Yours curiously.....crocs and sausages
Posted on November 23, 2007 by glyn
Just before this blog was launched the Worldwide Friends of P&J website had a query from a journalist who signed off 'Yours curiously'. If that's not a great title for an embryonic FAQ archive I don't know what is. The query was about the crocodile and the sausages. It ran as as follows "Hi guys, I am researching the Punch and Judy phenomenon for a magazine article, and one issue keeps nagging away at me. Perhaps you can help? I have noticed that a crocodile features prominently in many P&J performances - often with a string of sausages. What is the significance of the crocodile? Surely an indigenous predator known to early performers would have been more appropriate/recognisable? Or perhaps the crocodile replaced an existing character? And also, why a string of sausages(!)? I've never seen a crocodile eat sausages? Was it once a dog, I wonder? If you can shed some light on this for me, I would be extremely grateful! Yours curiously.........."

Well, I replied in haste and suggested we could make it a blog posting so that others could, over time, turn my grit of knowledge into a pearl of wisdom. As I understand it the answer runs thus.

"The 'source' of the crocodile - appearing in the show only from the late 1800s - is oft debated. 'Punch Polichinelle and Pulcinella' the
new book (2007) by Michael Byrom - Punch historian of repute - places it as a 19th French import until proved otherwise. In England it looked like St. George's dragon which had a long folk pedigree of its own and thus aroused no unusual comment. As a 'snapping' puppet it has a unique practical contribution to make amongst a cast of upright hand puppets and is thus hugely useful to vary the performance. In Italy it is the dog puppet in 'Pulcinella' that is constructed this way (i.e. it looks to us Brits like a brown furry crocodile) and fulfills the same function of having snapping jaws for Punch/Pulcinella to play with.

Sausages are easier to explain. They came with Joey the Clown (Joey Grimaldi) from the harlequinade/pantomimes of the 1820s. Joey would often have a scene filching goods from shopkeepers - an act which initiated a chase sequence. (Acrobatic chase sequences lived on to make it into the movies and become a classic scenario.) Drawings of Grimaldi in costume often showed him with sausages peeking out from his pocket. They are also a very naive 'Carry On'/Music Hall double entendre phallic sight gag. (The crocodile can - of course - swallow props and thus a tug of war involving sausages was a scene waiting to happen!!!) All the ducking, diving, hiding and popping up and down that takes place in a fast and furious Punch and Judy Show are clear descendants of this style of popular traditional theatre. (It's also the tradition which the slapstick comes from of course).


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