History of Stilt Walkers

Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban & Other
History of Stilt Walkers


History of Stilt Walkers. Information and definitions via the web:

Nowadays stilts are most commonly synonymous with festivals and clowns. In some regions, this is only the most recent evolution of stilt walkers. In others, it has been used in this way as far back as the histories allow. Stilts are effectively poles that people walk on, increasing their height.

The legends and stories of walking in this way have come from all across the world for a variety of reasons. In many old tribal cultures, they were used in rites of passage or in celebratory dances. The most well-known histories, though, come from China and France.

In certain areas, French men drove their sheep while walking on sticks. They tied these wooden sticks to their legs in three different places. The sticks were flat at the top, but broadened at the bottom to make walking easier. These men became accustomed to walking this way because the lands they lived in were too unruly to traverse normally. At certain times of the year, the lands even absorbed a great deal of moisture, making travelling even harder. This form of walking was therefore not unusual in these areas. This was during the 1870s.

They had become so used to this way of moving that their speed and dexterity were remarkable. Interestingly, the dangers of falling from those heights were not a big problem for them, either. This is because they had learned to walk in this fashion since they were children. Their agility was such that they were able to perform acrobatic feats, such as picking things up off the ground.

Stilt races became commonplace after that. The very use of stilts had become natural in these areas. There is even a remarkable story of a man who travelled for nearly two months in stilts.

In China, this unusual form of moving about has been a part of their history for thousands of years. There is also an area in China that required the use higher stepping due to the surrounding wetlands. However, they have always been used for entertainment purposes as well. In parades, those using them would be dressed in colourful costumes or as legendary characters. One famous attraction in ancient times there, though, was the dragon on wooden legs, where several men would dance and move about in unison under the costume.

Whether people have done so for travelling, entertainment, or painting high sections of walls, stilt walkers are an already ancient part world history. It carries on today for many of the same reasons that it did before, with only minor changes made to the instruments used.

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