curious why there were two similar films produced in such close succession.

I had hoped to find a clue in some interview, but Matt Reeves’ explanation was not forthcoming. He knew that the Swedish film was about to be released. Did he not think there would be a dubbed English version in due course? The main motivation of the story revolves around a 12-year-old boy being bullied and hoping—but being too afraid—to get his revenge. In a roundtable interview, Reeves explains:

Sure. Well, I was bullied. And I grew up at that time, and my parents went through a very painful divorce. And I identified with that sense of being incredibly confused and the sense of humiliation and the sense of isolation. There’s tremendous shame with being bullied. I think there’s a level at which you think that there’s a reason that you’re being singled out, that you’re being chosen. As a kid, I was always mistaken for a girl. -Reprinted by Michael Leader, November 4, 2010

A telling difference in the two versions of the film was that Oskar (Kåre Hedebrant) was called “piggy” (such an insult does not suggest fatness as it does in America) while Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee) was called a “little girl” and in the latter film the violence of the bullying was more explicitly violent and humiliating.

Apart from a teaser in Reeves’ version which the filmmaker must have felt was necessary to interest an American audience in the movie, the two films follow the story almost word for word. The story begins in the early 1980s with an older man and a young girl—also appearing to be 12 years old—moving in next door to a boy who lives with his divorcing mother. In Reeves’ version, the mother is especially religious. Those observing this scene are supposed to assume the man is her father with the peculiar fact that the girl is walking around with bare feet even though it is outside.

Matt Reeves and John Ajvide Lundqvist – Let Me In (2010) (1)

In Lundqvist’s novel and film, the girl is called Eli (pronounced “Ellie” and played by Lina Leandersson) and in Reeves’, it is Abby (Chloë Grace Moretz). They first meet when the boy is sitting in the courtyard. She appears behind him and immediately tells him that they cannot be friends. He is playing with a Rubik’s Cube and invites her to try it. He comments that she smells funny, apparently a trait of vampires who need to feed. Due to some bad luck, her caregiver was not able to secure her some blood and she has to fend for herself this night. He gives her the puzzle to play with and later finds it sitting in the courtyard, mystified that she solved it so easily.

John Ajvide Lundqvist – Let the Right One In (2008) (1)

Matt Reeves and John Ajvide Lundqvist – Let Me In (2010) (2)

John Ajvide Lundqvist – Let the Right One In (2008) (2)

Despite the girl’s admonition, a bond does seem to form. Her caregiver has noticed this and strenuously advises her not to see the boy anymore.

John Ajvide Lundqvist – Let the Right One In (2008) (3)

Matt Reeves and John Ajvide Lundqvist – Let Me In (2010) (3)

Since the two live next door to each other, a kind of Morse Code is created so they can communicate through the wall. Still unaware of the girl’s true nature, the boy offers her some candy. At first, she declines, but she wants the boy to like her and tries one piece. It does not agree with her and she is momentarily sick.

John Ajvide Lundqvist – Let the Right One In (2008) (4)

Matt Reeves and John Ajvide Lundqvist – Let Me In (2010) (4)

Matt Reeves and John Ajvide Lundqvist – Let Me In (2010) (5)

The Swedish film is more subtle in its presentation which is why I favor it slightly. In fact, the revelation of what is happening is all implied and depends on our own understanding of vampire lore. Lundqvist’s version does not even mention the word vampire throughout the film. No stranger to violence, the girl advises the boy that he needs to hit back hard, even though he is outnumbered. All the while, he fantasizes in the privacy of his bedroom that he confronts his aggressors with a knife.

John Ajvide Lundqvist – Let the Right One In (2008) (5)

Matt Reeves and John Ajvide Lundqvist – Let Me In (2010) (6)

On a field trip, the bullies once again threaten him and tell him he will end up in the frozen pond. To defend himself, he finds a stick. When confronted, he explains that it he will use it to hit back. Given his track record, the other boys do not believe him and he suddenly lashes out and strikes the leader on the side of his head, giving him a serious injury. The adults unaware of the context of this attack come very close to suspending him. Upon his return home, he explains to Eli/Abby what he has done and she says she is proud of him. After another night of feeding, the girl appears on Oskar/Owen’s windowsill and asks to be let in. The boy is half asleep, but she explains that she must be invited in—another vampire trait which the boy does not immediately catch on to. She disrobes and gets into bed with him. She still has blood on her face so she tells him not to look. He comments that she is ice cold and wonders why she is naked. She asks if he finds that gross but he does not object. He decides to ask if she wants to go steady but she does not really understand. She finally agrees based on the promise that there will be no basic change in their relationship and it is a way to get him to like her.

Matt Reeves and John Ajvide Lundqvist – Let Me In (2010) (7)

John Ajvide Lundqvist – Let the Right One In (2008) (6)

Matt Reeves and John Ajvide Lundqvist – Let Me In (2010) (8)

In the Reeves interview, it was explained that the decision to change the title in the English version of Lundqvists’ novel was because the publisher though the American audience would not be sophisticated enough to understand the metaphor of the original title. New editions have since changed the title back to Let the Right One In. Of course, the correct title offers a greater depth of meaning. Not only does it refer to the requirement that vampires be invited in, but also refers to the risks of inviting a new person into one’s intimate personal life.

Meanwhile, the caregiver has made a serious mistake and his capture is imminent. To avoid being identified, he spills acid all over his face, a shocking clue to the his devotion to the vampire girl. Was his advice to the girl more about keeping her out of trouble or was it a form of jealousy? Eli/Abby learns he is in the hospital under top security. She finds out his room location and visits him from the windowsill. Because of his injuries, he cannot speak and invite her in. In one last act of love, he extends his own neck out the window so he may offer her one last meal.

John Ajvide Lundqvist – Let the Right One In (2008) (7)

Matt Reeves and John Ajvide Lundqvist – Let Me In (2010) (9)

This turn of events has brought her closer to the boy and she decides she must risk revealing what she is. He hesitantly accepts her but not until she makes a most extraordinary leap of faith. She visits his home and asks to be invited in. He teases her about this ritual and asks if there is some barrier preventing her from entering. She walks in without the invitation and shortly begins convulsing in pain, blood seeping out. The boy rushes over and urgently tells her she is welcome to come in.

John Ajvide Lundqvist – Let the Right One In (2008) (8)

Matt Reeves and John Ajvide Lundqvist – Let Me In (2010) (10)

He lets her take a shower to get cleaned up and offers her one of his mother’s dresses. Now Oskar/Owen begins to assume the role of helping the girl get food. In both films, a man investigating the peculiar happenings of the town is lured into the girl’s home and ambushed. The boy is shocked by the viciousness of the attack and walks out in distress. She comes out afterward and tries to show her gratitude with a little affection.

John Ajvide Lundqvist – Let the Right One In (2008) (9)

Matt Reeves and John Ajvide Lundqvist – Let Me In (2010) (11)

Eli/Abby, not being able to stay in any one place too long, informs the boy that she must leave soon. In the mean time, the older brother of the lead bully is planning revenge and manages to draw the coach away from the swimming pool where Oskar/Owen is working out. He is told that if he can stay underwater for three minutes, he will be spared, if not, he will have his eyes gouged out. We then see him underwater with the brother’s hand firmly grasping his hair while he does his best. Suddenly, there is a lot of commotion and we see bloody severed body parts. The boy emerges to see that he has been rescued by the vampire girl.

John Ajvide Lundqvist – Let the Right One In (2008) (10)

Matt Reeves and John Ajvide Lundqvist – Let Me In (2010) (12)

John Ajvide Lundqvist – Let the Right One In (2008) (11)

In the final scene, the boy is sitting on a train accompanied by a large trunk on the way to a new hunting ground, the two communicating with each other with the knocks and scratches established earlier in the film.

John Ajvide Lundqvist – Let the Right One In (2008) (12)

Matt Reeves and John Ajvide Lundqvist – Let Me In (2010) (13)

I know I am not the first to make this observation, but the whole development of the vampire idea had as much to do with the terrors of sexuality as with that of violent murder and the metaphor of consumption. This plays very well in this film since there is ongoing tension about the ambiguity of the relationship. Presumably when one is infected, one keeps one’s appearance forever thus Eli/Abby is both a little girl and yet very old. But despite her long life, she still has some naivete regarding matters of love since she would not have had much occasion to practice and learn. There is also a strong accent on the morality of a vampire’s violent lifestyle versus the hateful bullying that children can inflict. A society might frown on a vampire feeding on its citizens, but is it really any worse than the psychological trauma and humiliation that bullied young people suffer? So it is ironic that Oskar/Owen should find affection not from the warm-blooded denizens of his neighborhood, but from the icy embrace of a vampire who understands and appreciates him.