String puppets, or marionettes, are controlled by a puppeteer from above through the use of wires, strings or threads leading from the puppets' limbs to a vertical or horizontal control bar.
Italy is considered to be the birthplace of marionettes, which were used to perform morality plays. Royalty in Myanmar (formerly Burma) commissioned troupes of marionette performers, and the puppets served as a go-between for rulers and their subjects.
The marionette is manipulated by the puppeteer with a T- or H-shaped control high above the puppet. The operator tilts or rocks the control for most puppet movements. But when a particular movement, such as raising an arm or leg, or nodding of the head is required, the necessary strings are plucked.
A simple string puppet may only have nine strings---one to each hand, shoulder, arm and ear, and one to the back for bowing. For the puppeteer to achieve special effects, however, many more strings are required. Operation of a marionette with multiple strings requires great skill, according to Britannica.com.
Marionettes were originally carved from wood, carefully dressed in fancy material and adorned with human hair. Their creation was regarded as an art form, and the manipulator (or grand puppet master) was highly esteemed. Later, other materials such as papier mache and porcelain might be used for the puppets, says PuppetsNow.com.
20th Century Marionettes
In the early 20th century, marionettes were very popular throughout Europe and the United States. One of the most famous was Howdy Doody, a red-headed boy puppet who became star of a favourite American children's television show in the 1950s, according the Museum of Broadcast Communications.