The idea of using string to animate toys can be found in Egyptian animals dating back to 1100 BC.
String puppets with advanced mechanisms have been used as a source of entertainment for adults in China for centuries.
The common designs of the Victorian period depict a soldier or clown, the little owl is based on a toy of Russian origin. Eventually they became frowned upon by the authorities because the political cartoonists of the time used them to publicly criticise government.
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