Emily Adair
The La Grande Observer

A hunched, hideous goblin has taken up residence in La Grande’s Maridell Center. The mythical creature, a kobold, is an underground spirit that specializes in trickery and can constantly be heard by miners. Fortunately for La Grande residents, this begging, staff-stamping kobold is merely a kinetic puppet.

Sarah Anderson, a recent Eastern Oregon University graduate, created the kobold because she loves storytelling.

“I always want (my puppets) to tell a story,” Anderson said. “I’d like them to interact with the public.”

In this case, the kobold is a full-body puppet. The hunched creature is carrying a large load on its back, which allows for Anderson to hide inside and control her creation. The kobold’s left arm holds a beggar’s jar with a single coin. The right arm holds a staff, which can be pounded on the floor as a speechless
demand. The entire contraption is mounted on wheels for repositioning.

“There are a few types of kobolds. The most common ones are seafaring, house kobolds and mining spirits,” Anderson said. “I based this off of the mining type because they’re a bit more like tricksters.”

Anderson said her creations tend to come to life with their own personalities. This one, for instance, was a bit “ornery” as she was creating it, matching a kobold’s impish nature.

The 2012 La Grande High School graduate said she got interested in puppeteering and especially creation of puppets while studying art at EOU. She bounced from medium to medium until she found a type of artwork she wanted to spend her life doing.

“I was interested in 3D sculpture, especially bone art, but we were doing projects that didn’t move,” she said. “I wanted them to be kinetic.”

Anderson said she’s still learning from the artistic process.

“There’s a lot of things I would do differently if I made another puppet like this,” Anderson said about the kobold. “I made it out of PVC pipe so it would be lighter, but the legs bow a bit. The casters I originally used wouldn’t roll, so I put bigger ones on.”

Anderson said much of her techniques are self-taught, based on YouTube tutorials. She said she has used several Cosplay tutorials — videos used to help people design costumes and props to dress as their favorite characters — and adapted them to fit her puppetry needs.

Like the kobold, Anderson’s other projects have been heavily influenced by mythology and Germanic fairy tales. In fact, when Maridell Center Co-owner Jeri Mackley saw Anderson’s puppets, she knew they had to be part of this year’s twisted fairy tales haunted house.

“It was just too perfect,” Mackley said.

Anderson works at the center and happily donated the kobold to the month-long Halloween event. She also provided her massive wendigo creature, historically believed to be an evil, cannibalistic spirit. The puppet, like so many of Anderson’s other passion projects, features actual animal bone.

Additionally, Mackley commissioned an original smoke-breathing dragon for the fairy tale Night Fright event. The dragon, created with wire and paper mache, has been maneuvered during the haunted house to block participants’ paths.

Anderson hopes to continue making puppets as a source of income, taking pride in her original characters and storytelling. Her puppets can be seen during the Night Fright Haunted House at the Maridell Center from
7 p.m. to 10 p.m. Oct. 27, 28, 30 and 31. There’s also a trick-or-treat event for young children and people who want to look at the decorations without being scared from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. Oct. 28.