What are the elements of Wayang Kulit?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The elements or components of wayang kulit include the master puppeteer or dhalang. The puppeteer is the most important element of the Wayang Kulit. His job is to entertain and teach. With that in mind, he tells captivating stories that capture his audience's attention for hours. The dhalang must have an impeccable memory and a quick mind. In Indonesia, these master puppeteers are usually men.

Another element is the gamelan, a traditional Indonesian orchestra. The orchestra's job is to accompany the puppeteer's story with engaging music.

There are also shadow puppets or wayang kulit. Traditionally, the puppets are made out of cowhide. There are usually seven types of puppets: putri (women), danawa (monsters), dhagelan (clowns), halus (refined characters), gagah (warrior-type characters), wanara (monkeys), and gusen (characters with rough and violent attitudes). Often, a Wayang Kulit will also feature lijepans (refined characters with modest manners) and lanjapans (refined characters with a capacity for violence).

Other elements include a puppet box or kothak, and banana logs for holding the puppets.

For more information, please refer to the following links.


On Thrones of Gold: Three Javanese Shadow Plays, edited by James R. Brandon, Pandam Guritno

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Wayang kulit refers to the art of Indonesian puppet theater, which originated on Java but spread to every other Indonesian island. The term wayang kulit can also refer to puppets that are made of flat leather and illuminated from behind, in contrast to the three-dimensional, wooden puppets called wayang klitik or golek. The puppets have costumes, facial features, and body parts controlled by thin wooden sticks. Wayang kulit can be used as social commentary through criticism of the archetypal "ordinary person," a common character in puppet shows. Other common themes include retelling indigenous Indonesian myths, or borrowing characters from Indian and Persian epics. Traditional wayang kulit utilized complex music, but in order to compete with modern art forms and media, many modern puppet shows include popular music instead, as well as incorporating more comedy and less social critique.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
Soaring plane image

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial