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The Comtesse de Segur Translation: Sophie's Misfortunes (1)

Updated on March 16, 2015
Sophie's Misfortunes, Les Malheurs de Sophies
Sophie's Misfortunes, Les Malheurs de Sophies

Sophie's Misfortunes: The Wax Doll (Summary)

In this stand-alone story (actually chapter 1 of the novel Sophie's Misfortunes), Sophie receives a wax doll but doesn't listen to her mother's advice, and leaves it in the sun.

The Wax Doll

"Come," cried Sophie to her nurse as she ran into her room, "please come quickly and open a box that Papa sent from Paris. I think it's a wax doll. He promised me one."

"Where's the box?" asked the nurse.

"In the parlor," answered Sophie. "Oh, please come quick, please."

Sophie's nurse set down her work and followed Sophie into the parlor. A box in white wood had been placed onto a chair; the nurse opened it. Sophie saw the frizzy, blond head of a pretty wax doll. She cried with joy and tried to grab the doll, which was still covered with wrapping paper.

"Be careful!" cried the nurse. "Don't take it yet, you'll break everything. The doll is held to the box by its cords."

"Break them, rip them out," said Sophie. "Go on, I want my doll."

Instead of ripping them out, the nurses took her scissors, cut the cords, and removed the doll. Then Sophie was able to hold the prettiest doll she'd ever seen. The cheeks were pink with little dimples, the eyes were blue and brilliant, the neck, the chest, and arms were all beautiful. The doll's dress was simple: a cotton garment, a blue belt, cotton undergarments, and leather ballerina flats.

Sophie hugged and kissed her doll more than twenty times. Then, holding it in her arms, she began to hop and dance around. Her cousin Paul, who was five years old, and who was staying over at Sophie's, came when he heard her cries of joy.

"Paul, look at the pretty doll my father sent me!" cried Sophie.

"Give her to me, I want to see her better," said Paul.

"No, you'll break her," said Sophie.

"I promise I'll take good care of it," insisted Paul. "I'll give it back to you right away."

Sophie gave the doll to her cousin, telling him to be careful and not to make it fall. Paul turned it around, looked it over, and gave it back to Sophie, shaking his head.

"Why are you shaking your head?" asked Sophie.

"Because this doll isn't solid," said Paul. "You'll break it."

"Oh, don't worry," said Sophie. "I'll take such good care of it that I'll never break it. I'll ask mama to invite Camille and Madeleine to eat lunch with us, so that they can see my pretty doll."

"They'll break it," said Paul.

"No, they're too good to make me sad by breaking my poor doll."

The next day, Sophie combed and dressed her doll because her friends were coming to see her. While dressing her, she found her pale. "Maybe," she said, "she's cold. Her feet are frozen. I'm going to put her in the sun so that my friends see that I'm taking good care of her and keeping her warm." No sooner said than done. Sophie placed her doll in the sun by the window of the living room.

"What are you doing by the window, Sophie?" asked her mother.

"I'm going to warm my doll, mama," said Sophie. "She's very cold."

"Be careful--she's made of wax. You'll melt her."

"Oh, no!" said Sophie. "Mama, there's no danger. She's as hard as wood."

"But the heat will make her soft. Something bad will happen to her, I'm telling you."

Sophie didn't want to believe her mother. She lay her doll on her back under the sun, which was burning hot.

At that instant she heard the sound of a car. Her friends were coming. Paul had heard them from the porch as well and entered with them into the living room. All of them were running and speaking at the same time. Despite their impatience to see the new doll, they first said hello to Mrs de Rean, Sophie's mother. Then, they went to Sophie, who was holding her doll and looking very upset.

Madeline looked at the doll and said, "She's blind. She has no eyes."

Madeleine's older sister, Camille, said, "That's too bad! How pretty she is!"

"But how did she become blind?" asked Madeleine. "She must have had eyes, once."

Sophie didn't say anything. She was looking at her doll and crying.

Sophie's Mother Fixes the Doll
Sophie's Mother Fixes the Doll

What Happened to Sophie's Doll

Her mother approached the children and said, "I told you, Sophie, that something bad would happen to your doll if you put it under the sun. Fortunately the face and the arms didn't have time to melt. Come on, don't cry, I'm a very good doctor, and I may be able to give her back her eyes."

"It's impossible, mama, they've disappeared," said Sophie.

Smiling, Mrs. de Rean took the doll and shook it a bit. A rolling sound in its head could be heard. "Those are the eyes that make the noise you hear," said Mrs. de Rean. "The wax melted around the eyes, and they fell. But I'll try to find them again. Undress the doll, children, while I prepare my instruments."

Paul and the three girls had the doll undressed immediately. Sophie was no longer crying. She waited impatiently to see what would happen.

Her mother returned, took her scissors, untached the stitched head from the body. The eyes, which were in the head, fell to her knees. She took them with pliers, put them back where they had been, and, to keep them from falling agan, she slid into the head, around the eye sockets, some melted wax that she had brought in a little saucepan. She waited a few minutes for the wax to grow cold, then she sewed the body back to the head.

The girls hadn't moved. Sophie was looking on at all these operations with worry, afraid that they would not work. But when she saw that her doll looked as pretty as before, she jumped to her mother's neck and kissed her ten times.

"Thank you, my dear mama," she said, "thank you. Another time I'll listen to you, of course."

The children quickly redressed the doll, settled her on a little chair, and then carried her around triumphantly, singing: "Hurray for mama! She is our good angel. Hurray for mama!"

The doll lived for a very long time, and was well kept for and loved; but slowly but surely, she lost her looks, and this is how.

One day, Sophie thought it was a good idea to wash dolls, since we wash children. So she took water, a sponge, soap, and began to wash her doll; she washed her so well that she washed off all her colors. Her cheeks and lips became so pale that she looked sick, and they always remained without color. Sophie cried, but the doll remained pale.

Another day, Sophie thought she should curl her doll's hair, so she passed them around a curling iron. When she removed it, the hair went with it. The iron had been too hot, and Sophie had burned her doll's hair, who was bald. Sophie cried, but the doll remained bald.

Yet another day, Sophie, who was always trying to further the education of her doll, wanted to help her become an acrobat. She suspended her arms by a string. The doll, who didn't have a firm grip, fell and broke an arm. Sophie's mother tried to fix her; but, since a piece was missing, a lot of wax needed to be used, and one arm remained shorter than the other. Sophie cried, but the arm remained shorter.

Another time, Sophie thought that a bath of feet would be very useful for her doll, since adults took them. She put boiling water in a little can and put her doll's feet in them. When she removed them, the feet were melted. Sophie cried, but the doll remained without feet.

Ever since all these misfortunes, Sophie stopped liking her doll, which had become very ugly, and which her friends mocked. Finally, one day, Sophie wanted to teach her doll to climb trees. She made her climb a branch and sit down. But the doll fell, and her head hit a rock and shattered in hundreds of pieces. Sophie didn't cry, but she did invite all her friends to the funeral.


Did You Know?

Sophie's Misfortunes, published in 1858, is the first book of a trilogy that begins with The Perfect Little Girls (Les Petites Filles Modeles), which was actually published a year early in 1857. You can read the English Translation below:

The Countess de Segur
The Countess de Segur

About the Countess de Segur

  • The Countess de Segur, nee Sophie Rostopchine, was born in Russia. Her father responsible for the 1812 Fire of Moscow, which was instrumental in stopping Napoleon's invasion of Russia. Her mother was the Empress Catherine's lady of honor.
  • In 1819 Sophie Rostopchine, having moved to France, married Eugene de Segur for love. The loving marriage didn't last long and he soon began cheating on her and calling her "Mother Gigogne" because of her eight kids.
  • She began writing at the age of fifty-eight, and eventually published more than twenty children's novels as well as five nonfiction books about religion, health, etc.
  • Her most famous novel, Sophie's Misfortunes (Les Malheurs de Sophie) is the first book of a trilogy. The main character, an unlucky and naughty girl with strict parents, is based on the Countess of Segur herself.

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