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The roots of shadow puppetry can be traced back to thousands of years, perhaps well into pre-historic times. Its more concrete form came into being in Asia, in particular, China and India, which have rich tradition of this ancient art form.

However, when it comes to the issue of how shadow puppetry reached the Western world, there is much debate. Many scholars agree, however, that the path taken by this art form was most probably through the trade routes of Asia, the Mediterranean, and Western Africa, before settling in Western Europe. Yet, there is also evidence that puppets were already in existence in Greece as early as the 1st and 2nd centuries C.E. Greek writers gave various accounts of how the legendary inventor Daedalus made wooden dolls that had movable parts in order to entertain King Minos and his family.

Puppetry began to gain solid ground during the Middle Ages when the Catholic Church found puppets as effective tools in spreading the word of god. They encouraged its use to create illustrated narrations of the stories in the Bible. When the Renaissance period came, audiences craved for more puppet shows detailing satirical accounts about religion, particularly of Catholic-Protestant conflict. This went on for several hundred years where puppetry became a powerful weapon of the church, especially in Spain and in Portugal.

The growth of European shadow puppetry, on the other hand, started only in the 18th century when the art was patronized by the bourgeois and upper class members of Western Europe society. By the turn of the century, when pre-civilized innocence and romantic ideals took center stage, shadow puppetry began to target children, seeing them as a special group of people having unique needs and imagination. By this time, a new field called the puppet theater, began to take root.

Towards the end of the 19th century, realism became the mode in Europe. This greatly affected the business of shadow puppetry and puppetry in general in this part of the world.

Before the advent of realism, people see the puppet theater as a means of entertainment, one where people could go to in order to forget, at least temporarily, their personal problems.

When realism took firm hold in Europe, such views drastically changed.

Puppetry was seen as something suitable only for children. And since children has always been a significant target audience, many puppeteers readily accepted the concept.

When television was introduced in the 1950's, puppetry took the commercial route. The TV program for children, "Kukla Fran and Olie" became popular shows in the United States. Ditto for another TV program, "Howdy Doody", which gave the exclamation point to the concept of puppetry as a medium that is strictly geared toward children.

Such was the fate of shadow puppetry in the Western world. It underwent several evolutions until it reached its present state. Needless to say, it has gone through many innovations but ultimately lost its spirit that was originally conceptualized in the Asian world.

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.