Today’s blog ends a week-long celebration of the stuffed animals stored in our Toy Box toy box, and we’re going out with a bang with The Smurfs. First, a question: what do the Smurfs and our huge dance hall organ named The Emperor have in common? The answer: they’re both blue and they both come from Belgium! The Smurfs were first introduced to the world in 1958 by the Belgian comic artist Pierre Culliford under the pen name of Peyo. The Smurfs’ most notable physical attribute is that they’re tiny bodies (only ‘three apples high’) are blue. We don't quite know why they're blue but blue they are. They all wear Phyrgian caps, also known as liberty caps – soft cone-shaped hats that for many European cultures are a symbol of freedom that dates to Ancient Rome (freed slaves showed their status by wearing these distinctive caps, which eventually became a symbol of republicanism).
When Peyo developed his little characters, he didn't know what to call them. As the story goes, he was dining with a friend when he accidentally mispronounced the French word for salt, confusing it with the German word for sock: “Schtroumpf,” which eventually became “Smurf." Good times. Well, Smurfs have been a part of our lives ever since, making their big American debut on Saturday morning cartoons in 1981, when Hanna-Barbera shared their zany antics as they protected their mushroom villages from the odd and evil Gargamel, a human dead set on eating the Smurfs. Kinda weird. But now they're a movie franchise, too, so they're not going anywhere. Anyway, most of the Smurfs dressed the same – in white with their white Phyrgian caps – so we can only guess which one is in our toy box. It’s definitely not Papa Smurf, since his outfit is red, and it’s not Smurfette because there’s no flowing blonde hair. Brainy Smurf wears glasses, Handy usually has a pencil behind his ear, and – well, now we fully realize we know way too much about the Smurfs.