The Puppet Challenge: Choosing our story

Here is the second post about the creative process behind TheBigForest entry to the Puppet Challenge.

The brief:

We were contacted by Peter Slight back in January. Peter had seen, indeed had bought, our work. Peter asked if we would take part in a Puppet Challenge, an online exhibition hosted by Clive Hick Jenkins on his blog, Artlog. You can find out all about Peter and his company ‘Smirky Herbert’ by clicking here and Artlog here.

Peter said

The theme is ‘Folktales, Fairy Tales, Myths and Legends’. You can choose a timeless classic, a little known gem or a half- forgotten fable. There is no restriction on the materials or puppet type as I would like contributors to be free to express themselves and their ideas in whichever ways they feel are best suited to the task.

If possible images of the figure ‘in action’ should be included in submissions so we can see how the puppets are intended to work.

Our deadline is the end of June 2014. The online exhibition will include all submissions offered.

Researching the story:

We wanted to create a puppet for a myth or legend that had resonance with our work. A story that conjured up a sense of fun, of nostalgia and had a strong British or local Sussex identity.

Most folk tales we found were pretty dark and we are not really folks who get fired by tales of the grim or bleak. In the end we found a folk legend that ticked most of the boxes but we were reluctant to use it as it came from an internet local history site and we were unsure if it was a genuine.

Then the next weekend whilst researching on another topic we found the same story in one of 1950’s books on Sussex. So it wasn’t a fake folk myth! With the flowery language and over descriptive prose stripped away we loved the story but it wasn’t humorous. It was however rooted in a location we knew well and in the end we went for it. After all this was a ‘challenge’ and should move us out of tested ways of working and our comfort zone.

The story:

Not far from the village of Wilmington on the Sussex Downs there is the outline of an enormous figure cut in to the hillside. Perhaps you have wondered about its story? I will tell you how it came to be.

Hundreds of years ago two giants lived on the Sussex Downs. Windover who lived on Windover Hill and his friend Firle who lived on Firle Beacon. The two giants were good friends who loved each other deeply, as brothers. In the Winter they played on the hills, in the Spring they bathed in the nearby rivers and brooks and in the Summer they told stories to each other on the warm summer evenings. Their laughter and joy filled the air and the villagers in the nearby hamlets of Wilmington and Firle were happy to be living with giants who loved life and its adventures.

One day Windover teased Firle. “I bet you can’t pick up that deer with one hand” he said.

“Of course I can”, replied Firle and did what was asked.

He then turned to Windover, “I bet you can’t pick up the deer with one finger”. Windover was annoyed to be challenged by his friend and he did what he was asked with a smirk on his face.

This annoyed Firle who pointed to a group of trees. “I’ll wager you can’t pick up those trees”.

Windover was mad. “Of course I can” and he pulled up the clump of trees with his finger and thumb and waved them in front of Firle’s face.

Throughout the afternoon the giants tested each other strength. But what a mess they made of the Downs and the countryside, whole forests were uprooted, rivers and brooks were dammed with boulders, huge holes were made in the earth as the giants stamped around proving they were the stronger giant. Their friendship and love was forgotten. It was no longer a game, this was a battle.

The sky grew dark as the giants grew angrier and the villagers in Wilmington and Firle were frightened and hid in their cottages.

Finally it was night and the two giants were exhausted. Windover returned angrily to Windover Hill and Firle to his hilltop home but neither could sleep.

“Let’s put an end to this here and now”, shouted Firle.

“Right” said Windover his face red with anger. Both giants picked up a huge boulder and threw it at each other in the darkness. The villagers were scared hearing the massive boulders flying through the air and the deafening crash as they each hit the ground. Then there was silence.

“Hello?” called Firle.

There was no answer.

“Hello” called Firle again “are you well my dear friend?”

With a couple of giant steps he leapt from Firle Beacon to Windover Hill and was at his friend’s side. Windover was lying motionless on the hillside. The boulder had cracked his skull. His chest did not rise and fall.

Firle began to weep, he had killed his only friend and his heart was broken. He began walking to the North and was never seen in Sussex again.

In memory of the dead giant the villagers drew a line around his body. You can see the outline of the giant, The Long Man as he is known, to this day a reminder that anger must never overcome love.WindoverHillGiantTheBigForestBlog

Next on TheBigForest blog:

In our next instalment of the Puppet Challenge we explain how we researched puppet forms, how it’s scientifically proven that copious quantities of tea and cake  help the creative process and we began making Firle the giant.

About TheBigForest

TheBigForest. A silly artist maker creating in felt and paper construction. Like us on Facebook: TheBigForest. Find us at Twitter : twitter/TheBigForestuk


  1. I really enjoyed reading this story – can’t wait to see what Firle looks like!! I also like your Christmas ornaments and I wonder why they have the open mouth and the tongue – I live in Canada and so I thought there must be some English/British character that I don’t know about. I was led to your page by the Rainbow that you made for Marne Makes (hope I remembered her name correctly – brilliant artist that I follow).

    perry94022 at hotmail dot com

    • Thanks for dropping by Pauline. The sticking out tongue is kawaii inspired and we use it in a very small amount of our work just for fun. Do have a look at our other work on the blog! So glad you like the rainbow too 🙂

  2. This is pretty amazing! I love the story, even though it is sad–it has an important lesson. I’ll be looking for future installments!

    • Just posted the next installment Kerry. It is a sad story but not bleak like some of the folk stories. Lets hope the giant learnt, found the joys of life again and met a new friend up north.

  3. Susan Bruce

    Love it ! Cant wait to see it .

    • All will be revealled – but a bit more about process first. We have been asked not to show the finished work until the Puppet Challenge ends (I think we may get there slightly before the end of month to be honest).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: