The A to Z Challenge – A for Automaton

It’s time for the A to Z Challenge! Hello and welcome to my Main blog. My name is Rose Anderson and I’m a romance novelist. Join me and more than 2000 bloggers and authors as we blog the alphabet throughout the month of April. My daily posts will fall under the topics of history and science. All I’ve chosen have tickled my fancy. I hope you will find them interesting too.

Keep the topic rolling! If you’ve enjoyed the today’s offering and have comments or questions, add them at the end of the post. I may not know the answer off the top of my head but I love research and would enjoy discussing my topics further.

And…if you enjoy reading scorching romances with unique twists and characters full of personality and depth, scroll down for a free chapter sampler. Comments can be made just below that in the tags.


Today’s Calliope’s Writing Tablet post is brought to you by the letter A ~

A for Automaton

Mention cuckoo clock and the first image coming to my mind is a wall clock — one with a small door through which a little bird pops out on the hour and says cuckoo.  Clockwork mechanisms like this are called automatons. Automaton means to act under one’s own will. Like music boxes, these fanciful and intricate machines are built with wheels and cogs and generally wind up with a key or with weights. Once wound, they will continue to move their gear and cog parts which animates their articulated components, until their inner springs fully unwind.

The ancient world knew such mechanical devices. Automatons have a long history and even older mythology. In Judaism the Golem was an automaton made of stone and mud. In Ancient Greece, smithy to the gods Hephaestus built Talos — a mechanical man of bronze who patrolled the island of Crete. And who hasn’t heard of the wooden boy Pinocchio and The Wizard of Oz’ tin man?

Throughout history, inventors have used imagination and clockmaker’s precision to devise all manner of animated creations. In my research I’ve come across many different kinds and from simple to complex. Some are adorable and others are nightmares in the making.

I came across this interesting reference taken from Joseph Needham’s Science and Civilization in China. Sometime during the Zhou Dynasty (around 1000BCE), Yan Shi, a mechanical engineer or artificer presented King Mu with a life-size human automaton. 

“The king stared at the figure in astonishment. It walked with rapid strides, moving its head up and down, so that anyone would have taken it for a live human being. The artificer touched its chin, and it began singing, perfectly in tune. He touched its hand, and it began posturing, keeping perfect time… As the performance was drawing to an end, the robot winked its eye and made advances to the ladies in attendance, whereupon the king became incensed and would have had Yan Shi executed on the spot had not the latter, in mortal fear, instantly taken the robot to pieces to let him see what it really was. And, indeed, it turned out to be only a construction of leather, wood, adhesive and lacquer, variously coloured white, black, red and blue. Examining it closely, the king found all the internal organs complete—liver, gall, heart, lungs, spleen, kidneys, stomach and intestines; and over these again, muscles, bones and limbs with their joints, skin, teeth and hair, all of them artificial… The king tried the effect of taking away the heart, and found that the mouth could no longer speak; he took away the liver and the eyes could no longer see; he took away the kidneys and the legs lost their power of locomotion. The king was delighted.”

I can see this unfolding in my mind’s eye. That tale makes my imagination soar.  🙂

Fun and more than a little creepy, no?

Tomorrow ~ letter B!
The A to Z runs for for 26 days and participants have Sunday’s off. I’ll still post the Funday Happenings on those days.


Join me on my satellite blog April 7th – 12thAuthors_in_Bloom-300x250
Authors’ lives outside of the books we write can be as interesting as the worlds we create. One of the more unusual things my husband and I have done was lead wild foods programs for Chicago’s Field Museum. For this event I’ll be sharing my recipes. I hope you stop by. You may have delicious ingredients waiting in your backyard.  🙂


I’m winding down on the 100 Things Blogging Challenge!
For nearly 100 days, 002xbqkt
I’ve post something from my chosen topic: Words on the Verge of Extinction. There are 11 entries to come.

Here’s one for today:

Egrote (verb 1721 -1775)
to feign an illness


4 Us iconSee what’s happening on the RB4U blog today

Our April contest is on and we have a lot of prizes.


Love Waits in Unexpected Places –
Scorching Samplings of Unusual Love Stories
Download your free chapter sampler today!all7books-small




About ~RoseAnderson

Rose Anderson is an award-winning author and dilettante who loves great conversation and delights in discovering interesting things to weave into stories. Rose also writes under the pen name Madeline Archer.
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14 Responses to The A to Z Challenge – A for Automaton

  1. Imagine the awe of the nineteen sixties families that first visited the Hall of Presidents in Disneyland where automaton Mr Lincoln, rose from his chair, spoke the entirety of the Gettysburg address and sat again. Soon there would be the carousel of progress with many more automatons. Pirates of the Caribbean has some very life-like characters.

    And who can forget the TNG character, Data, played by Brent Spiner? He wanted nothing more than to become more human. So many fantasies involving man made automatons to weave into fascinating tales…

    Thanks for the great blog, Rose. 🙂

  2. My parents took me to Disney Land in 1968, when I was seven. I was amazed at the Disney’s Lincoln and Pirates rides, Small World just crept me out.

    • It was creepy! My aunt and uncle thought I would enjoy it. I did like the pirates and the Lincoln room. At Disney world I loved the haunted house. I think Coney Island had one of those automaton fortune tellers. Creepy things.

  3. melissakeir says:

    Think about the other side…The movie Westworld where the automatic machines set out to kill all the people visiting the Westworld park. 🙂 I have such a scary memory from that show.

  4. skmarshall2014 says:

    Rose, another fantastic informative post. I’ve got to say ‘hi’ to Christine as I haven’t seen you since I left MySpace.

  5. Cuckoo clocks are lovely, but the phrase automaton does just bring with it, it’s own brand of creepy. Dropping by from the A to Z! have a great month!

  6. Ray G says:

    I enjoyed today’s post. I visited the Shipwreck Museum in Charlestown, Cornwall, UK. Going down the steps to the entrance just before you opened the door a skeleton in a pirate suit would jump out at you. As you left you would be accosted again in a tunnel near the exit.
    The Chinese example is really interesting.
    In ancient Alexandria Egypt there was a huge set of double doors too heavy to be moved by hand that would open when someone stepped on a plate at the entrance. It was done by hydraulics.

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