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Shadow Puppeteers

The Job of the Puppet Master

In any shadow puppetry performance, one thing remains constant and that is the presence of the puppet master. Without him, there can be no puppet performance.

Magical, Mystical Powers of the Shadow Puppeteer

Shadow puppetry may tend to look a lot like a version of a defunct US television show, The Punch and Judy Show, which made use of puppets. To the untrained Western eyes, they provide fun and laughter, as most puppets are viewed in that part of the world. But in many Asian nations, shadow puppeteers have revered status, often bordering on the mythical. They are seen as possessing mystical powers with which they balance the essential forces of good and evil.

In typical cases, the shadow puppeteer or puppet master manipulates the puppets, making them move in the desired direction.

He also does the voices of all the characters in the show, which may range in number from one single character to as many as three.

As such, he must be able to control the tone of his voice from that of a shy sweet princess to that of an angry but righteous noble hero. Preferably too, he must be able to speak in several languages.

Shadow Puppeteer, Musical Director and Script Writer

In addition, the puppet master also directs the music of the performance, giving appropriate signals to the orchestra. Apart from this, he also writes the script of the show, which is often based on religion. In other instances, the shadow puppeteer can depict a local issue that the village is facing and offer appropriate solutions.

The shadow puppeteer or puppet master is often called a variety of names in different countries. In Indonesia, for example, he is known as a dalang. A dalang is a most exceptional human being. Basically, he should be physically strong and healthy as most shadow puppetry performances last for about nine hours, with a dalang sitting cross-leg

ged behind the screen and busy directing the show. He should also have dexterity in both hands in order to manipulate his puppets effectively. Additionally, he has to have the stamina to endure hours of sleepless performances. But more than just an entertainer, a dalang is basically a priest. In a way, the shadow puppetry performances known in Indonesia as wayang kulit, are religious ceremonies where the dalang perform acts of offering and cleansing.

Before and after every presentation, a dalang recites mantras or sacred prayers. Also, he uses holy water for prayer to bless the area of the performance, participants, and the audience. The holy water used is usually prepared by the dalang and is a primary component of the performance.

In return of the dayang's performances, meal composed of the finest Indonesian food is offered to him, including his two assistants and the musicians who aid him during the perfomance. Payment for a dalang is usually in kind, often a few chickens or any food that the people can afford. It actually depends on the economic state of the hosting village. Payment, however, is not a dalang's primary concern. His responsibility is to preside over the religious rite and to discharge his functions to the best of his ability.

Unlike most shadow puppeteers, especially those found in the West, a dalang is highly respected in Indonesia. He is believed to possess supernatural attributes, notably the power to heal because he is, in effect, close to the gods and is in a position to act as mediator between the people and the spirits.
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.