“I have memories of a little girl, which have been translated into many defeats for Charlie Brown”
—Charles M. Schulz the Little Red-Haired Girl
The Little Red-Haired Girl is an unseen character in the comic strip Peanuts by Charles M. Schulz. She was first referred to in 1961. She is the object of Charlie Brown's affection, although he never dares to go near her. Whether or not she has any feelings towards Charlie Brown has never been revealed in the comic strip.
Her name is given as Heather in the 1977 animated TV special It's Your First Kiss, Charlie Brown and as Heather Wold in the 2015 animated film The Peanuts Movie. Those names, however, have never been used in the Peanuts comic strip.
The only known Schulz drawing of The Little Red-Haired Girl was drawn sometime in 1950, long before she was referred to in the strip. Why Schulz did not introduce her into the strip when it started is unknown. She bears a strong resemblance to Patty, a character who was prominent in the early years of the strip.
Charlie Brown first pines for the Little Red-Haired Girl during lunch at school in the strip from November 19, 1961. He continued loving her until the end of the strip in 2000. In a series of strips from July 1969, the Little Red-Haired Girl moves away, causing Charlie Brown sheer grief. He sees her again during a ski trip a few months later, and Peppermint Patty and Marcie run into her at summer camp in 1972. On May 30, 1978 Charlie Brown says that he thinks about the Little Red-Haired Girl constantly, suggesting that she has moved back to the neighborhood. It is confirmed that she has returned in the strip from December 27, 1978, in which Charlie Brown stands outside her house.
One reason Schulz never drew the Little Red-Haired girl in the strip, is to show Charlie Brown's hopeless longing for her. Schulz also admitted in 1997, "I could never draw her to satisfy the readers' impression of what she's probably like."
The character was based on Donna Johnson, a red-haired woman who Charles M. Schulz proposed to but who turned him down. This is where Schulz got the idea for Charlie Brown's unrequited love years later.
Depiction in animation
The Little Red-Haired Girl has been shown on television in It's Your First Kiss, Charlie Brown, Happy New Year, Charlie Brown!, A Charlie Brown Valentine, the second season opening of The Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show, and makes a brief appearance in Snoopy!!! The Musical, during the song "Poor Sweet Baby".
In It's Your First Kiss, Charlie Brown, and in Happy New Year, Charlie Brown, Linus says that her name is Heather. That name has also been used in subsequent television specials. However, that name has never been used in the Peanuts comic strip.
The Peanuts Movie (in which the Little Red-Haired Girl is voiced by Francesca Capaldi, who also voices Frieda) is the first animated production in which the character has a speaking part. In the film, Heather's full name, Heather Wold, can be seen as fourth in the list of the students' test scores. Her last name comes from the married name of the character's inspiration, Donna Johnson Wold.