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Salad Fingers is an animation series originally created by British cartoonist David Firth in July 2004. It gained rapid internet popularity in 2005. The San Francisco Chronicle ranked it in the "Top 10" pop culture phenomena for that year.
The cartoon revolves around the eponymous Salad Fingers, a thin, green, mentally troubled humanoid who inhabits a desolate world. Already a well-known flash animation series available on the internet, Salad Fingers premiered in Australia at the 2007 Sydney Underground Film Festival at the Factory Theatre. The first seven episodes were shown back to back, along with a variety of other animated short films, during the "Re-Animation" session.
The eerie music featured in the background is the tune "Beware the Friendly Stranger" from the Boards of Canada album Geogaddi. The dark music in the soundtrack that appears when Salad Fingers is scared is actually Firth playing the guitar, slowed down and reversed. Other music included in Salad Fingers episodes includes work credited to Brian Eno, Sigur Rós, Aphex Twin and Lustmord. David Firth frequently inserts references to Aphex Twin in his flash cartoons; for example, the Aphex Twin logo can be found on the telephone in Salad Fingers episode five. Firth has also cited the works of David Lynch, South Park, Tim Burton, The League of Gentlemen and Chris Morris as sources of inspiration.
Each episode is 2–10 minutes long. The narratives themselves are quite oneiric, have almost all spoken dialogue transcribed with on-screen squiggly text, and disjointed plot structures.
This episode introduces Salad Fingers and his love of touching rusty spoons and other various rusty objects. He explains how touching any form of rust—including spoons, a door bell panel, and a kettle—stimulates him ("The feeling of rust against my salad fingers is almost orgasmic"), and that he holds a particular love of spoons. Salad Fingers walks to the house of a strange young boy to see if he has any rusty spoons; the child screeches two times, at which point Salad Fingers leaves, after asking to caress a rusty kettle that is on a table beside him.
Salad Fingers has a get-together with his "friends"—finger puppets—whom Salad Fingers introduces as Hubert Cumberdale, Marjory Stewart-Baxter and Jeremy Fisher. He appears to believe that his "friends" are real, living beings. Wondering what his friends taste like, he briefly inserts them into his mouth, exclaiming that Marjory Stewart-Baxter tastes like "sunshine dust", while Hubert Cumberdale tastes like "soot and poo". Salad Fingers then tells them that he has a fish cooking in the oven and speaks a nonsensical phrase in French: "Alors, Nabilah, Comment t'appelles-tu? Qu'est-ce qu'il y a?" This roughly translates to: "So, Nabilah, What's your name? What's up (or What's the matter)?" (Nabilah is a popular first name in Algeria). In the next scene, a frightened child responds to Salad Fingers's call for help. Salad Fingers cannot reach the fish cooking in his oven and asks the child to get it for him. As the child reaches into the oven, Salad Fingers sees a rusty nail jutting out of the wall and reaches to caress it, causing the oven door to close with the child still inside. Salad Fingers then impales his finger on the spike and begins bleeding, blissfully saying "I like it when the red water comes out."
Salad Fingers turns pale and passes out. Apparently dreaming, Salad Fingers walks through a large meat locker singing Somewhere Over the Rainbow to himself. While inside, he meets a full-size Hubert Cumberdale, who screams distorted electronic noises at him. When Salad Fingers awakens he sits in a pool of his own blood. The oven smokes as Salad Fingers states, "That fish smells about done," ignoring or forgetting the fact that it was the smoke from the "cooked alive" child that he'd forgotten about when 'dozing off'.
Salad Fingers is playing with nettles and has irritated blisters all over his hands. He then comes across an empty perambulator, which he refers to as a "nettle carrier" and then leaves with it. A deformed armless man wearing an apron labelled "BBQ" appears and chases after Salad Fingers, screaming and babbling unintelligibly. Salad Fingers is sitting on the floor at his home and brushing the nettle over his nipple (while appearing to have an orgasm), which makes him lactate, and says "It seems... Nettles... have made the milk... drop out... from inside my teat!", when the armless man runs to Salad Fingers' house and begins to bang his head on the door. Salad Fingers daydreams of "happy times" (in which he and a life-sized version of the Hubert Cumberdale puppet are getting hair-dried). Eventually, Salad Fingers comes outside and finds the man dead on the floor, his head bloodied. He names the man "Milford Cubicle", despite the man's name tag reading "Harry". Believing that the man is alive, Salad Fingers drags "Milford" inside and hangs him on a meat hook on the wall. Salad fingers then plays a merry tune on the flute, showing odd dexterity for having his hand covered in nettle sores. He then offers "Milford" a "warm glass of milk", which presumably is the milk that came out of his teat when he milked himself using the nettles.
Salad Fingers wears a beret and declares that he is going to try and find France. However, he is oddly frightened by a mutated boy with disproportionately large eyeballs that has been "watching him for a while". Salad Fingers becomes uncomfortable with the child's proximity and begins to leave. The boy, who speaks only in growls and grunts, approaches Salad Fingers, having apparently fallen in love with him. Salad Fingers holds out his hand to stop the boy coming closer, but the boy licks his hand, much to Salad Fingers' disgust and fear. Inside his house, Salad Fingers sees a grey woodlouse coming out from a hole in the wall. He addresses the bug as "Bordois" and his "little sister". After asking what "she" has been collecting, he acts as though the bug gives him a response. Salad Fingers announces his enjoyment in the bug's body and goes to touch it, accidentally crushing it and looking at it in curiosity which turns to disgust. He then says to Bordois that she's "gone flat" and become "all gooey", and that he "shalln't play with [her] again, until [she's] had a wash." Salad Fingers then hears a knock on the door, which he opens to find a "grubby tap" attached to a string on the ground. Salad Fingers becomes excited about this "gift" and begins to fantasize about taps. He attempts to fetch it, but it is drawn away on the string as bait. He is caught in a bear trap which causes him to lose blood and consciousness while savouring the desanguination blissfully. He wakes up in a cage, and enjoys rubbing the rusted bars. The grotesque boy approaches the cage and holds out a ring (on which is mounted a human tooth) as if proposing marriage. Salad Fingers becomes distraught, states "I don't like this game" and announces that he is "going home now". This angers the boy, who makes an unintelligible noise that sounds like "You're my wife now." A rope appears, hanging down from the ceiling, which Salad Fingers pulls to draw down a curtain. When the curtain lifts, the boy, seeing that Salad Fingers has disappeared, begins to cry. The episode closes with Salad Fingers, wearing his beret, flying away gleefully on a giant tap, presumably to France.
Salad Fingers talks to an apparently broken and disconnected phone, asking the operator to connect him to his "old pal Charlie" so he can invite him to a picnic, but only garbled noises are heard. Whilst describing the picnic fare, Salad Fingers rubs his stomach in hunger, then claims to have been rudely disconnected. Hubert Cumberdale is on one of the fingers on Salad Fingers' other hand, but he seems dismayed to see him. Instead of referring to him as Hubert, he calls him "Barbara Logan-Price", and gives him a "friend-hat", which is a miniature captain's hat.
In the next scene, Salad Fingers wears a bridal train and talks to himself in a mirror, declaring "You look so beautiful". He then goes outside for his picnic, which is attended by a strange crow (which appears in other David Firth cartoons) that makes garbled noises and a little girl with scars on her face, a filthy, stained pink dress and orange hair. Salad Fingers asks the orange-haired girl a question and answers it for her (as he seems to think that only he can speak), ending with "replied Mable". Salad Fingers calls her his new playmate and compliments her on her dress, and as he does this, Marjory Stewart-Baxter is seen in the window, jealous. Salad Fingers offers "Mable" some "Pease Pudding", which he feeds to her with a dirty, rusty spoon. The crow then swoops down and steals Salad Fingers's spoon.
The little girl giggles and says that the crow must like spoons too. The shock of the girl speaking to him, thus meaning the girl is indeed real, not a figment of his imagination, drives Salad Fingers to temporary insanity, hallucinating, hearing screeching, distorted noises, and seeing the girl (complete with empty eye sockets) saying, "What's wrong, Mr. Fingers? Do you not like my mouth-words?"
The episode begins with Salad Fingers walking about his house. He sees Hubert Cumberdale on top of a cupboard, and instructs the finger puppet to come down at once. Hubert turns into a black, viscous, and apparently caustic fluid and oozes down the cupboard. A silhouette is then seen walking through the house and Salad Fingers asks if somebody is there; it is, in fact, the Jeremy Fisher puppet on his finger. Salad Fingers remarks that he thought Jeremy was out "fighting the Great War". Jeremy Fisher/Salad Fingers responds in garbled gibberish which Fingers can't understand, musing that Fisher seems "to have adopted a strange dialect."
Another perspective shot shows Jeremy Fisher (now with arms) handing Salad Fingers a toy horse. Salad Fingers is pleased with the present, and remarks on the pleasing texture. He then eats Jeremy Fisher and immediately forgets, wondering "Where have you gotten to?" He begins to play with the toy horse while making "neigh" sounds, walks outside with it, and goes to an abandoned toilet with which he initiates a conversation. Suddenly, the mood changes and the music becomes sinister; he grows concerned and he begins defending himself, saying "You've got the wrong bloke, squire." He then flushes the toilet to "wash those bad thoughts away".
Upon arriving home, Salad Fingers gasps and sees himself sitting inside. The Salad Fingers inside appears to be hallucinating, seeing the "outside" Salad Fingers as a life-size Jeremy Fisher. The "inside" Salad Fingers speaks in a slightly different voice and also has rougher text showing what he is saying. The conversation starts off just like the earlier one with Jeremy Fisher, but goes on to include accusations that Jeremy Fisher has been "tailgating [his] daughter with aspirations of deflowering her rose". This appears to be the other "side" of the conversation Salad Fingers had into the toilet.
The inside Salad Fingers is now seen with the Jeremy Fisher finger puppet. Fisher never responds verbally, but at one point unfastens a clasp over his mouth from which green ooze bubbles and drips to the floor. Salad Fingers caresses Fisher's hair and remarks that he never did "sample the delights of your flavor", a reference to when he tasted his other two "friends" Hubert Cumberdale and Marjory Stewart-Baxter in episode two. He begins putting the finger-puppet in his mouth, but the scene quickly changes to a bloody scene of the "inside" Salad Fingers eating the "outside" Salad Fingers' head/brains, suggesting that Salad Fingers is actually experiencing the personalities he invents. The episode ends with an external shot of the house panning back to reveal the toilet, possibly implying a sinister connection, or past trauma involving the fixture.
As Salad Fingers is digging holes outside with his finger puppets, occasionally tasting the sand (which he calls "floor sugar"), he finds the decomposing torso of an old corpse. Salad Fingers immediately "recognizes" the cadaver as "Kenneth," his "younger brother" who is back from the previously mentioned "Great War" on shore leave. Salad Fingers pulls the gruesome, dismembered corpse out of the hole, saying it was rude of him to leave for "the Great War" without him, but promises to draw him a hot bath.
The next scene shows Salad Fingers turning a cog which pulls a clothesline, drawing Kenneth out of a wardrobe, now dressed in a white dinner jacket. He starts to talk about life with the women of the great war. Salad Fingers has prepared a dinner of sand for his guest, saying "I—hope you like... SAND". At one point Kenneth slumps forward, prompting Salad Fingers to suppose that he's sleepy and props Kenneth up by inserting a "wooden dent-rail" into his empty socket. He also spills some tea, which resembles the black caustic goo from the previous episode, on Kenneth's hand. Salad Fingers tells Kenneth of his life, keeping busy with "every shift I can... [and] sing[ing] at all the functions". There is a flashback in which Salad Fingers measures the distance from his door to a tree named "Mr. Branches" with a clickwheel and subsequently teases it for its slow movement.
It is now evening, and Salad Fingers is with Kenneth outside near the same hole he found him in. He cries over the fact that Kenneth has to go "back to the ghastly trenches". He salutes Kenneth and sings "We'll Meet Again" for him, after exclaiming, somewhat futilely, "I only ask that our creator return you unspoilt from the cruel hand of war". He then kicks Kenneth back into the hole. A dream-like sequence follows in which Salad Fingers sings the same song, in a white dress, on a stage in front of an audience of a theatre. After singing a few strains, he complains to the pianist – who is shown as the silhouette of a marionette, with strings attached – that the key is wrong, walks off the stage, and the screen fades to black.
In this episode Salad Fingers mentions the Scottish town of Cowdenbeath, indicating he is aware of real-life places.
Salad Fingers is sitting in his armchair, trying to tune his radio which he calls "Roger." If he is lucky, Salad Fingers says he may chance upon a broadcast from "Croxley", which so happens to be a small town in Hertfordshire. "Croxleyheath" also occurs in Shore Leave. After feeding Roger his "sustenance" (which seems to be marbles, peas, rocks or beans), it begins to emit a strange, piercing frequency. A gurgling sound comes from Salad Fingers' own stomach, insinuating upset in reaction to the "unpleasant frequencies" coming from the radio. He decides to wait out the tormenting event in his "safety cupboard."
When in the cupboard, Salad Fingers begins to converse with his hands. One hand enacts "Penny Pigtails," the other a market vendor. The "market vendor" refuses to sell raspberry jam to "Penny Pigtails" on the grounds that her legs are "made of cotton" and "far too long" (an event that Salad Fingers finds most upsetting). After Salad Fingers cries for a bit, "Penny Pigtails" discovers a long strand of hair, which Salad Fingers rubs over his eyeball, apparently causing him great pleasure although it makes his eye red and inflamed. After emerging from the cupboard, he tapes the hair to a wall with four other hairs of assorted colours that he has collected. Salad Fingers speaks to the hairs, calling them "beautiple" and "a gay little quintette". Next, he goes to bed with the Hubert Cumberdale puppet. Before going to sleep, Salad Fingers sings "Three in the Bed," and instructs Hubert Cumberdale to "roll over"; as a result, the finger puppet is sent off the bed into a bowl of a filthy, brown substance (likely a chamberpot). Salad Fingers orders Hubert Cumberdale to "scrub that muck off at once!" as he doesn't want any "dirty immigrants" in his house.
Later that night, the radio begins to emit strange sounds again and wakes up Salad Fingers. Salad Fingers approaches it warily and threatens Roger with expulsion from the house. The radio replies it was rude of Salad to take his hair. The radio speaks in a static voice, instructing Salad Fingers to return its hair, as well as to tidy the house. Salad Fingers declares that he "shan't, can't and won't", on the grounds that it isn't "his turn" and that it is an extremely unpleasant job. The radio continues to torment him, causing him to eat all of the hairs from his quintet, tape and all, and return to his cupboard in tears.
Salad Fingers is holding a piece of torn newspaper, imagining it is a letter from the Great War (presumably from his "brother") and reading it aloud to himself. As he reads, a tentacle-like branch snakes in through the door to Salad Fingers' bedroom. Salad Fingers picks up the branch and bites off the tip, resulting in something sobbing "Daddy, that really hurt!" off-screen. Salad Fingers goes to the window and sees the branch-tentacle being retracted into the tree outside. He walks out to the tree, calling it "Mr. Branches" and has a conversation with it about its injury, apparently forgetting it was he himself that bit it. The tree cries, calling Salad Fingers "Daddy" and asking to be let inside, but Salad Fingers refuses until it "grows out of those branches". The tree wraps a branch around Salad Fingers' waist.
Salad Fingers wakes up in his room, very pale and his stomach growling. Salad Fingers worries that he may be dying and taps out an S.O.S. on the metal fire grate beside him. Suddenly a strange gooey black mass bursts out of his stomach, causing him to pass out. This mass, and the goo that surrounds Salad Fingers on a puddle on his bed, bears a strong resemblance to the 'tea' in the previous episode, and the goo that Hubert Cumberdale turns into in 'Presents'.
When he wakes up, he is overjoyed, and believes he has given birth to a daughter whom he names Yvonne. Sitting in a wheelchair and appearing to feel better despite his wound, he pulls back the skin of one finger revealing a strange solid tip and dips it in ink to write a "letter" consisting only of scribbles, saying he cannot attend the Great War as he is still feeling "under the weather". He keeps Yvonne (which appears to be a bundle of newspapers) down in a pit and tells her off for not doing her exercises. When Yvonne refuses to respond to Salad Fingers' coaching, he addresses Marjory Stewart-Baxter, expressing his disappointment in 'their' child.
The scene then switches back to Salad Fingers lying on the floor, pale, with his stomach still wounded, and seems to be pumping air into his chest, suggesting that he's relapsed into illness. He tells Yvonne he may be too ill to care for her and speaks for her as he usually does for his other inanimate characters, saying "That's a shame; you were doing a first-rate job". He then taps another message on the fire grate, requesting a home for "a meddlesome child".
Salad Fingers is then outside in his wheelchair with Yvonne in a bucket, telling her that "good old Aunty Bainbridge" has agreed to look after her. He arrives at the house from episode 1, where the small, yellow-skinned human-like creature with big eyes lives. Salad Fingers refers to the creature as "Aunty Bainbridge" and asks for a hug, but the creature takes a step back and makes an odd wailing noise, as it did in 'spoons'. Salad Fingers recalls some memories of Aunty Bainbridge "all in faded days".
Salad Fingers then appears to forget his reason for visiting, and, noticing the bucket of black ooze on his lap, claims he has come to clean the windows, apparently forgetting who/what Yvonne is. Using the bundle/Yvonne, he smears the windows with black ooze as the yellow creature looks on. Job done, Salad Fingers begins to eat a sandwich, possibly a hallucinatory camouflage for Yvonne, while Aunty Bainbridge returns to the house.
Salad Fingers is seen talking to "Milford Cubicle", still hanging from the meat hook he was placed upon in Episode 3, trying to persuade the now heavily decayed corpse to take a bath for Hubert Cumberdale's birthday. Immediately afterwards, he starts talking to said finger puppet, now dressed in a hat and with some legs pinned upon him. Salad Fingers answers a knock at the door, only to see a long, thick metal pole stretching further than the eye can see. Perplexed by this, he goes back indoors but causes Milford to fall from his hook. He reveals the ability to widen his irises and cause his teeth to move, making a music box-like tune, by moving his hand at the side of his head as though turning a handle. When this still fails to rouse his lifeless friend, he decides to leave the house, leaving "Horace", the toy horse that appeared in Episode 6, "in charge".
The scene cuts to Salad Fingers walking through a misty forest full of leafless trees, revealing the search for a doctor as his motive to Hubert Cumberdale. He finds a skip (or possibly a broken pram) full of rubbish and starts rummaging around inside it. He finds a grotesque puppet with bent hooks and springs in place of hands, and this he refers to as "Dr. Papanak". Lying on a large slab resembling a tombstone, he leans back for examination, initially seeming to relish it, but the puppet, seemingly less dependent on his controlling it than the other ones he uses, and which makes noises like a hungry animal, bites him, painfully, on the side of his head. He throws Dr. Papanak away in fear but as the puppet flies he sprouts knives and latches onto a nearby horse closely resembling Horace, but life-size. Dr. Papanak tears away savagely at the horse's side. Salad Fingers acknowledges that it probably hurts, but makes no effort to assist the creature, which is seen to weep but makes no movement or resistance.
Salad Fingers is next seen to awaken in the (now somewhat more leafy) forest, unshaven, and with his clothes partially torn and muddied. A tree is now growing from the tombstone on which he still lies. He speculates that he has been asleep "for six Mondays". There is no sign of the horse or of Dr. Papanak, although Hubert Cumberdale is seen lying on the ground surrounded by twigs. Salad Fingers returns home to find multiple horses in his house, including one that resembles the horse he saw in the forest and which appears to have had a patch stitched onto it in the precise place in which it was torn. Believing his toy horse Horace to be responsible, he searches through his cupboards and drawers to find skins of horses in there and is distressed to find Milford Cubicle as a skeleton. He drives the horses out, imagining them to have eaten him, only to encounter the mysterious pole he had seen earlier outside his house (which had not been visible on his return home) and promptly scolds it. Then he sees, a little way away from him, a group of people gathered around a table, each dressed like, and resembling him but with various facial and behavioural abnormalities, eating brains and bodily organs. At this point, he appears to forget that the party was for Hubert, and assumes the seat to be for himself. Nervously, he sits down to join them, though they largely ignore him. Suddenly, the pole lowers itself into the ground to reveal a wrapped up present on the top of it, which he also assumes to be for himself. He opens the present and finds a hat made from what resembles the skin of Milford Cubicle.
Notes: On 28 June 2013 Firth posted on his site Fat-Pie that a "brand new episode of Salad Fingers" would become available upon listening to the latest episode of his audio sketch Waller FM. The name of the episode was revealed by Firth himself in a YouTube interview.