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Enlivening Puppets with a Sense of Place - the Wonder of Animals


In a recent 'introduction to therapeutic puppetry' course, we dove into some of the fundamentals that make puppetry healing and therapeutic.   One thing that is very clear, it all begins with the puppeteer’s inner consciousness and clear intention.  This is the invisible essence that enlivens our puppets with layers of archetype and truth.  A human character stands upright and walks with a left and right breathing quality.  A black cat puppet will move with smooth mystery.  A cow in the field moves with gentle steadfastness.  We begin healing puppetry by looking for the movement and gesture that brings out what is honest and true.  The inspiration for this comes from within us, the puppeteer.  Observe, reflect, find quietness then let an imagination arise.  Feel this imagination and let it fill your puppet.  This is the beginning of puppet ensoulment.

You can try this process out by practicing puppet movement with this seasonal poem. It is a fun little poem to enliven puppets to… Try it as a lap puppet poem with finger puppets or soft needle felted white bears. 

Polar Bear
The arctic night twinkles so bright,
With a most unusual light.
Like a rainbow dance across the sky,
It makes the polar bears laugh and sigh.
Their heads look up, they sit and stare,
At the moving color up in the air.
They roll in the snow; they run on the ice,
Even cold water makes them feel nice.
A polar bear’s life is much like a dream,
Riding an ice flow down the stream.

Bring this poem to life 

A soft, pastel, rainbow colored silk draped over your shoulder is a perfect aurora borealis for this poem.  In the north the snow is pinkish blue.  For this scene have the polar bear on a similar colored silk for full landscape effect.  Think of how a heavy earthy weighted polar bear moves when he laughs, stares, sighs. The bigger movements are fun.  Have him dive in the arctic water silk, then create an ice chunk with your free hand under the silk.  Let the bear climb up and onto the ice which will move rhythmically along.


I have traveled with puppetry to many places.  What speaks to me the loudest is the puppet fun each region brings out: Alaska, and the far north inspired scenes like the polar bear above, Arizona story and puppet creation brought out coyote, javalina, jack rabbits, and cactus filled desert stories.  Florida inspired dolphins leaping over clear blue waves, and alligator tales.  California coastal magic is full of pelicans, and up the coast in the Northwest USA and Canada the eagles soar and mighty whales dance.

No matter where we live we find wonders in the nature around us that we can bring in story form for our children.  When we ensoul our fox as his colorful tail paints the sunset sky, the children will forever wonder at each and every sunset they see. 

What is it for a child to grow up in a desert landscape full of saguaro cactus, roadrunners and burrowing owls?  How does this differ in the forming of a child who walks among crocodiles, huge soft shell sea turtles, and manatee?  We want to support the young child with puppet stories of their natural environment.  Observe how these regional animals are formed and notice how this form gives them their movement.  We want to capture this in our puppet making and presentation. How hushed the forest becomes when a family of deer run though, heads held high, weightless in their leaping.

The nature in the southern hemisphere is beautiful and unique.The plant life, animal, bird and insect life is a marvel.  How we all love the kangaroo mama and her pouch where baby is snug and safe, with their powerful tail driven jumps across the land.  One can hear the music of a country when a giraffe, elephant, or antelope enchant us with the rhythms of their walk. Bird life alone in the far places of the world, so full of color, song, wing and air could inspire us for a lifetime.


 The story presence of ‘place’ is invaluable for your children.  I would love to hear from all of you about your favorite tales that include the animals from your regions.  contact me @


Suzanne Down, is the longtime founder of Juniper Tree Puppets, and Director of the Juniper Tree School of Story and Puppetry Arts, which offers an online, year long, in-depth training in Puppet Theater.  You can view the many online courses offered from mini tutorials,  to the 2, 4, 6, 8 week programs including the beloved summer Puppet Boot Camps. enjoy browsing through our offerings here: click here 

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