What Is the Origin of Hand Puppets?


Quick Answer

Regionally, hand puppets first appeared in India during the fourth century B.C.; Greece in the fifth century B.C., according to Plato; and England in the 14th century, according to Chaucer. Egyptians had puppets during the fifth century B.C., and the Greek historian Herodotus recorded witnessing an Egyptian fertility ritual in which they played an important role.

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Full Answer

The 17th-century plays of William Shakespeare mention roaming troupes of puppeteers from Italy and France. By the 19th century, puppeteers from Europe traveled from town to town in the United States and performed on portable stages.

Puppeteers in China date back to the Shang Dynasty, while in Japan, bunraku puppets came to prominence in the Edo period. In 1995, UNESCO added the lifelike bunraku puppets to its list of intangible cultural property worldwide.

In modern culture, the TV series “Sesame Street” featured hand-controlled puppets in 1969, and the show’s creator, Jim Henson, debuted “The Muppet Show” in 1976. This evening variety show, which features a cast of puppets, became one of the longest-airing TV shows in history and produced six motion pictures, as of 2015. Henson also helped create Yoda for the “Star Wars” franchise and collaborated with Frank Oz, who led the puppetry team behind the iconic movies.

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