Table of Contents - Volume 4, number 4 (December 1999) - 24 pages
Simple figures are often the most effective. This fun-filled figure is wonderfully realistic and very easy to make.
To work the zipper, a friend pulls down on the tab.
In October a perfectly-preserved woolly mammoth was recovered from the frozen tundra of eastern Siberia. Scientists claim the carcass is over 10,000 years old!
Did Eskimos invent this string figure centuries ago when mammoths still roamed the earth? Or does it merely commemorate frozen remains they found in the icy ground of their adopted homeland? It's hard to say.
Regardless of its true age, 'Mammoth' is a magnificent string figure.
The people of Kiribati, living just west of the international date line in the central Pacific, will be among the first inhabitants of planet earth to welcome the new millennium as the clock strikes twelve on December 31.
Shortly after midnight, a crescent-shaped moon will rise above their eastern horizon -- the first moon of the century. This enchanting string figure is a vivid portrayal of what they will see.
String figures that incorporate additional items, like metal rings or wooden sticks are exceedingly rare. Here's a fine example from Papua New Guinea.
Anableps tetrophthalmus, the four-eyed fish, inhabits the rivers of Mexico and northern South America. Actually, it has only two eyes, but each is divided in half horizontally, and each "half-eye" has its own optical system and focal length. As a result, this remarkable fish can see above and below the water at the same time! This greatly increases its chance of finding food and avoiding predators.
In this amusing three-dimensional string figure, small loops represent the eyes. The loops project upward, above the near and far frame lines that represent the surface of the water.
Inspan is a verb meaning "to yoke or harness an animal (usually an ox) to a wagon." The term was popularized by 19th century South African colonists, who often hauled enormous loads using eighteen or more oxen harnessed to a single wagon. In the morning the oxen were inspanned, and at night they were outspanned (freed from their harnesses and allowed to graze).
Oxen were most often inspanned in pairs, giving rise to two long rows of animals in front of each wagon. Each pair of oxen shared a single yoke (a yoke is a wooden pole or frame that rests on the back of the animal's neck).
In this novel string figure from Bechuanaland (now Botswana) two rows of interlocking loops represent the two rows of oxen. The parallel bars that run down the center represent the yokes.
This figure is most often made by two players -- to display it two feet and three hands are required. But it's also possible for one player to display the design, as shown in the photograph published by Miss Wedgwood.
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