Our Family’s (2nd) Year in the South of France
Kids and Castles - Our year with kids in the South of France

Puppet Violence

We have been introduced to Guignol, a French puppet from the early 1800s. Guignol’s founder was a dentist who made his money by selling pain relievers to people who had their teeth pulled – the teeth pulling itself was free.  Talk about misaligned economic incentives!

A Guignol puppet show was playing in one of the local villages, so we took the girls and went to check it out. It was a traveling show with two people – one puppeteer and one other person who took the tickets and sold stuff at intermission. Apparently they visit more than 50 villages a year to do the show. They set up their tent, put up some posters, and the show was ready.

The kids loved the show.  Most of the humor seemed to come from using words wrong. For example, Guignol the puppet was going to visit Madam Le Barrone, but he said “Let’s go see Madame Champignon” (french for mushroom) and the kids would yell “NON! Madame LE BARRONE!!”  He’d do that over and over and over.  The kids never got tired of the joke.

The Famous Guignol

By the end of the show all the kids were so into it that they’d run up to the stage to point out what direction to look for a missing puppet. It was very loud but pretty fun.  I followed most of the plot, which was very simple.  I even caught one of the jokes when Guignol was leaving: “Au revoir. “A demain.” “A de-pied.” (Good-bye. Until tomorrow – but “main” also means hand. A de-pied is nonsense, but pied means foot.)

It was a charming little play for the most part, but then Guignol, our play’s hero, came out with a HUGE stick and started beating the crap out of the bad guy. The bad puppet spent the rest of the show lying there like he was dead.

Apparently 200-year old french puppets aren’t politically correct about violent behavior.

2 Responses to “Puppet Violence”

  1. Erika says:

    That is hysterical! OMG…I can imagine the barage of questions from the girls about why did he beat him with a stick and what happened to the bad guy puppet. I don’t envy that part one bit!

  2. Val says:

    Are they at all related to Punch and Judy? I’ve never quite understood the “timeless charm” of that one either but there’s often that reckless disregard for randomly whacking each other …