ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel


Updated on August 14, 2009

A puppet is an inanimate figure, moved by human agency, usually in the form of a human being or an animal, used in some form of theatrical show.

A puppet can be made of cloth, wood, papier-mache, plastic, or some other material. It is used in professional dramatic performances or as a children's toy. Unlike a doll, a puppet performs before an audience.

The operator, or puppeteer, controls its gestures either by strings or rods that are attached to the puppet's limbs or by his hand, which he conceals inside the puppet's costume.

There are many kinds of puppets throughout the world, just as there are different types of puppet shows. Puppets range in size from the very small ringer puppet, attached to the back of the hand with the puppeteer's ringers inserted into the legs, to the very large figures used in street processions. The principal types of puppets are hand, or glove, puppets; string puppets, or marionettes; rod puppets; and shadow puppets.

Types of Puppets

Hand Puppets. A hand puppet is the simplest type to construct. It has a solid head, often made of papier-mache, and an empty garment for a body. The hand of the puppeteer fits inside the garment like a glove. The forefinger controls the movements of the puppet's head. Its arms are moved by the puppeteer's thumb and second finger, which are inserted into the sleeves of the garment. Hand puppets have a very direct assortment of gestures and are the easiest to manipulate. The hand puppeteer works behind a drape topped by a playboard just higher than his head, maneuvering his puppets in view of the audience while he himself is concealed below.

String Puppets. Marionettes, or string puppets, are elaborate in construction. They are full-length figures with rounded and jointed limbs. A simple string puppet is controlled by strings, which are attached at one end to the marionette and at the other end to a controller. Strings to the shoulders support the puppet's weight, and strings to each hand and knee control the movements of the limbs. Two strings control the turning of the puppet's head, and one at the back enables it to bow. Marionettes designed to perform elaborate gestures or trick steps may have as many as 30 strings. In operating a marionette the puppeteer is usually concealed from the audience by a curtain. He manipulates a controller from which the puppet is suspended, causing it to move.

Rod Puppets. A rod puppet is a rounded figure controlled by a supporting rod running through the torso and fastened to its head and by other rods fastened to its arms. n Europe the best-known rod puppets are in the eastern countries. However, the European rod puppets are descended from those used in Javanese religious dramas, for which the fanciful movements of these figures are especially well suited. Rod puppets are operated from below.

Shadow Puppets. The shadow puppet is a flat figure with jointed limbs. It is supported by a central rod and manipulated by other, more slender rods attached to its arms. A shadow puppet is placed between a strong light and a partially transparent screen so that only its silhouette, or its colored shadow, is seen by the audience. This type of puppet is very popular in China, Indonesia, and India, where it probably originated. From the Far East, shadow puppets spread to Turkey and Greece and were later imported into western Europe.

Puppet Manipulation

There are many different forms and methods of manipulation: marionettes are full-length figures moved from above by strings (or rather threads in most cases) and sometimes by wires or rods.

Glove or hand puppets are hollow bodies, usually of cloth, into which the performer inserts his hand while his fingers and thumb manipulate the usually wooden head and hands.

Rod puppets are similarly operated from below, but are larger in size and are manipulated by rods to the head and hands. A combination of these are hand and rod puppets in which the hand of the performer manipulates the head while the hands of the puppet are moved by rods.

Shadow puppets are flat figures held between a light and translucent screen.

There are many other less familiar types: jigging puppets are worked by a horizontal string or rod and are given a dancing motion by taughtening and slackening the string, or vibrating the board upon which they rest; living marionettes are marionette like bodies attached to the actual head of the performer, with either legs or arms manipulated by short horizontal rods from behind; 'held' puppets (there is no general accepted term for this type) are figures carried about by one or more operators, like the characters in the Japanese Bunraku theatre which are manipulated by sometimes as many as three operators in view of the audience, or the characters in 'black theatre' in which the operators are rendered invisible to the audience by their black costumes and special lighting.

There is an increasing tendency for the watertight barriers of puppet types to be broken down by contemporary puppeteers. Puppets of different types will often appear together in the same show, and the range of this art form extends to the type of figure used by exponents of ventriloquism, to the giant figures used for street processions, and also to actors wearing masks.

Puppetry as an Educational Tool

Another field in which puppets have been developed with great success has been in education, where the quality of performance is not the prime issue but rather the creative value for the child in making a figure of his own. Puppets have been found to be of great value as a form of therapy for socially challenged children and as a means of expression for the shy or withdrawn child.


  • Merit Students Encyclopedia, Volume 15, P.F. Collier Inc, 1979. Page 391.
  • New Age Encyclopaedia, Seventh Edition edited by D. A. Girling, Bay Books, 1983. Volume 24, Page 4.
  • The New International Illustrated Encyclopaedia, Volume 5, 1954. Page 291.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      OK, I have just started putintg together a new fun educational play room for my four kids which will also double as our home-school room. I have planned for one of the four corners to be a dramatic play area with a puppet theatre, but wasn't sure how to accomplish this yet. WOW! This would be perfectly fantastic!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Puppets are exhausting these days and is really a bad news for puppeteers.Such circumstances you have made a wonderful effort to once again give life to this art form.This is one of the oldest art form and we should take care of our traditions.

    • darkside profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Australia

      I love them. And my collection is growing!

    • Sinea Pies profile image

      Sinea Pies 

      7 years ago from Northeastern United States

      Puppets are an excellent teaching tool. Great info.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Thanks! you helped me heaps, all the other sites were to tipical. I used this on my "puppets" project

    • profile image

      John Edwards 

      9 years ago

      Where can I buy me an Obama Puppet? Everyone else in the Democratic Party seem to have there's; where's mine?

    • Dame Scribe profile image

      Dame Scribe 

      9 years ago from Canada

      My parents bought me a puppet from Mexico. Absolutely love it and is 16 yrs old now. :) great info.

    • BetsyIckes profile image


      9 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Cool hub! I've always loved puppets!


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)