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Karagiozis

Greek: Καραγκιοζης
What: A shadow puppet and fictional character of Greek folklore.
Created: 19th century
What: Shadow Puppet Theatre

Karagiozis.

Karagiozis.

Karagiozis is a shadow puppet and fictional character of Greek folklore. He is the main character of the tales narrated in the Greek shadow-puppet theatre. He was hellenized in Patras, Greece in the end of 19th century by Dimitrios Sardounis, who is considered the founder of modern Greek shadow theater. His introduction to Greece is still amystery. It was believed that Greek merchants brought the art of shadow puppets from China and others say that it was a Greek who created Karagiozis during Ottoman rule for the entertainment of the sultan. However, others believe that it originated from real eventsinvolving two masonry workers named Karagöz and Haci Ivat who were working on the construction of a mosque in the city of Bursa in early 14th century.

Karagiozis is a poor hunchbacked Greek, his right hand is always depicted long, his clothes are ragged and patched, and his feet are always bare. He lives in a small house with his wife Aglaia and his three boys, during the times of the Ottoman Empire. The backdrop of the theatre traditionally depicts his house on the left, and the Sultan’s Palace on the right. Because he is poor, Karagiozis uses mischievous and crude ways to find money and feed his family. Karagiozis’ tales are divided into two major categories: the ‘Heroics’ and the ‘Comedies’. The Heroics are tales based on tradition or real stories involving the times under Ottoman rule.

In Greek the name Karagiozis is used as an insult. Puppeteers complain about this, saying that while Karagiozis can be violent, mischievous, a liar and an anti-hero, he is also good-natured and faithful, so his name should not be used as an insult. During the 1980′s, Karagiozis had its own show on television. These shows had more modern and educational themes, like for example Karagiozis living some myths of Greek mythology or visiting the moon and other planets. These episodes were either live with an audience, or filmed especially for the TV show.

Characters from the Greek Shadow Theatre: http://www.karagkiozis.com/en-deite-figoures.htm

Greece and Turkey in puppet war by AlJazeera:

Clever Karagiozis commercial by JUMBO:

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