Women of Winter

This December I am going to try and work on a little series of puppets representing some female characters associated with the winter season.

The first is to be a marionette of Frau Perchta, a winter goddess figure who is active during the Twelve Days of Christmas. She has one large foot (read Marina Warner’s From the Beast to the Blonde for more fascinating detail about this theme in women of folklore and fairytale) and punishes bad behaviour, or at least the transgression of specific societal rules around when you can eat and when you can spin.

The second is another marionette, this one of La Befana, an Italian witch said to have refused the invitation of the Wise Men to visit the Christ Child. Regretting her decision, she now roams the winter skies on a broomstick trying to catch up, delivering gifts to children in recompense. She is an unusual spin on the archetypal winter gift-giver-St-Nicholas-character, but is probably more closely related to Perchta.

The last is a move away from the European cultural figures, and is Yuki-onna, a Japanese ghost that haunts the winter landscape, and often turns to snow or melts away in the stories. She can lure the unwary into the snow where they will freeze to death. There are a lot of regional variations in the tales of the Yuki-onna, but they are frequently sorrowful, and associated with children.

For Yuki-Onna I’d like to try a Japanese Bunraku-style puppet, which looks more complicated to make than a marionette, so this is the one I’m least confident about.

I don’t suppose I will be able to get anywhere near finishing any of them, but it will be a fun project to while away the dark winter hours.

These little characters are all of a Yuletide family with Krampus and Gryla, who I have previously made. I guess I should clarify that I have no experience of puppetry, and these are aimed more at being sculptural pieces than practical puppets although hopefully I’ll pick up enough knowledge along the way to make more effective marionettes in future.

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