Famous Puppets

People have used puppets to tell stories for at least 30,000 years, probably beginning in India, where puppetry is still popular today. 


The bunraku puppets of Japan, mentioned in You Will Call Me Drog, are about half life-size.  Three puppeteers, wearing black so that they will fade into the black background, move each puppet’s hands and head and feet.  The author of the best-known bunraku plays, Chikamatsu Monzaemon, has been called “the Shakespeare of Japan.”


Italy is the home of the marionette, a puppet with strings that became popular  throughout Europe.  At first marionettes were used to perform morality plays in church.  Then comedy crept into the plays and they got so rowdy that the church banned the practice of puppetry.  It thrived outside the church, though, and one of the most famous puppets in the world, Pinocchio, came out of that tradition.


Punch & Judy are two famous traditional puppets in Britain (though Punch actually developed from and Italian trickster character called Pulcinella).  Punch & Judy scenes are performed by a single puppeteer  on a portable stage and usually consist of the shameless Punch, dressed in jester’s clothing, berating Judy and other characters and beating them over the head with a stick as large as himself.


In modern times, live radio shows and television and movies have provided new opportunities for puppets to perform, beginning with Charlie McCarthy and Mortimer Snerd and Howdy Doody in the 1940s.  Who can forget Lamb Chop or the Muppets--Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Oscar the Grouch, Bert and Ernie, and all the rest?  Or Yoda in Star Wars?  In Latin America today, a wildly popular hand-sewn monkey puppet spoofs evening news anchors, and a talking boxing glove and soccer ball are sportscasters on a program called “31 Minutos.”


And then of course there is Drog, who only hopes to be famous and whose origins are mostly unknown.