Shadow plays

Shadow play as a form of artistic expression reached its peak in Germany during the Romantic full stop. It was a form of performance for adults: the play with light and shadow touched people with its expressiveness. Today, shadow play has lost its importance, but is gradually being rediscovered as a wonderful activity in families, as a performance at family celebrations and as an enrichment for teaching. At Waldorfshop, we offer you a fine selection of shadow play figures online in our Games & Toys category, as well as everything you need to make your own shadow theatre.


Shadow theatre - how does it work?

You don't need much to create and play shadow plays:

  • a sheet of paper or some cardboard to cut out

  • perhaps a template for the motifs of the figures

  • sticks to guide the figures by hand

  • a light source, for example a torch

  • a white cloth, for example a canvas or a sheet

  • an idea for a story, either one you have made up yourself or one from a book.

Shadow play is art!

Shadow play, also called shadow theatre, is ultimately a form of theatre and a predecessor of film. A story is told with the help of figures led by players behind a light-coloured cloth, who cast shadows on the cloth through a light source.

Who invented shadow theatre?

Shadow theatre has its origins in the Far East. The first Asian shadow plays may have taken place as early as the 2nd century B.C. Written evidence of shadow theatre in China, India and Indonesia dates back to 1,000 A.D. The first figures were made of painted pastels.

The first figures were made of painted parchment, usually cut with many fine ornaments.

In the 17th century, storytelling with moving figures found its way to Europe via traders in Persia, Arabia and Turkey. The oldest evidence of this comes from southern Italy in 1674.

The European shadow puppeteers used figures made of cardboard, wood or metal and attached less importance to their artistry than to their outline and movement.

When the shadow play finally became more popular in Germany at the beginning of the 19th century, personalities such as Goethe, Achim von Arnim, Clemens Brentano, Uhland and Mörike wrote plays and stories for the play.

Modern shadow theatre now allows the freedom to take up old traditions and expand them with new motifs and everyday occurrences from life.

Why shadow theatre?

Shadow theatre plays with the polarity of light and dark, black and white. On the one hand, the images are reduced to the most necessary, and on the other hand, it is precisely this reduction that creates a wide space for fantasy, almost as if a dream world were opened up.

For children, shadow play offers a wide range of possibilities for expression. Even with kindergarten children, the theme of light and shadow can be worked on in a playful way, but especially for the older children in the middle school at Waldorf School, creating their own shadow play can artistically accompany the physics epochs on the theme of the eye and light.

In the family, children can give their parents, parents can give their children a wonderful experience with just a few things by making their own simple theatre with figures and perhaps performing the story from their favourite book.

Everything about shadow play in the Waldorfshop!

In our shop you will find sets of shadow theatre figures made of black cardboard with a wooden stick. With these figures, you and your children can invent and perform imaginative stories.

France is still considered one of the most important shadow play countries in Europe, so it is all the more fitting that we carry products from the Moulin Roty company. This cooperative works on the basis of the values of solidarity, sharing and respect. They create "toys inspired by the past, adapted to the tastes of today".

In addition, under Books & Magazines in our shop you will find the book "We play shadow theatre" with instructions from setting up the shadow theatre to making the figures and playing the game.

You can also find everything you need to make your own figures and theatre, such as silhouette paper, in our online shop.

Have fun browsing!