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Shadow puppetry, and for that matter, puppetry in general, has been with us for over a thousand years. Ancient relics found in Egypt as well as in other neighboring countries give proof that this art form is as old as time is.

In the sixteenth century, records have shown that puppeteers have traveled far and wide, entertaining people all across Britain. The performances then were rude and satirical in form and content.

In the present time, the art of puppetry encompasses a vast category ranging in type from Asian shadow puppet shows to mechanical creations straight out of Jim Henson's creative mind. Whatever form attracts you, puppetry is an art form that requires quite a lot of creativity, imagination, and improvisation. The absence of these key elements can lead to a bad puppet show or performance.

Other vital elements are more tangible. Examples of these are the music, personified by the various musical instruments as well as the human voice, and the script, which should be well-written and logically sound. Experience need not be a requirement, especially in modern-day puppet shows. What is generally asked from performers are enthusiasm and willingness to learn. However, in certain puppetry performances, in particular, shadow puppetry, experience may be a prerequisite, especially in performing sacred rituals that only an expert puppet master can effectively execute.

Performances in many shadow puppetry shows are a bit unique in the sense that the puppet itself is not totally seen while performing, only its shadow and the corresponding effect that such performances create. That is why shadow puppetry is an interesting concept because intense preparations have to be made if the goal is to come up with a good performance. This is true even during the earlier times when shadow puppetry performers would take time out to make elaborate designs on puppets, come up with interesting literature as well as music, etc.

In addition, this ancient art form has three basic components working closely together to create the effect that it wants to achieve. These are: light, puppet shape, and screen.

In simple terms, the light is what brings the shadow puppet alive on the screen. Asian shadow puppeteers have traditionally used coconut oil lamps mounted on bamboo frames between the puppeteer's face and the screen.

The second component is the puppet shape. Early shadow puppeteers made puppets out of leather and are often flat. Today, almost anything can be utilized, but a thin black posterboard is recommended.

The body of the puppet is controlled by soft wires and manipulated usually from above by the puppet master.

Simple puppets require only one wire but more complicated ones, especially those used in present-day performances, usually make use of two wires.

The third component is the screen which traditionally, has been a piece of white cotton cloth bordered by grommets which is stretched tight and pasted on a frame. Such a condition is essential in order to make the screen flat.

A special element involved in making a good shadow puppet show is the script, which in ancient times, usually revolve around ancient religions. Other topics include a local issue that a village is currently facing. The puppet master writes a story about it with a corresponding solution and presents it in a shadow puppetry performance.

Once all these elements are in place, a good shadow puppet show can be expected. A bad performance, on the other hand, would mean that preparations were inadequately made. Inexperienced performers may also contribute to lousy performances.

Getting to watch a shadow puppetry performance can be quite an experience. More so if the show has been creatively thought up and given serious preparation.


Please enjoy these free hand shadow puppets and learn interesting facts on shadow puppets. Learn to make hand shadow puppets and the history of making shadow puppets and hand puppets.Shadow puppets have a long history and lots of interesting shadow puppet and hand puppet facts exist. These free hand puppet examples are for you to try your hand at creating shadow puppets and hand puppets, and hopefully put on your very own shadow puppet show!

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Images and portions of the text by Henry Bursill and were originally published by Griffith and Farran in 1859.