Nénette et Rintintin were originally toy dolls for children that were first produced in France in 1913. The boy doll is Nénette and the girl doll is Rintintin. In the tradition of romance in France, they’re seen as a couple!
When WWI came, people started making little Nénette et Rintintin dolls out of yarn. They were given to soldiers as good luck charms. They were also worn by Parisians to protect them during air raids.
These dolls were little -only about an inch tall – so they could be pinned onto clothes, worn on hats, in buttonholes or around the neck like a necklace. They could be found in all different colors… Yet they were often made in the blue, white and red of the flag. Eventually, you could find these dolls made out of different materials too like straw and silk.
Monique wrote from France, “I remember now making those dolls. I remember sewing eyes and a mouth on the face, but it’s so long ago.” When she was making them it was well after the war, in the late 50’s or early 60’s.
Monique wrote, “I remember making the dolls bigger than 1” tall since by the time I was making them it wasn’t about being a good luck charm, but just about making some doll and keeping us busy! Ours were made to be about 3 or 4 inches tall.”
Interestingly, the name of the dog in the old TV show Rintintin comes from these dolls. Here’s how that came about: An American soldier named Lee Duncan found a litter of live pups in a bombed out kennel in Lorraine a couple of months before the war ended. He kept two of the pups and named them after the good luck charms Nénette and Rintintin. When he returned home to California he taught Rintintin tricks. The dog was able to leap to very great heights. His friend filmed the dog jumping 11 feet and Duncan decided to get him into a career in Hollywood. The rest of Rintintin’s story is history!
There’s a French rhyme about Nenette et Rintintin that you can learn on Mama Lisa’s World’s French song pages.
P.S. We posted instructions for making Nénette and Rintintin Yarn Dolls here.
Photo of soldier is from “Popular Mechanics Magazine”, Volume 30 from 1918.
Photo of the Poulbot Pair Nénette et Rintintin is courtesy of SLHDolls on eBay.
This article was posted on Monday, June 11th, 2012 at 3:58 pm and is filed under Arts and Crafts, Countries & Cultures, Customs and Traditions, Dolls, Folk Lore, France, Good Luck, Good Luck Charms, Nenette & Rintintin Yarn Dolls, Superstitions, Toys, USA. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.
7 Responses to “Nenette & Rintintin – Good Luck Charm Dolls”
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June 17th, 2012 at 9:55 pm
There were also postcards sent during WWI with Nenette and Rintintin on them. I asked Monique in France if they were considered charms too and she wrote back:
“I don’t know if the postcards served as a charm. It seems that they were made later during the war.
Here is the actual story by Poulbot -the guy who first made them as actual dolls. Btw he called the guy ‘Nénette’ and the girl ‘Rintintin’, which is the very opposite to what it ‘should’ be -I always thought that the girl was Nénette and the boy Rintintin, I’ve just found out about it a while ago.”
October 11th, 2016 at 4:45 pm
Love this post…I am writing a history of dolls intertwined with events of historical significance…am definitely going to use your blog and will reference your site as source…contact me if you would like to see the final book…Lyn
October 13th, 2016 at 12:40 pm
Thanks very much Lyn! I’d love to see your book! -Mama Lisa
December 14th, 2016 at 8:21 pm
I love the rich history of these dolls. I came upon your post while trying to do some research about a curious book I purchased for 25¢ at a thrift store. It is beautifully watercolored and inked by hand by a Frenchwoman named Nyse. Titled ” Nannette et Rintintin” it depicts the story associated with the dolls. Bound beautifully at the prestigious printing house that was at that time managed by the father of the author/illustrator Nyse. This book was destined for the garbage heap had I not come across it. It was lying under mounds of junk, the owner of which had no idea what a treasure was beneath those years worth of old TV guides. Your post was the first I happened upon and was instrumental in pointing me in the right direction, ultimately leading me to unearth the awesome story behind this precious book.
December 15th, 2016 at 12:13 am
That’s great Ian!
October 28th, 2017 at 12:38 pm
I so appreciate your information. My kids learn at home and we just had someone show us how to make yarn dolls. She mentioned dolls being given to soldiers but I hadn’t seen that. I am preparing 30 goody bags for some special soldiers and plan to use your instructions to make Nenette and Rintintin to include. Thank you!!
October 28th, 2017 at 2:16 pm
That’s wonderful Kim!