Sicilian Puppet Theater

One common passed down trait of Sicilian folklore is the Sicilian Puppet Theatre, also known as the Opera dei Pupi. Dating back to the mid-nineteenth century, it’s believed to be originally a Spanish tradition that came to Sicily through Spanish travellers that had settled in Naples. The puppets were generally knights in armour who, through their puppeteer, told stories of chivalry and honor. Created from wood and manipulated by strings and metal wires, their size varied according to the significance of their residence within Sicily – with those in the town of Catania being nearly twice the size of those used in the town of Palermo. The emphasis of these tales was put upon mythical battles, betrayals and classical tales of chivalry. While it’s become quite outdated in an era of technological entertainment, it carries on through it’s significance as a historical and cultural touchstone in Sicilian culture. Currently, there is a large collection of puppets that can still be visited at the Museo delle Marionette in Palermo, and performances present the same traditional stories. Within the museum’s collection, there are puppets of knights, dragons and comical Punch and Judy dolls.