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Puppet Permutation

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What... exactly does that feel like?
"I do not have puppet cancer!"
Puppet Angel, Angel

Sometimes, something strange happens. A person changes into a living puppet. They sometimes can control themselves, but this is usually not the case. These puppets are often controlled by outside forces. Whether by an Eldritch Abomination or a random person who finds the cross, living puppets frequently lose control of their own actions.

It is possible for a living puppet to have full control of themself. This frequently is the case when puppets are used in a short Art Shift or the transformation is otherwise not essential to the plot.

This is commonly the work of an Evil Puppeteer, turning innocent people into puppets to use at his leisure. This can also happen when entering a Fisher Kingdom themed around Puppet Shows.

This transformation can last from a couple second to being eternal.

This is almost always a Forced Transformation because not many people want to be controlled. Compare to Demonic Dummy or People Puppets. Subtrope to Toy Transmutation.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • This is the ability of the Doll Devil in Chainsaw Man, harnessed by an old man from Germany codenamed Santa Claus. By activating the power and physically touching someone, Santa can turn that person into a marionette-like doll, after which he can mentally control their movements as he pleases and that person is effectively deceased. Humans who touch a doll become a doll too. Since the only way to stop a doll is to put them down, and Santa prefers crowded urban areas where people are constantly bumping into each other, civilian body counts get very high when he's on the attack. Luckily, Fiends and Hybrids like Power and Denji are immune. It turns out Tolka's master, the "real" Santa Claus, has had parts of her body replaced with the puppets' heads, either because of her contract or the compensate for it. When she wants to fight directly, she can turn basically everything but her head into a large puppet by combining further.
  • Anya of Karin is fond of taking people's souls and sticking them into dolls. Near the end of the manga she binds her grandfather's soul so that they can figure out what the hell is going on.
  • In Kyo Kara Maoh!, using the Wincott poison will move the person's soul into a doll and allow their body to be used at will by the Wincott family, and it will only end when the Wincott family agrees.
  • In Naruto Shippuden, Akatsuki member Sasori created puppets out of human corpses, and later turned himself into a living puppet.
  • In Melody of Oblivion this is one of the various things that happen to normal people that see a monster. The other examples are turning into statues or ape-men. Each particular monster seems to have a particular effect.
  • Pokémon: The Series:
  • Happens to Akane in Ranma ˝, both in the OVA "Ranma, Look at Me" and in the ending of the Manga.
  • In Soul Eater, during the Operation Capture Baba Yaga Castle Arc, Arachne uses her abilities to make Soul, Maka and Medusa hallucinate that they have become puppets.
  • Happens in the second Vampire Princess Miyu OAV, where the Shinma Miyu has to fight is an Uncanny Valley Girl who transforms the students of a prestigious Kyoto private school into mannequins. And falls in love with one of them, so to prevent the Star-Crossed Lovers situation, she turns him into a Shinma. At the guy's request, because he falls for her as well even after finding out who she truly is.

    Comic Books 
  • The Flash #133, a classic Silver Age Flash story where Abra Kadabra turns the Flash into a marionette.
  • EC Comics: In "Strung Along" in The Vault of Horror #33, a dying puppeteer's marionettes come to life and turn his greedy wife into a puppet in a more gruesome and literal manner than most stories of this variety.
  • Zatanna (2010): Zee's father Zatara once transformed the Serial Killer Hamsel into a marionette. Decades later, Hamsel took vengeance by turning Zatanna into a marionette: a form in which she was trapped for several months.

    Film — Animated 

    Film — Live Action 
  • In Dead Silence, Mary Shaw's final wish was to have her own corpse turned into a ventriloquist doll. Also, while she was alive, she killed a young boy, Michael Ashen, and turned him into a puppet. Later, in the film's Twist Ending, it is revealed that Edward Ashen has been Dead All Along and also became part of Shaw's doll collection, and the very end of the film shows that Jamie, Lisa, Henry and Lipton are now part of her collection.
  • The antagonistic father in the film Dolls (1987) gets transformed into a Mr Punch puppet near the end of the film after he destroys the good Mr Punch doll that was protecting his daughter.
  • Slappy in Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween, perhaps in homage to the TV episode described below, does this to Sonny and Sarah's mom.
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (2005) had a moment where the Infinite Improbability Drive turned the characters into yarn puppets, due to the ship being a giant ball of yarn (complete with knitting needles). Arthur vomits yarn just as normality is reached, and his normal self is shown pulling yarn out of his mouth.
  • The plot behind Curse of the Puppet Master. They managed to do it in the end.
  • In The Theatre Bizarre, Enola Penny is intrigued by an abandoned theatre in her neighborhood. One night the theatre door mysteriously opens and she enters. A puppet host named Peg Poett introduces six short films. As each is shown, the host becomes more human and Enola becomes more puppet-like. And the end of the show, Peg places the now fully puppet Enola in a trunk and closes the lid.
  • The Big Bad of Tourist Trap has the power of turning his victims into mannequins that he can control.
  • More of a symbolic example than a literal one, but the film adaptation of The Wall has Pink's Sadist Teacher being portrayed as a scrawny marionette controlled by a monstrous and hideous-looking woman, meant to represent the teacher's wife. In a particularly fascinating piece of symbolism, there's a scene in the film wherein the teacher's wife is shown beating the puppet version of the teacher with a cane, and the teacher himself is beating a doll (meant to represent young!Pink) with a smaller cane.

  • In the Thomas Ligotti story "Dr. Voke and Mr. Veech", Dr. Voke looks to his friend Mr. Veech for revenge on his unfaithful wife and best friend, although he doesn't know the details. When he brings them to the location Veech has specified, he sees them dangling from strings and turning to wood.
  • In The Magicians of Caprona by Diana Wynne Jones, the villain at one point turns Tonino and Angelica into puppets and makes them act out a Punch and Judy show.
  • In the gamebook, Howl of the Werewolf. A fate worse than turning to a werewolf is getting attacked by an insane puppetmaster's creations and, after failing to escape in time, have the master throwing his puppet dust on you and adding you as his collection.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the 30 Rock episode "Apollo, Apollo", it is revealed that Kenneth sees everyone as singing puppets. Authentic Whatnot Muppets, no less. And Liz Lemon really walks like one.
  • The above quote comes from "Smile Time" an episode of Angel where the titular character is turned into a puppet. Within the episode, he fights other, demonic puppets. It also contains the line "You're a wee little puppet man!" from Spike. May or may not be a hint that he's being turned into a metaphorical puppet.
    Angel: I'm made of felt...and by dose comes off!
    • Spike later gets the same treatment in the comic Spike: Shadow Puppets when he travels to Japan where Smile Time is still popular.
  • Doom Patrol (2019): During the Eternal Flagellation, Jane and other main personalities are turned into Sesame Street-esque puppets in Kay’s subconscious. Even after being dragged back to reality, Jane is stuck in her puppet body until the Flagellation ends.
  • In Goosebumps, Slappy turns Zane into a dummy during the adaptation of Night of the Living Dummy III. This did not happen in the book, however.
  • One episode of Home Improvement had a Dream Sequence where the cast become Rankin/Bass Productions-style stop-motion puppets. Hilarity Ensues. Especially since Tim ends up Losing His Head.
    Oh no!
  • In the Legends of Tomorrow episode "Legends of To-Meow-Meow", one of the alternate timelines Charlie and Constantine accidentally create is one where Mick left the team, joined forces with the fairy godmother, and called the Legends "puppets of the Time Bureau", which the godmother then literalised. For some reason, turning into felt puppets also makes the characters act like they're in a pre-school edutainment series.
    • Happens again in the season 5 episode “Mr. Parker’s Cul-De-Sac”, when the team is briefly trapped inside a Mister Rogers' Neighborhood Expy and Ava and Sara are transformed into puppets for the show.
  • At the end of The Middleman episode "The Vampiric Puppet Lamentation," both the Middleman and Lacey are (briefly) turned into puppets.
  • The Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode "Prince of Space" sends the Satellite of Love through a wormhole that temporarily replaces Mike with an Alternate Universe robot/puppet Mike.
  • The Stargate SG-1 episode "200" features a five-minute Imagine Spot mash-up of the series pilot and the original Stargate movie, as cast with marionettes.


    Video Games 

    Web Animation 

  • Childlike and sociopathic Ilharess Kharla'ggen from Drowtales has a hobby of turning people that take her fancy into dolls. Though she has demonstrated an ability to do this entirely by magic, her favourite method is to physically cut out the bones from her victims' arms and legs, pull out their eyes and tongue, decorate them cutely, and leave them like that. Being elves, they can theoretically live indefinitely as long as they are fed, making this example of the trope seriously creepy.
  • A prominent character in The Forgotten Order, has been cursed into a form of a doll that must do the bidding of witches and wizards.
  • During one magician's duel in The Wotch, a character gets turned into a marionette.

    Western Animation  
  • The Amazing World of Gumball: In "The Puppets", Gumball turns into a puppet while journeying into the world of his and Darwin's childhood imagination to save Darwin from some childhood toys gone rogue.
  • This is the entire premise of Atomic Puppet. The superhero Captain Atomic has been transformed into a sock puppet by his ex-sidekick Mookie; he can still walk and talk, but he can only use his superpowers by teaming up with Joey to become Atomic Puppet.
  • Chowder has vignettes during its credits with the characters as puppets.
  • Courage the Cowardly Dog: In "The Great Fusilli", the titular villain turns his victims, including Eustace and Muriel into marionettes, and gets defeated when he turns into one himself by Courage. Disturbingly, Eustace and Muriel don't change back at the end, and Courage controls them to live like they usually do.
  • Disenchantment: After their plot to take over Dreamland in season 4 failed, Clloyd and Becky willingly transform themselves into living puppets to escape. They remain this way afterwards, but it comes back to bite them in season 5 when Dagmar and Bad Bean toss them into the fireplace, burning them alive.
  • In the Fanboy and Chum Chum episode "Strings Attached", Fanboy is turned into a wooden puppet as punishment for his bad behavior. However, he ends up liking it so much that he tries to make the change permanent by doing a good deed.
  • Cosmo, Wanda, Timmy, and Vicky in Channel Chasers when they hop into a parody of Sesame Street. They were accompanied by Timmy from the dystopian future. Cosmo even express how he feels about that sudden change.
    Cosmo: I've never felt more alive. Get it? Felt?
  • Jackie Chan Adventures has a couple episodes involving the Monkey King, an evil magical puppet who comes to life when someone pulls the puppet's leg, turning the one who was pulling his leg into a puppet themselves. When this happens to Jackie, he's revived using the Rat Talisman—but he's still a puppet. That trait ends up saving him more than once in that episode; to quote Jade, "Let's hear it for detachable parts."
  • The Owl House: This happens to virtually the entire population of The Boiling Isles in the second part of the finale, with them completely under The Collector's control.
  • An episode of Teen Titans (2003) had the Villain of the Week called The Puppet King, who cast a spell to put the Titans' souls into puppet facsimiles. The boys are all captured this way; Raven manages to cast a counter-spell while she and Starfire are being attacked, which lets them escape but results in them accidentally switching bodies (and thus, powers).


Video Example(s):


The Great Fusilli

The Great Fusilli turns his performers into puppets using his magic stage.

How well does it match the trope?

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Example of:

Main / PuppetPermutation

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