One of my favorite presents this Christmas came from an antique shop in northern Michigan, where it was found stashed in an old stationery box.
This wooden playset represents some 400 years of toymaking history. Little villages like this one have been made in Germany for centuries, turned out originally in cottage industries that flourished during the long cold winters in the Erzgebirge and Groden Valley regions.
Wonderfully naive and delightfully out of scale with itself, this particular village was probably made in the 1920s, with a few older and slightly newer pieces mixed in. The smallest item is a chicken, just 3/4 inches tall, while the biggest is a windmill at 3 inches.
This village has houses, churches, town halls, a windmill, fences, trees, animals, people, and a horse drawn wagon. Many of the pieces have traces of candle wax atop them, suggesting the village was displayed for many years in the Putz tradition under a tree lit with real candles, or perhaps on a Christmas candle pyramid or carousel.
Let's tour the town, starting with the front gate:
Beyond the town, farm animals rest in the pasture, while a family of deer graze in the forest:
For futher reading, an interesting history of wooden toymaking in this region of Germany can be found in the chapter "Adventures in Toy Valley" in the book Toys Through the Ages
, by Dan Foley.