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Mouse-deer Puppet (Sang Kancil)

The mousedeer is a curious creature found in southeast Asia, and in Malaysian folklore, ‘Sang Kancil’ (being small, defenceless and also delicious) must use his wits to outsmart the predators of the jungle. I wanted the puppet to embody the fragility and alertness of this animal, and have a range of movement capable of great expression. After watching videos of mouse-deer and researching animal puppets, I carved the head of the character out of lime wood, and created a free-moving neck which consisted of a stack of flat ply forms on a cord. I carved and machined articulated wooden legs attached to a steam-bent spine, as well as a plump tail to twitch on a string. Instead of taking precise measurements, I worked roughly from a scale drawing I had made, placing the pieces on top of the paper. To move the puppet there were small knobs on the front legs, a large one on the back of the head and two sticks coming out from behind the back legs; altogether, three puppeteers were required to manipulate it. Leather ears were added, the body was stained a chestnut brown, and I varnished the large black eyes to give them a lively gloss – a trick I learned from Handspring puppets (of War Horse) to bring a spark of life.

Project Tags

  • puppet
  • Puppetry
  • animal
  • theatre
  • carpentry
  • wood
  • Woodwork
  • puppets
  • deer
  • crafts

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