From what I learned by reading and by talking with Punch puppeteers in England when I first learned the show, the Crocodile character was developed in the late 19th century as an alternative to (or perhaps an incarnation of) the Devil. I've also been told it's Judy reincarnated. In any case, the Crocodile's role is to avenge the deaths of everyone Punch has killed; he's Punch's comeuppance for his evil ways. Punch is generally eaten, or at least bitten by the Crocodile. Whether Punch survives the encounter is the prerogative of the puppeteer. In our show, Punch is swallowed by the Croc, but the Croc spits him back out because (as she says to Punch) "Of all the unsavory fellows I've ever et, you are the most distasteful!"
I've always found it interesting that it's a Crocodile and not some other animal (never an Alligator) that preys on Punch. Probably has something to do with the Victorian love of zoos, and the lack of significant native predators in England.
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