Monday, March 3, 2014

Out of the box: Neela and Leyla (Girls of Many Lands)

As a non-American fans of the American Girl line, my sister and I were thrilled when the Girls of Many Lands line was introduced in 2002, imagining all the world-history type adventures that would be possible.  Unfortunately the line only lasted for a couple of years, with only 8 dolls released during that time, but such is life, and they were awesome while they lasted.  I snagged Neela when the last stock dolls were discounted when the line was first discontinued, and then found Leyla on ebay several years later after kicking myself for not buying her on release.

  Like the main AG historical line, each doll had a set character and history, but these ones had a single, longer novel rather than a series of illustrated books, and the girls in these stories are slightly older, presumably to appear to the slightly older target market.

The dolls themselves are half the size of the AG play dolls and were designed more for display than play as they have minimal articulation and clothes that aren't designed to be removed.  As display pieces though, they're quite lovely - nice faces (the work of Helen Kish) and nicely detailed accessories, clothing and hair.


 Neela is an Indian character whose story is set in 1939 (Random trivia:  did you know that 2002 was also the year that 23rd March 1931: Shaheed was released?  It was a good year for pop-media about the Indian struggle for independence!).  The doll has long hair in a single plait, and is dressed in an orange sari with silver embroidery.  She doesn't have shoes, but has a silver bangle on each ankle.  She also has a set of gold-coloured bangles on each wrist as well as a chain necklace and similar earrings.  She also wears a second smaller necklace with a pendant.
Neela's hair from the back

Her face is evenly painted, and has an expression that manages to be fairly neutral without being vacant.

Her hair style is simple, but has the added detail of a flower at the top of the plait.

My other doll from this series is Leyla, a Turkish character whose story is set in 1720 (if you've seen Dutch or Flemish paintings of Istanbul, they were probably be from this time period).  I'm especially fond of the setting from her book, since she ends up living in Topkapı Palace, which is one of my favourite places to wander in Istanbul.

The doll's face is very similar to Neela (and obviously the same body), but that's where the similarities end because there's nothing simple or ordinary about her outfit.  Her first layer of clothing is simple - harem pants and a white blouse, but everything else is incredible detailed.  

Her kaftan (overcoat) is patterned and has gold trim and a lovely sash, over which is draped beaded necklaces with a jeweled pendant.  She wears gold-coloured bracelets, caries a feathered fan and even her shoes are embroidered.  Her headware is also interwoven with gold chain

Leyla's braids
Her hair is styled in braids, several of which (front and back) have pearls woven (or braided) into them.

As you may have guessed, she's a particular favourite of mine!


  1. They are lovely! Thanks for doing this--I've eyed them but have not taken the plunge yet because I haven't seen any in person or any reviews.

    1. You should totally take the plunge! They're fabulous dolls and I think the prices on most of them have actually dropped a bit recently aside from the rare Irish one, at least (I've been thinking about picking up Saba and Isabelle, even though I really don't have space to display more right now).

  2. Lovely dolls with beautiful faces! I especially like the clothes very much, the high quality is amazing.

    1. Thanks! The clothes really do make the dolls in this case.

  3. I've often thought about picking up one or two of those dolls; they're really nice. Very good pictures!

    1. Thanks! I'd encourage you to pick one up if you get the chance - they're a really nice collection piece.

  4. Oh, wow, they are gorgeous. Love the details in their garments.

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.