Volume 45 1936 > Memoirs > No. 13 String-figures from the Gilbert Islands, by H. C. & H. E. Maude, p 1-40
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Memoir No. 13
Supplement to the Journal of the Polynesian Society
STRING-FIGURES From the Gilbert Islands.

INSTALMENT No. 1

Pages 1—16

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STRING-FIGURES FROM THE GILBERT ISLANDS.
INTRODUCTION.

A PART from the undoubted fascination which the game possesses for its devotees, it is by now generally accepted that the collecting and recording of string-figures is of definite value to ethnologists, and especially to those engaged in the study of cultural relationships. While a glance at the bibliography contained in Kathleen Haddon's latest book 1 will show the extraordinary progress that has been made during recent years in the recording of the string-figures of the Pacific Islands, yet the full ethnological value cannot be obtained from these studies as long as there are still any important groups in the area whose figures remain unrecorded. Hence no apology is needed for this attempt to fill up what is, perhaps, the most notable gap now remaining.

Even a cursory acquaintanceship with the Gilbertese must reveal the exceptional extent to which they are addicted to the making of cats-cradles. Like their other games, string-figures will suddenly, and for no ascertainable reason, become the fashion on an island, and young and old may be seen sitting in the communal meeting-house or in their homes weaving intricate designs with a speed and dexterity which shows their long familiarity with the art.

While the impact of western culture has apparently in no way lessened the popularity of string-figures, except on Banaba, where the art is almost lost, it is fast becoming merely a pastime, and is being rapidly shorn, by the influence of Christianity, of the magico-religious significance which it at one time possessed. The game is probably - 2 still as popular as ever, but with the widening of their horizon the Gilbertese are re-naming many of their old figures and seeing in them fancied resemblances to objects previously unknown to their culture.

In spite of the popularity of the pastime there are but three references to Gilbertese cats-cradles in printed literature, two of these being in works dealing with the figures of other groups:

1. Hornell, in his book on the string-figures of Fiji and Western Polynesia, 2 gives three figures learnt from a Gilbertese in Samoa. The “Unnamed Figure” there given is clearly Na Umake and the figure “Teuila” is Na Ubwebwe itself. The final figure is the widely spread Te Taba. It is curious that the Gilbertese mentioned by Hornell was unable to give the names of the first two figures, as they are known by name to virtually every man, woman, and child in all the sixteen islands. In particular, as will be seen later, it is essential for one to be able to recognize Na Ubwebwe by name in order to enter the afterworld. Hornell is right in his assumption that Te Taba is also known in the Ellice islands; it is there called Tafa.

2. Dickey's work on Hawaiian String Figures 3 contains a figure, “Four Eyes,” which is once again the basic Na Ubwebwe, leading on to one of the figures of the sequence Te Taba, called by Dickey “Three Eyes.” While the method of commencing Te Taba, by first making Na Ubwebwe is well known to the Gilbertese, we have never heard the names “Three Eyes” or “Four Eyes” given to the resulting figures.

3. Grimble, in his article on Gilbertese Astronomy, 4 gives an exhaustive description of the figure Taai and its ritual significance, on which the account given in this work is based.

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The generic name for string-figures in the Northern Gilberts is wau, while in the Southern islands it is tai (cf. Mangaian ai, Tongan fai, Maori whai, etc.). The former is probably a purely Gilbertese term and is the only one given in Bingham, 5 while the latter is very likely a Polynesian word which has crept up through the Ellice islands.

Whilst the general method of making a cats-cradle is referred to as karika-na (its creation), repeated questioning has failed to elicit any native terms for the commoner movements involved in the construction of the figures, though each of the fingers has a special name; tabotabo being the index finger, kiremkirem the middle finger, tongabiri the ring finger, ukirere the little finger, and ukinaba the thumb. At the end of many of their figures the Gilbertese often make a further variation, sometimes more and sometimes less complicated, this being known as the rabata-na, maniba-na, or kaomata-na of the figure.

As will be noticed in the succeeding pages, a large number of the Gilbertese figures represent maniba or wells in some form or other. As the Gilberts are low coral atolls the sole normal water-supply is obtained from shallow wells dug in the coral-sand and rising and falling with the tides. Owing to the severe periodical droughts which the majority of the islands suffer from these wells have acquired a great importance in the life of the natives and have gradually become symbolical of beauty and fruitfulness. Hence a Gilbertese, on being shown any new figure of the common diamond-pattern, will usually see in it a representation of his all-important wells.

In order to reduce the figures given in the succeeding pages into manageable groups, we have divided them into seven classes, as follows, our classification being based on that adopted by Mrs. Handy in her work on Marquesan string-figures 6:

  • Class A—Figures with magico-religious significance.
  • Class B—Figures which are stationary and of fixed design.
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  • Class C—Figures which progress from pattern to pattern.
  • Class D—Three-dimensioned figures.
  • Class E—Figures which slide back and forth with the pulling or pressing of a string.
  • Class F—Figures which are made by two persons.
  • Class G—Catches, trick-figures, and string games.

At the end of the work will be found a table showing the distribution of the figures in other areas and an analysis of the objects represented.

We should like to tender our grateful thanks to Mr. A. F. Grimble for his kindness in allowing us to use his valuable material on the magico-religious significance of Gilbertese string-figures and also for giving us his manuscript collection of figures; without his aid the Class A figures could never have been adequately dealt with. Specific acknowledgments appear in the text whenever we have utilized his material. To the Bernice P. Bishop Museum we also owe a debt of gratitude for their generosity in presenting us with copies of the valuable works on string-figures published under their auspices.

NOMENCLATURE.

In common with most other writers we have, when describing the methods involved in constructing the figures, employed the anatomical terminology devised by Haddon and Rivers. 7 We give below a description of the terms used, in the concise words of Rouse Ball, 8 to whose excellent work the reader in search of an introduction to the study of string-figures is referred:

1. PALMAR AND DORSAL—The part of a string which lies across the palm of a hand is described as palmar, the part lying across the back of the hand as dorsal.

2. RADIAL AND ULNAR—Anything on the thumb side of the hand is called radial, anything on the little finger side is called ulnar. Since a string passing round a finger - 5 or fingers forms a loop, each such loop is composed of a radial string and an ulnar string.

3. PROXIMAL AND DISTAL—Of two strings or loops on the same finger, the one nearer the palm of the hand is called proximal, the one nearer the finger tip is called distal. Furthermore, a loop may be entered or a string picked up either from the proximal side (or underneath) or from the distal side (or above).

Readers who prefer the simpler nomenclature used by Jayne 9 and Andersen 10 can substitute near and far, below and above for radial and ulnar, proximal and distal, as long as the figure is held horizontally. 11

4. POSITION 1—The tips of the thumbs and little fingers of each hand are put together, and then from below into the loop of string; next the digits are separated, and the hands drawn apart.

5. OPENING A OR B—Position 1. The palmar loop on each hand is picked up by the back of the index finger of the other hand. In Opening A the left palmar string is taken up by the right index before the right palmar string is taken up by the left index. In Opening B the right palmar string is taken up before the left palmar string.

6. NAVAHOING—When there are two loops on a digit, one proximal and the other distal, and you are required to pull the proximal loop over the distal one, then over the tip of the finger and finally drop it on the palmar side of the hand, the movement is known as “navahoing the loop.”

7. NAVAHO OPENING—The string is placed in the form of a figure of eight, one oval (preferably small) lying away from the performer and the other toward him, with the strings crossing in the middle of the figure. Place the - 6 indices in the far oval and the thumbs in the near oval from the distal side. Separate the hands and then turn them up into their normal position with the thumbs and fingers well spread out, thus causing the strings of the loops on the thumbs and index fingers to cross one another.

8. CAROLINE EXTENSION—This is by far the most common method of extending the figure utilized by the Gilbertese. With the back of the tip of each index finger pick up, from below, the far thumb string, with the thumb press the part of this string now on the near side of the index finger against it, and turn the palms away from you.

Besides these well-known terms, to avoid constant repetition when recording the figures we have given names to an opening and two movements, which are employed with great frequency by the Gilbertese and which contain certain distinctive and peculiar features. Although these figures are described in full whenever they occur, we give below a description of each in order to facilitate their comparison with the more common movements of other areas. They are also bracketed in the text in order that anyone who learns the movements may be able to perform them without the necessity of re-reading the bracketed part.

9. THE MOUTH-LOOP OPENING—Whenever the term mouth-loop is used in the text all that is meant is that, to commence the construction, the loop is simply hung from the mouth. The Mouth-loop Opening, however, as found in many Gilbertese figures, goes further than this and is as follows:

  • 1. Mouth-loop.
  • 2. Insert right hand toward you into mouth-loop; pass it to left between your body and the left mouth-string; pick up this string on the back of right wrist and return to right, so that what is now the right dorsal string crosses the right mouth-string close to the mouth.
  • 3. Pass left hand between your body and the right mouth-string, return to left with string on back of left wrist.
  • 4. There are now two loops, one small mouth-loop and one larger one below it; insert little fingers toward
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  • you into the mouth-loop, release string from mouth and extend.

10. THE GILBERTESE EXTENSION—

  • 1. With the middle finger of the right hand push the radial index string, from distal side, through the thumb loops and hold between the teeth. Pass the ulnar index string distal to thumb loops and also hold between the teeth; release index finger.
  • 2. Transfer right thumb loops to right little finger and insert the thumb, from below, into the mouth loop and pick up right mouth strings on its back; release strings from mouth and extend.
  • 3. Perform 1 and 2 with the left hand.
  • 4. Insert indices, from distal side, into little finger loops and pick up radial little finger strings after they have passed through loop.
  • 5. Extend by turning palms away from you and releasing thumbs.

11. THE GILBERTESE MOVEMENT—

  • 1. Pass the four fingers of each hand distal to index and thumb loops and insert them, from distal side, into the proximal thumb loops. Pick up on their backs the proximal radial thumb strings and release thumbs from proximal loops.
  • 2. Insert thumbs, from proximal side, into the loops over the four fingers of each hand. Transfer these loops to thumbs.
  • 3. Repeat 1 and 2.

12. THE BANABAN MOVEMENT—

  • 1. Insert thumbs, from distal side, into index loops and hook down radial index strings.
  • 2. Insert indices, from distal side, into little finger loops, hook up radial little finger strings and ulnar index strings, then still pointing down, bring toward you distal to all remaining strings, hook up radial thumb strings and straighten indices.
  • 3. Pass thumbs proximal to ulnar little finger strings, hook them up on back of thumbs and return proximal to all strings; release little fingers.
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The string used should be smooth and flexible, about 9 feet long and knotted, or better still spliced, so as to make it into a closed loop.

IMPORTANT—To unravel the great majority of figures, take the top and bottom straight strings of the figure midway between the hands and pull apart. The string will then resolve itself into the simple closed loop with which you commenced operations.

CLASS A. FIGURES WITH MAGICO-RELIGIOUS SIGNIFICANCE.

In this section we are, as already stated, indebted to Mr. A. F. Grimble, for allowing us to utilize his notes on the subject. For years Mr. Grimble has been making a special study of Gilbertese religious and magical observances. Each of his manuscript notes which we have utilized is specifically acknowledged.

1. THE LIFTING OF THE HEAVENS.

For some time it has been known that at the beginning of the world, when the heavens were being lifted from the earth, Na Ubwebwe himself stood up and, as the heavens gradually ascended, performed a series of string-figures. While the story of the lifting of the heavens is fairly well known throughout the Gilberts, our repeated questions failed to elicit the names of the actual figures constructed at the time, until on Banaba we were fortunate enough to learn from the lips of Nei Tearia, an old and much-respected lady steeped in the lore and traditions of her forefathers, the following list, which her mother had told her were the actual ones made by Na Ubwebwe whilst the heavens were being raised:

  • 1. Na Ubwebwe 1 (a). 12
  • 2. Kani Bikou 2 (d).
  • 3. Kan Tie 2 (f).
  • 4. Karere Wenei 3.
  • 5. Na Umake 4 (a).
  • 6. Kani Matu 4 (b).
  • 7. Kan Rairake 4 (c).
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  • 8. Kani Mumun 5.
  • 9. Te Itu ma te Kaeko 6.
  • 10. Tabonibai ni Kan-io 7.
  • 11. Te Wao Ba-ni (not known).

Unfortunately we mislaid shortly afterward the method by which Nei Tearia constructed Te Wao Ba-ni and, on going to her house to obtain it once more, we learnt of her death the day before. So far we have been unable to discover anyone else who remembers the construction of Te Wao Ba-ni, with its sequel Te Wao Tangaroa, though many remember the name; nor can we recollect how we used to make it ourselves.

The semi-deified Na Ubwebwe is essentially the father of string-figures. He constructed them at the beginning of the world, and, as we shall see later, insists on a certain knowledge of string-figures from all who would enter the after-world. While, however, Na Ubwebwe is, in Gilbertese myth, invariably connected with the making of string-figures, Na Areau the Second, usually known as Na Areau the Trickster, was also an adept at making cats-cradles and in particular, string-catches and tricks.

2. THE “TABE ATU” CEREMONY.

“On the death of a Gilbertese, as part of the ceremony of tabe atu (the lifting of the head), there were performed beside the corpse the following string-figures, by an individual known as ‘the straightener of the path’:

  • 1. Na Ubwebwe and its sequences 1 (a) to 1 (h) or 2 (a) to 2 (f).
  • 2. Na Umake 4 (a).
  • 3. Tangi ni Wenei 8.
  • 4. Kani Mumun 5.
  • 5. Kabane Bai 1 (c) or 2 (b).” 13
3. THE ROAD TO THE AFTER-WORLD.

“Shortly after the death of a Gilbert Islander, his spirit passes north along the line of atolls until it reaches the northernmost island of Makin. From thence it speeds west to the lands of the departed ancestors, Neineaba and - 10 Bouru. On the way it meets with Nei Karamakuna (a woman with the beak of a bird), who pecks out his tattoo marks or, should he not be tattooed, his eyes; and as a blind spirit has but little chance of finding his way any further, the majority of Gilbertese take the precaution of tattooing themselves.

“Shortly afterward the spirit meets Na Ubwebwe, who makes the series starting with Na Ubwebwe and known as Te Wau or, in the Southern Gilberts, Taiani Tai, 1 (a) to 1 (h), 14 with him. The spirit must go through the whole series with him until the figure known as Na Ubwebwe comes back again. If he does this without fault, he can pass on, but should he fail he is caught and entangled in the string.” 15

Whilst we have not so far been able to ascertain whether it was the sequence for two persons, as performed on the road to the after-world, which was constructed during the tabe atu ceremony at death, or the sequence for one player as made by Na Ubwebwe at the raising of the heavens, yet there can be little doubt that the figure Na Ubwebwe is made as part of the rites de passage connected with death in order that the spirit may be familiar with it when he will be obliged later on to construct it with Na Ubwebwe himself. This conclusion is immensely strengthened by the significant title of “straightener of the path” borne by the performer at the tabe atu ceremony, for he indeed straightens the path of the departing spirit by enabling him successfully to pass Na Ubwebwe.

4. THE FIGURE “TAAI” OR “NAMAKAINA” (THE SUN OR MOON) 9.

We cannot do better than quote, in this connection, from Mr. Grimble's article on “Gilbertese Astronomy and Astronomical Observances,” 16 where the connection between a magico-religious ceremonial and this well-known string-figure is fully dealt with:

“A Gilbertese tradition, which belongs rather to the folklore than to the mythology of the race, asserts that the sun finds a certain difficulty every evening in accomplishing his setting; it is - 11 said that he feels afraid, although nobody seems to know the reason of his fear. To help him to sink in peace below the western horizon is a popular pastime among children throughout the sixteen islands of the Group. To this end, the youngsters, boys and girls together, collect on a western beach in the evening, while still the sun is a few degrees above the horizon, and all together repeat the following words as loud as they can:
Tiroron, tiroron! Taroron, taroron!
Roll, roll! Roll, roll!
E Kakana Kere n Nei Kamakonekone.
He eats genitals of Nei Kamakonokone.
Non!
Non!
I do not understand the significance of these words; it has long been lost to the native folk. There is but a vague belief left, that somehow the chant encourages the sun to plunge into the darkness below the western horizon. With this object it is repeated unceasingly until the last of the disc has disappeared from view. While saying the formula, the children usually clap their hands in unison; a few may at the same time make impromptu gestures in imitation of the national sitting dance, with hands, head and torso. Often, I have seen a small girl or boy alone at the ritual, neither clapping or gesturing, but pointing at the sun's disc with a short piece of stick held in both hands at arm's length before the body. And four times I have come across a group in which, while the rest clapped, their leader stood facing the sunset making the string-figure which is called impartially either Sun or Moon throughout the Group. I discussed this matter with numerous old men of Abaiang Island, who informed me that while clapping, gesturing, and pointing with a stick were indulged in only by children, it would not be beneath the dignity of an adult, male or female, to recite the Tiroron formula at sunset to the accompaniment of the string-figure. In fact, the string-figure ritual formerly held such a place of esteem in the opinion of elders, that it is very doubtful whether children in such noisy bands as I have seen would have been permitted to practice it at all.
“This figure is made and extended at arm's length toward the setting sun; then the Tiroron formula is repeated again and again, while the performer very slowly and gently separates his hands, causing the string picture of the sun to dwindle very gradually in size; until, as the last of the disc disappears below the horizon, the figure resolves itself into a knot. The performer then says aloud, ‘E bungi Tai’ (the sun sets), and the ritual is done.
“Note—A variant of the Tiroron formula above quoted is as follows:
Tiroron, tiroron! Taroron, taroron!
Roll, roll! Roll, roll!
Ane i aa-m Kana-m te bakoa.
That beneath thee thy food the shark.
- 12 “In this, the spirit of encouragement to which I have referred comes out very plainly. The Sun is persuaded to set by being told that a meal is within reach below him.”

Mr. Grimble has since suggested that there is, in all probability, a connection between the formula e kakana kere-n Nei Kamakonokone and the culture-hero Maui (Gilbertese Bue), who was a child of the sun and who met his death in the kere or womb of the old woman in the west, the land of the setting sun.

We have nothing to add to Mr. Grimble's excellent account of the figure Taai and its magico-religious significance except to state that we have heard that the construction of the figure forms an optional part of the ritual by which members of the Maerua clan endeavour to bring on an eclipse.

THE WAU OR TAIANI TAI SERIES.

(Learnt from Ten Teikarawa, of Nonouti; known throughout Gilbert Islands.)

1 (a). NA UBWEBWE.

(Mr. Ubwebwe.)

    METHOD.
  • 1. Mouth-loop.
  • 2. Insert right hand toward you into mouth-loop; pass it to left between your body and left mouth-string; pick up this string on back of right wrist and return to right, so that what is now right dorsal string crosses right mouth-string close to mouth.
  • 3. Pass left hand between body and right mouth-string, return to left with string on back of left wrist.
  • 4. There are now two loops, one small mouth-loop and a larger one below it; turn hands with a circular movement, outward, downward, and upward, on either side of the strings of big loop.
  • 5. Insert little fingers toward you into mouth-loop, release strings from mouth and extend. (There are now little-finger-loops and wrist-loops, the ulnar little-finger-string passing straight across, the radial little-finger-strings crossing in centre to become the radial wrist-strings, the ulnar wrist-string passing straight across and over the radial wrist-strings at the centre.)
  • 6. With the mouth transfer wrist-loops to thumbs.
  • 7. Insert thumbs, from proximal side, into little-finger-loops and with their backs pick up radial little-finger-strings and return.
  • 8. Caroline extension.
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FIG. 1.
Illustration
    COMPARISON.
  • 1. Compare “Caroline Islands Diamonds” recorded by Mrs. Jayne. 17
  • 2. This figure is identical in final result with the Maori Kahukuranui, but the construction is quite different. It is interesting to note that the Gilbertese, from this figure go on to make Na Umake te Ikawai, whereas the Maori makes a continuation identical with the Gilbertese Na Umake te Ataei followed later by a figure resembling Kani Bikou te Aomata. 18
  • 3. Compare also the Marquesan Kooi Ui'a which, except for the extension, is similar to the Maori figure mentioned above. 19
  • 4. Note the Fijian Sorokake series which, beginning with a figure identical with the Gilbertese Kani Bikou te Aomata includes amongst its nine figures Kan Tie, i.e., Wa-lala; Na Ubwebwe, i.e., Tambanggara and Buti Mata, i.e., Vindikete. The method of obtaining these figures, however, is quite different. 20
  • 5. Note also the figure found on Nauru, “Fliegende Fishe,” emor. 21
  • 6. “The Yam,” Mwa'mo, from Papua, 22 is a similar figure but the method of construction is different.
1 (b). NA UMAKE TE IKAWAI.

(Mr. Umake the Elder.)

    METHOD.
  • 1. A lowers his hands until the figure is in a horizontal position.
  • 2. B inserts little fingers, from above, into triangles a, a. (of fig. 1), and brings them up through the diamonds b, b. He then inserts thumbs into diamonds b, b, and brings them up in triangles c, c.
  • 3. A releases his hands, and B extends the figure.
  • 4. B inserts thumbs, from proximal side, into little-finger-loops and returns with radial little-finger-strings.
  • 5. Caroline Extension.
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FIG. 2.
Illustration
1 (c). KABANE BAI.

(Using the whole hand.)

    METHOD.
  • 1. B keeps his hands in an upright position.
  • 2. A inserts little fingers at a, a (fig. 2), and brings them out at b, b, thus holding between ring and little fingers the upper horizontal string and the radial thumb-strings. He then inserts thumbs at a, a, and brings them out at c, c.
  • 3. B releases his hands.
  • 4. A performs Caroline Extension.
FIG. 3.
Illustration
1 (d). BUTI MATA.

(Poke in the Eyes.)

    METHOD.
  • 1. A lowers his hands until the figure is in a horizontal position.
  • 2. B inserts four fingers of each hand, from below, into a, a (fig. 3), and thumbs, also from below, into b, b.
  • 3. A releases his hands.
  • 4. B performs Caroline Extension.
FIG. 4.
Illustration
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1 (e). KANI BIKOU TE RANG.

(See footnote.) 23

Synonyms: Kiribeu (see footnote), 24 Northern Gilberts; Na Ribeu nikiu (see footnote),23 Banaba; Kan Anti (ghost-like), Banaba; Na Kumete (a wooden bowl), Beru.

    METHOD.
  • 1. B keeps his hands in an upright position.
  • 2. A inserts thumbs, index, middle and ring fingers into the triangle a, and little fingers at b, b. With thumbs he hooks up the lower horizontal string, bringing thumbs out at c. Then he brings hands to an upright position by turning hands toward himself thus bringing all fingers up through a, thumbs remaining outside at c.
  • 3. B releases his hands.
  • 4. A picks up radial little-finger-strings from proximal side.
  • 5. A performs Caroline Extension.
FIG. 5.
Illustration
1 (f). NA UMAKE TE ATAEI.

(Mr. Umake the Younger.)

    METHOD.
  • 1. A lowers his hands until the figure is in a horizontal position.
  • 2. B inserts little fingers, from above, into triangles a, a and brings them up through diamonds b, b. He then inserts thumbs into diamonds b, b and brings them up at c, c.
  • 3. A releases his hands.
  • 4. B inserts thumbs, from proximal side, into little-finger-loops and with their backs picks up radial little-finger-strings and returns.
  • 5. B performs Caroline Extension.
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FIG. 6.
Illustration
1 (g). KAN TIE.

(Swinging.)

Synonym: Kan Tine (hanging).

    METHOD.
  • 1. B keeps his hands in an upright position.
  • 2. A inserts little fingers at a, a, and brings them out at b, b, thus holding between ring and little fingers the upper horizontal string and the radial thumb-strings. He then inserts thumbs at a, a, and brings them out at c.
  • 3. B releases his hands.
  • 4. A performs Caroline Extension.
FIG. 7.
Illustartion
1 (h). NA UBWEBWE.
  • 1. A keeps his hands in an upright position.
  • 2. B inserts little fingers, from behind, that is toward himself, into hanging loops at a, a; with each little finger he hooks up the two strings of hanging loops, then raises his hands until little fingers are above upper horizontal string; he picks up this string, from above, at b, b, with little fingers and allows original hanging loops to slip off. He now inserts thumbs, toward A, at c, c, and brings them out at a, a, thus picking up lower horizontal string.
  • 3. A releases his hands.
  • 4. B inserts thumbs, from proximal side, into little-finger-loops and with their backs picks up radial little-finger-strings and returns.
  • 5. B performs Caroline Extension.
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Memoir No. 13
Supplement to the Journal of the Polynesian Society
STRING-FIGURES From the Gilbert Islands.

INSTALMENT No. 2

Pages 17—32

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1 (i). KANI BIKOU TE AOMATA.

(See footnote.) 25

The whole series is repeated; B performing those movements made by A in the first round and vice versa.

The figures made are identical with the exception of Kani Bikou te Rang which now appears as Kani Bikou te Aomata.

FIG. 8.
Illustration
2 (a). NA UMAKE TE IKAWAI.

(Mr. Umake the Elder.)

(Learnt from Nei Karawa, of Banaba.)

    METHOD.
  • 1. Make Na Ubwebwe.
  • 2. Release indices and return to position before extension.
  • 3. Twist thumb-loops by rotating thumbs down away from you and up again, at the same time releasing radial little-finger-strings from thumbs.
  • 4. Insert thumbs, from proximal side, into little-finger-loops and return with radial little-finger-strings on their backs.
  • 5. Caroline Extension.
FIG. 9.
Illustration
    COMPARISON.
  • 1. The Fijian Sanga Ndondoli though differing in method of construction and in the extension, is the same in final result. 26
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  • 2. The Murray island figure Little Fishes is virtually identical with the Fijian figure mentioned above and therefore similar to the Gilbertese figure. 27
2 (b). KABANE BAI.

(Making use of the whole hand.)

(Learnt from Nei Karawa, of Banaba.)

    METHOD.
  • 1. Make Na Umake te Ikawai.
  • 2. Lay the figure down flat; release thumbs and indices and pick up with thumb, from proximal side, strings forming outer arms of the “W” in centre of figure. Extend.
  • 3. Caroline Extension.
FIG. 10.
Illustration
2 (c). BUTI MATA.

(Poke in the Eyes.)

(Learnt from Nei Karawa, of Banaba.)

    METHOD.
  • 1. Make Kabane Bai.
  • 2. Release indices and return to position before extension.
  • 3. Insert indices, from distal side, into thumb-loops, pick up on their tips both the radial thumb-strings and extend.
FIG. 11.
Illustration
    COMPARISON.
  • 1. Vide note 4 of Na Ubwebwe.
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2 (d). KANI BIKOU TE RANG.

(See footnote.) 28

(Learnt from Nei Karawa, of Banaba.)

    METHOD.
  • 1. Make Buti Mata.
  • 2. Lay figure down flat; release thumbs, indices, and little fingers.
  • 3. In centre of figure will be seen an isoceles triangle; insert thumbs into this triangle and pick up, from proximal side, string forming base of triangle. Insert little fingers into triangles at either side of central triangle and pick up, from proximal side, strings forming sides of isosceles triangle. Extend.
  • 4. Insert thumbs, from proximal side, into little-finger-loops and return with radial little-finger-strings on their backs.
  • 5. Caroline Extension.
FIG. 12.
Illustration
2 (e). NA UMAKE TE ATAEI.

(Mr. Umake the Younger.)

(Learnt from Nei Karawa, of Banaba.)

    METHOD.
  • 1. Make Kani Bikou te Rang.
  • 2. Release indices and return to position before extension.
  • 3. Twist thumb-loops by rotating thumbs down away from you and up again, at the same time releasing radial little-finger-strings from thumbs.
  • 4. Insert thumbs, from proximal side, into little-finger loops and return with radial little-finger-strings on their backs.
  • 5. Caroline Extension.
FIG. 13.
Illustration
    COMPARISON.
  • 1. Vide note 1 of Na Ubwebwe.
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2 (f). KAN TIE.

(Swinging.)

(Learnt from Nei Karawa, of Banaba.)

Synonym: Kan Tine (hanging).

    METHOD.
  • 1. Make Na Umake te Ataei.
  • 2. Lay the figure down flat; release thumbs and indices and pick up with thumb, from proximal side, strings forming two arms of “V” in centre of figure. Extend.
  • 3. Caroline Extension.
FIG. 14.
Illustration
    COMPARISON.
  • 1. Vide note 4 of Na Ubwebwe.
3. KARERE WENEI.

(The swift-moving shooting star.) 29

(Learnt from Nei Tearia, of Banaba.)

    METHOD.
  • 1. Mouth-loop.
  • 2. Cross strings of mouth-loop, left mouth-string passing over right mouth-string.
  • 3. Proceed as in Na Ubwebwe, hands entering loop below crossed strings.
FIG. 15.
Illustration
- 21
THE KAI-N WA-N NA MOREREKE SERIES. 30
4 (a). NA UMAKE.

(Mr. Umake.)

(Learnt from Tem Bonibai, of Nikunau; known throughout Gilbert Islands.)

    METHOD.
  • 1. Navaho Opening.
  • 2. Insert middle, ring, and little fingers of each hand, from proximal side, into index-loops. Close fingers over radial dorsal strings and let the ulnar dorsal string slip on to thumbs but not releasing string from crook of middle, ring, and little fingers. Insert indices, from proximal side, into thumb-loops and pick up ulnar thumb-strings on their tips.
  • 3. Extend by turning palms outward, pressing radial index strings against indices with thumbs and retaining grasp on palmar string with middle, ring, and little fingers.
FIG. 16.
Illustration
4 (b). KANI MATU.

(Sleeping.)

(Learnt from Tem Bonibai, of Nikunau; known throughout Gilbert Islands.)

Synonym: Kani Maki (shrivelled up); Marakei.

    METHOD.
  • 1. Make Na Umake.
  • 2. Release middle, ring, and little fingers. Release radial index-strings from thumbs.
  • 3. Insert middle, ring, and little fingers of each hand, from proximal side, into index-loops. Close fingers over radial dorsal strings and let ulnar dorsal string slip on to thumbs. Insert indices, from proximal side, into thumb-loops and pick up ulnar thumb-strings on their tips.
- 22
  • 4. Extend by turning palms outward, pressing radial index strings against indices with thumbs and retaining grasp on palmar-string with middle, ring, and little fingers.
FIG. 17.
Illustration
4 (c). KAN RAIRAKI

(Turning over.)

(Learnt from Tem Boninai, of Nikunau; known throughout Gilbert Islands.)

    METHOD.
  • 1. Make Kani Matu.
  • 2. Release middle, ring, and little fingers. Release radial index-strings from thumbs.
  • 3. Insert middle, ring, and little fingers of each hand, from proximal side, into index-loops. Close fingers over radial dorsal strings and let ulnar dorsal string slip on to thumbs. Insert indices, from proximal side, into thumb-loops and pick up ulnar thumb-strings on their tips.
  • 4. Extend by turning palms outward, pressing radial index-strings against indices with thumbs and retaining grasp on palmar-string with middle, ring, and little fingers.
  • 5. Turn left hand away from you, then bend back toward you from wrist; bend right hand, from wrist, down away from you.
FIG. 18.
Illustration
5. KANI MUMUN.

(Flight of the vanquished.)

(Obtained by Mr. Grimble from Ten Toakai, of Maiana Island.)

Synonyms: Te Beti nako te nang (clouds floating away); Nonouti. (Learnt from Ten Teikarawa, of Nonouti, under this name.)

- 23
    METHOD.
  • 1. Opening A.
  • 2. Transfer index-loops to wrists.
  • 3. Insert indices, from distal side, into little-finger-loops and hook up radial little-finger-strings, then insert them into thumb-loops, also from distal side, and pick up on their backs ulnar thumb string and return index fingers to position.
  • 4. Release thumbs.
  • 5. Transfer index-loops to thumbs.
  • 6. Transfer wrist-loops to position 1 on thumbs and little fingers.
  • 7. Repeat 3.
  • 8. Release little fingers.
  • 9. Pass little fingers distal to ulnar index-strings and proximal to radial index-strings; return with radial index-strings on their tips and release indices.
  • 10. A loop depends from each palmar-string, each loop having a proximal and a distal string. Stretching thumbs and little fingers wide apart, insert indices, from distal side, into these loops and pick up on their tips the proximal strings. Extend figure by turning palms outward, releasing thumbs and drawing hands gently apart.
FIG. 19.
Illustration
    COMPARISON.
  • 1. Note the similar figure Vahia from the Society Islands, which is, however, obtained by a different procedure. 31
  • 2. Compare also the similar unnamed figure obtained by Dr. Furness from the Caroline Islands. 32
  • 3. The Central African figure, Shimo, is very similar to the Caroline Island figure mentioned above. 33
- 24
6. TE ITU MA TE KAEKO.

(See footnote.) 34

(Learnt from the inmates of the female gaol, Tabiteuea Island.)

Synonyms: Tanga-n te Itu ma te Kaeko (The marriage of Itu and Kaeko); Uoman-in Rube (Two doves or pigeons), Beru.

    METHOD.
  • 1. Opening A.
  • 2. Pass thumbs, distal to index-loops and proximal to little-finger-loops, return with radial and ulnar little-finger-strings.
  • 3. Insert indices, from distal side, into thumb-loops, pick up ulnar thumb-strings and ulnar and radial index-strings; release thumbs.
  • 4. Pass thumbs, proximal to index-loops, distal to radial and ulnar little-finger-strings and then press distal ulnar index-strings against indices with thumbs. Rotate indices down away from you and up again, allowing the three distal radial index-strings to slip off indices; release pressure. The former ulnar index-string is now radial index-string.
  • 5. Insert thumbs, from proximal side, into proximal index-loops, then press distal ulnar index-string against indices with thumbs. Rotate indices down away from you and up again, allowing distal radial index-strings and proximal index-loops to slip off indices.
  • 6. Pass thumbs proximal to index-loops and insert into little-finger-loops from proximal side, return with radial little-finger-strings.
  • 7. Transfer index-loops to thumbs.
  • 8. Caroline Extension. 35
FIG. 20.
Illustration
- 25
7. TABONIBAI NI KAN-IO.

(Wings of the “io,” or noddy.)

(Learnt from Nei Teraiti, of Onotoa; known throughout Gilbert Islands.)

    METHOD.
  • 1. Navaho Opening, the left string passing over the right string.
  • 2. Bend indices down away from you, then with mouth, proximal to all strings, pull toward you radial index-string. Bring hands back to upright position.
  • 3. Pass little fingers proximal to index-loops and insert into thumb-loops from proximal side, return with ulnar thumb-strings and release thumbs.
  • 4. Pass left hand to right, distal to mouth-loop, and insert thumb into mouth-loop from proximal side, pick up on its back right mouth-string and return to left.
  • 5. Insert right thumb, from proximal side, into mouth-loop and pick up right mouth-string. Release string from mouth and extend.
  • 6. Pass thumbs distal to index-loops and insert into little-finger-loops from proximal side, return with radial little-finger-strings.
  • 7. Pass indices distal to palmar-string and insert into thumb-loops from proximal side, pick up on their tips the ulnar thumb-string and release thumbs.
  • 8. Transfer distal index-loops to thumbs.
  • 9. Pass thumbs distal to index-loops and insert into little-finger-loops from proximal side, return with radial little-finger-strings.
  • 10. Caroline Extension.
FIG. 21.
Illustration
8. TE TANGI-NI-WENEI.

(The wailing over the dead), Banaba.

Synonyms: Te mate ma Koraki-na (The dead man and his funeral party), Beru Island.

    METHOD.
  • 1. Grasp part of string between thumbs and indices, hands being about six inches apart. Make a small loop by passing right hand toward you and to left. Hold this loop where strings cross, between thumb and index-finger of left hand, still retaining string in right hand; push this string up through loop and draw it out until the two large loops are the same size.
- 26
  • 2. There are now three loops, a central one with two larger ones depending from it. Grasp the two strings which were tied to form a small loop, in left hand; the other two strings which depend from small loop should be grasped in right hand. Pull hands apart and take small loop (fig. 22), now taut, between teeth. Release strings from hands and it will be seen that two strings hang from either side of mouth-loop.
FIG. 22.
Illustration
  • 3. Insert thumbs, away from you, into lower dependent loop, and indices, toward you, into upper dependent loop; straighten indices by turning them away from you and up. Extend. The hands should now be in an upright position, about six inches apart, and the upper loop slightly larger than the lower loop.
  • 4. Insert middle, ring, and little fingers of each hand, from proximal side, into index-loops, close hands over radial index-string and let the dorsal string slip on to thumbs. Insert indices, from proximal side, into proximal thumb-loops and pick up proximal ulnar thumb-strings on their tips; 36 release thumbs from proximal loops (do not navaho them).
  • 5. Extend middle, ring, and little fingers, thus releasing palmar-string.
  • 6. Repeat 4 and 5.
  • 7. Repeat 4.
  • 8. Turn little fingers outward and upward, picking up on backs palmar-string, straighten middle and ring fingers and release thumbs.
  • 9. Pass thumbs proximal to index-loops and insert into little-finger-loops from proximal side, then distal to ulnar little-finger-strings; return, proximal to radial little-finger-strings and index-loops, with ulnar little-finger-strings on their backs and release little fingers.
  • 10. Repeat 4 as far as the note.
  • 11. Extend by turning palms outward and pressing thumbs against indices to hold loose strings, then release strings from mouth.
FIG. 23.
Illustration
- 27
9. TAAI.

(Sun.)

(Learnt from Ten Awita, of Beru Island).

Synonyms: Namakaina (Moon).

    METHOD.
  • Mouth Loop Opening
  • 1. Mouth loop.
  • 2. Insert right hand toward you into mouth-loop; pass it to left between body and left mouth-string; pick up this string on back of right wrist and return to right, so that what is now right dorsal string crosses right mouth-string close to mouth.
  • 3. Pass left hand between body and right mouth-string; return to left with string on back of left wrist.
  • 4. Insert little fingers, toward you, into small loop close to mouth, release string from mouth and extend.
  • 5. Pass mouth proximal to all strings, grasp ulnar little-finger-string between teeth and pull it toward you.
  • 6. Pass right thumb to left, distal to mouth loop and then, from proximal side, insert it into mouth-loop; pick up left mouth-string on back of thumb and return to right.
  • 7. Pass left thumb distal to right mouth-string, but proximal to left mouth-string now passing round right thumb, hook up left mouth-string, release string from mouth and extend.
  • 8. Insert thumbs, from proximal side, into little-finger-loops, return with radial little-finger-strings on their backs.
  • 9. Pass indices distal to palmar-string and pick up, from proximal side, the ulnar thumb-strings; release thumbs and little fingers and extend gently. 37
FIG. 24.
Illustration
- 28
CLASS B.
Figures which are stationary and of fixed design.
10. KAWAI-N TE MANIBA.

(Paths to the Well.)

(Learnt from Ten Teikarawa, of Nonouti.)

Synonyms: Kawai-n ana maniba Na Akinran (Paths to the well of Na Akinran); Tabiteuea, Beru.

    METHOD.
  • 1. Opening A.
  • 2. Twist thumb-loops by rotating thumbs down toward you and up again. Twist index and little-finger-loops by rotating, first, indices, and then little fingers, down away from you and up again.
  • 3. Insert indices, from proximal side, into thumb-loops, pick up the ulnar thumb-strings on their backs and release thumbs, thus transferring thumb-loops to indices.
  • 4. Insert thumbs, from distal side, into proximal index-loops then on into little-finger-loops from proximal side. Pick up radial little-finger-strings, return through proximal index-loops and release little fingers.
  • 5. Insert thumbs, from proximal side, into distal index-loops, transfer these loops to thumbs.
  • 6. Gilbertese Movement, Pass the four fingers 38 of each hand distal to index and thumb-loops and insert them, from distal side, into proximal thumb-loops. Pick upon their backs proximal radial thumb-strings and release thumbs from proximal loops.
  • 7. Insert thumbs, from proximal side, into loops over the four fingers of each hand. Transfer these loops to thumbs.
  • 8. Repeat 6 and 7.
  • 9. Twist thumb-loops by rotating thumbs down toward you and up again.
  • 10. Gilbertese Extension, With middle finger of right hand push radial index-string, from distal side, through thumb-loops and hold between teeth. Pass ulnar index-string distal to thumb-loops and also hold between teeth; release index-finger.
  • 11. From proximal side transfer right thumb-loops to right little finger and insert thumb, from below, into mouth-loop (not the former index-loop) and pick up right mouth-strings on its back; release strings from mouth and extend. Repeat with left hand.
  • 12. Insert indices, from distal side, into little-finger-loops and pick up radial little-finger-strings after they have passed through loop.
  • 13. Extend by turning palms away from you and releasing thumbs. 39
- 29
FIG. 25.
Illustration
    COMPARISON.
  • 1. This figure is identical in final result with the Maori “Te Ahi i tunua ai te manawa o Nuku-tau-paroro.” The construction is also the same up to movement 8, after which the Gilbertese figure concludes with a Gilbertese Movement and Caroline Extension while the Maori figure achieves the same result only after first constructing another figure, “Kuri a Tuatini.” 40
  • 2. The figure is also virtually the same, both in construction and final result, with the Marquesan “Te Mahai Vero,” though the extension is different. 41
11. TEUANA NI MANIBA.

(One Well.)

(Obtained by Mr. Grimble from Nei Kaintia of Tabiteuea Island.)

    METHOD.
  • 1. Opening A.
  • 2. Pass left index, from distal side, into right index-loop and lift it off right index.
  • 3. Pass right index, from distal side, into proximal left index-loop and lift it off left index. Extend.
  • 4. Repeat from 2 to 13 of “Kawai-n te Maniba.”
FIG. 26.
Illustration
12. TE KAI-N TAMARAKE.
(The Ladder.)

(Learnt from the inmates of the female gaol, Tabiteuea Island.)

    METHOD.
  • 1. Opening A.
  • 2. Insert indices, from proximal side, into thumb-loops, pick up the ulnar thumb-strings on their backs and release thumbs, thus transferring thumb-loops to indices.
- 30
  • 3. Insert thumbs, from distal side, into proximal index-loops, then on into little-finger-loops from proximal side. Pick up radial little-finger-strings, return through proximal index-loops and release little fingers.
  • 4. Insert thumbs, from proximal side, into distal index-loops, transfer these loops to thumbs.
  • Gilbertese Movement
  • 5. Pass the four fingers of each hand distal to index-and thumb-loops and insert them, from distal side, into the proximal thumb-loops. Pick up on their backs the proximal radial thumb-strings and release thumbs from proximal loops.
  • 6. Insert thumbs, from proximal side, into the loops over four fingers of each hand. Transfer these loops to thumbs.
  • 7. Repeat 5 and 6.
  • 8. Twist thumb-loops by rotating thumbs down toward you and up again.
  • Gilbertese Extension
  • 9. With middle finger of right hand push radial index-string, from distal side, through thumb-loops and hold between teeth. Pass ulnar index-string distal to thumb-loops and also hold between teeth; release index-finger.
  • 10. From proximal side transfer right thumb-loops to right little finger and insert thumb, from below, into mouth-loop (not former index-loop) and pick up right mouth-strings on its back; release strings from mouth and extend.
  • 11. Repeat 9 and 10 with the left hand.
  • 12. Insert indices, from distal side, into little-finger-loops and pick up radial little-finger-strings after they have passed through loop.
  • 13. Extend by turning palms away.
  • 14. Release thumbs.
FIG. 27.
Illustration
Rabata-na. 42
  • Right Hand—
  • 15. There are two ulnar index-strings, one crosses figure from index to index, the other merges itself into pattern; with middle finger push first string down, behind and under second string and hold between teeth.
- 31
  • 16. Release index finger.
  • 17. There are, similarly, two ulnar little-finger-strings, one stretched between the two little fingers, the other becoming merged into pattern; pass index-finger under this latter string, hook up string running between little fingers and release little finger.
  • 18. Transfer index-loop to Position 1 on thumb and little finger.
  • 19. Insert thumb toward you into mouth-loop and release string from mouth.
  • 20. Repeat these movements with the left hand.
  • 21. Caroline Extension.
FIG. 28.
Illustration
COMPARISON.

This figure (as distinct from its rabata) is identical in final result with the Maori Pa-harakeke, second figure. As in Kawai-n te Maniba the construction is also the same up to movement 8, this being once again followed by a Gilbertese Movement and Caroline Extension.

13. TE KAI-N-ROA.

(The Fishing-rod.)

(Learnt from Ten Awita, of Beru.)

Synonym: Te Baiku (a small stingray), Beru.

    METHOD.
  • 1. Opening B.
  • 2. Release left index-finger. Put indices together and transfer right index-loop to left index-finger; extend.
  • Left Hand—
  • 3. Twist thumb-loop by rotating thumb down toward you and up again. Twist index- and little-finger-loops by rotating first, index, and then little finger, down away from you and up again.
  • 4. Pass index finger, from proximal side, into thumb-loop, pick up ulnar thumb-string on its back and release thumb.
  • 5. Insert thumb, from distal side, into proximal index-loop, then into little-finger-loop, from proximal side; pick up radial little-finger-string and return through proximal index-loop. Release little finger.
- 32
  • 6. Insert thumb, from proximal side, into distal index-loop, transfer this loop to thumb.
  • Gilbertese Movement
  • 7. Pass the four fingers distal to index- and thumb-loops and insert them, from distal side, into proximal thumb-loop. Pick up on their backs the proximal radial thumb-string and release thumb from proximal-loop.
  • 8. Insert thumb, from proximal side, into loop over four fingers and transfer this loop to thumb.
  • 9. Repeat 7 and 8.
  • 10. Twist thumb-loops by rotating thumb down toward you and up again.
  • Gilbertese Extension
  • 11. With middle finger push the radial index-string, from distal side, through thumb-loops and hold between teeth. Pass the ulnar index-string distal to thumb-loops and also hold between teeth; release index finger. From proximal side transfer thumb-loops to little finger, then insert thumb, from proximal side into mouth-loop (not former index-loop) and pick up left mouth-strings on its back; release strings from mouth.
  • Right Hand—
  • 12. Transfer thumb-loop to index-finger.
  • 13. Insert thumb, from distal side, into index-loop, pick up on its back ulnar index-string and release index-finger.
  • 14. Transfer little finger loop to thumb.
  • 15. Insert little finger, from proximal side, into proximal thumb-loop and return with proximal ulnar thumb-string on its back.
  • 16. Pass index finger distal to palmar string and proximal to thumb-loop and pick up ulnar thumb-string.
  • 17. Insert left index finger, from distal side, into left little-finger-loop and pick up radial little-finger-strings keeping the thumb-loops round these strings on palmar side of indices.
  • 18. Extend by turning palms outward, releasing left thumb and pressing right thumb against index finger to hold loose strings.
FIG. 29.
Illustration
14. KAWAI-N ANA MANIBA NEI IKU.

(The Path to the Well of Nei Iku.)

(Learnt from the inmates of the female gaol, Tabiteuea Island.)

    METHOD.
  • 1. Opening A.
  • 2. Release right index finger and extend.
- v
Memoir No. 13
Supplement to the Journal of the Polynesian Society
STRING-FIGURES From the Gilbert Islands.

INSTALMENT No. 3 Pages 33—40

- vi Page is blank

- 33
  • 3. Release right thumb and little finger and allow loops to hang loosely from left hand.
  • 4. Hook left index finger over its palmar-string and insert into its own loop from distal side. Pass right index down dorsal aspect of left index finger and into left index-loop from distal side. Extend until the three loops are of equal lengths. Release right index and insert right hand, from distal side, through released loop, grasp the four hanging strings, return through loop and pull taut. Release strings from right hand.
  • 5. Pass right hand over all strings and with right little finger pick up, from proximal side, the left ulnar little-finger-string below palmar-loop. With right thumb pick up, from proximal side, left radial thumb string, also below palmar-loop.
  • 6. Insert right index finger, from proximal side, under the palmar-string not held by left index, between the right ulnar thumb-string and the right radial little-finger-string and extend. Release left index from its grasp of its palmar string.
  • Right Hand—
  • 7. Twist thumb-loop by rotating thumb down toward you and up again. Twist index and little-finger-loops by rotating, first, index finger and then little finger, down away from you and up again.
  • 8. Insert index finger, from proximal side, into thumb-loop, pick up the ulnar thumb-string on its back and release thumb.
  • 9. Insert thumb, from distal side, into proximal index-loop, then into little-finger-loop from proximal side. Pick up radial little-finger-string, return through proximal index-loop and release little finger.
  • 10. Insert thumb, from proximal side, into distal index-loop, transfer this loop to thumb.
  • Gilbertese Movement
  • 11. Pass four fingers distal to index- and thumb-loops and insert them, from distal side, into proximal thumb-loop. Pick up on their backs the proximal radial thumb-string and release thumb from proximal loop.
  • 12. Insert thumb, from proximal side, into loop over four fingers. Transfer this loop to thumb.
  • 13. Repeat 11 and 12.
  • 14. Twist thumb loops by rotating thumb down toward you and up again.
  • 15. With the middle finger push radial index-string, from distal side, through thumb-loops and hold between teeth. Pass the ulnar index string distal to thumb-loops and also hold between teeth; release index finger.
  • 16. Transfer thumb-loops to little finger and insert thumb, from below, into the mouth loop (not the former index-loop); pick up right mouth-strings on its back, release strings from mouth and extend.
  • 17. Pass mouth over all strings and pick up, from distal side, left ulnar little-finger-string. Release left little finger.
- 34
  • 18. Pass left little finger proximal to left thumb-loop and return with left radial thumb-string on its back. Release left thumb, then insert it, from proximal side, into little-finger-loop and return with left radial little-finger-string.
  • 19. Insert left thumb, toward you, into mouth-loop and release string from mouth.
  • 20. Caroline Extension with the exception that the right index picks up the two radial little-finger-strings to the left of the place where they have passed through loop formed by radial thumb strings. Release right thumb.
FIG. 30.
Illustration
15. TENUA NI MANIBA.

(Three Wells.)

(From Nei Temantiro, of Beru.)

    FIRST METHOD.
  • Mouth-loop Opening
  • 1. Mouth-loop.
  • 2. Insert right hand toward you into mouth-loop; pass it to left between body and left mouth-string; pick up this string on back of right wrist and return to right, so that what is now right dorsal-string crosses right mouth-string close to mouth.
  • 3. Pass left hand between body and right mouth-string, return to left with string on back of left wrist.
  • 4. There are now two loops, a small mouth-loop and a larger one below it; insert little fingers toward you into mouth-loop, release string from mouth and extend.
  • 5. From distal side pick up with mouth, the ulnar wrist-string and pull it toward you.
  • 6. Pass left thumb to right, above mouth-loop and then, from below, insert it into mouth-loop; pick up right mouth-string on back of thumb and return to left.
  • 7. Insert right thumb, from below, into mouth-loop, pick up right mouth-string, release string from mouth and extend.
  • 8. Insert thumbs, from proximal side, into little-finger-loops and return with radial little-finger-strings on their backs.
  • 9. Caroline Extension.
  • 10. Depending from upper horizontal string are two triangles. With middle finger of right hand push ulnar little-finger-string through right triangle and hold between teeth.
- 35
  • 11. Release right little finger and thumb. Transfer index-loop to Position 1 on thumb and little finger. Insert thumb, toward you into mouth-loop and release string from mouth.
  • 12. Repeat 10 and 11 with the left hand.
  • 13. Caroline Extension.
  • 14. With mouth take hold of right radial wrist-string and pull loop off right wrist, thus forming a mouth-loop. With right middle finger push ulnar little-finger-string, from below, through mouth-loop, release string from mouth and replace it with the ulnar little-finger-string.
  • 15. Repeat 11.
  • 16. Repeat 14 and 11 with the left hand.
  • 17. Caroline Extension.
FIG. 31.
Illustration
16. TENUA NI MANIBA.

(Three Wells.)

(From Nei Beteua, of Banaba.)

    SECOND METHOD.
  • 1. Opening A.
  • 2. Twist thumb-loops by rotating thumbs down toward you and up again. Twist index- and little-finger-loops by rotating, first, indices, and then little fingers, down away from you and up again.
  • 3. Banaban Movement, Insert thumbs, from distal side, into index-loops and hook down radial index-strings.
  • 4. Insert indices, from distal side, into little-finger-loops, hook up radial little-finger-strings and ulnar index-strings, then, still pointing down, bring toward you distal to all remaining strings, hook up radial thumb-strings and straighten indices.
  • 5. Pass thumbs proximal to ulnar little-finger-strings, hook them up on back of thumbs and return proximal to all strings; release little fingers.
  • 6. Insert little fingers, from distal side, into distal index-loops and transfer distal index-loops to little fingers; release indices from remaining loops.
  • 7. Insert indices, from distal side, into thumb-loops and transfer thumb-loops to indices.
  • 8. Pass thumbs proximal to index-loops, insert, from proximal side, into little-finger-loops and return with radial little-finger-strings on their backs.
  • 9. Transfer index-loops to thumbs.
  • 10. Caroline Extension.
- 36
FIG. 32.
Illustration
17. TENUA NI MANIBA.

(Three Wells.)

(Obtained by Mr. Grimble from Nei Kaintia of Tabiteuea.)

    METHOD.
  • 1. Position 1.
  • 2. From proximal side insert left index under right palmar-string and return. Release left thumb and little finger. Extend.
  • 3. Transfer left index-loop to Position 1 on thumb and little finger.
  • 4. Repeat 2 and 3 above.
  • 5. From proximal side insert left index under right palmar-string and return.
  • 6. Pass right thumb into little-finger-loop of same hand, from proximal side; return with radial little-finger-string.
  • 7. Pass left thumb from distal side into index-loop of same hand, transfer loop to thumb and return.
  • Caroline Extension
  • 8. From proximal side pass indices into thumb-loops, pick up ulnar thumb strings on tips.
  • 9. Press thumbs close to hold loose strings, straighten indices and extend by turning palms away from you.
  • Right Hand—
  • 10. You now have before you a figure consisting of central diamond and incomplete diamond on either side of it. With middle finger of right hand push ulnar little-finger-string toward you through right hand (incomplete) diamond, and hold it between teeth.
  • 11. Release little finger.
  • 12. Transfer index loop to little finger.
  • 13. Release thumb.
  • 14. Insert thumb from proximal side into little-finger-loop, pass it distal to intervening strings toward you, and down into mouth-loop. Turn thumb to your right under right mouth-string, and release string from teeth.
  • Left Hand—
  • 15. On the left hand are seen two radial thumb-strings; pass the ulnar little-finger-string toward you between these strings; hold between teeth.
  • 16. Release little finger.
  • 17. Transfer to little finger the loop over thumb and index.
- 37
  • 18. With thumb and forefinger of right hand remove the remaining thumb-loop and hold it in position while the thumb is inserted from the proximal side into little-finger-loop; then replace thumb-loop.
  • 19. Release mouth-string.
  • Both Hands—
  • 20. Caroline Extension, From proximal side pick up ulnar thumb-strings on the indices. Keep thumbs pressed up to hold loose strings, and extend figure by straightening indices and turning away palms.
FIG. 33.
Illustration
18. UOUA NI MANIBA.

(Two Wells.)

(Learnt from Ten Te Aba ni Matang, Banaba Island.)

    METHOD.
  • 1. Opening A.
  • 2. Twist index-loops by rotating indices down away from you and up again.
  • Banaban Movement
  • 3. Insert thumbs, from distal side, into index-loops, and hook down radial index-strings.
  • 4. Insert indices, from distal side, into little-finger-loops, hook up radial little-finger-strings and ulnar index-strings, then, still pointing down, bring toward you distal to all remaining strings, hook up radial thumb-strings and straighten indices.
  • 5. Pass thumbs proximal to ulnar little-finger-strings, hook them up on back of thumbs and return proximal to all strings; release little fingers.
  • 6. Insert little fingers, from distal side, into distal index-loops and transfer distal index-loops to little fingers; release indices from proximal loops.
  • 7. Insert indices, from distal side, into thumb-loops and transfer thumb-loops to indices.
  • 8. Pass thumbs proximal to index-loops, insert, from proximal side, into little-finger-loops and return with radial little-finger-strings on their backs.
  • 9. Transfer index-loops to thumbs.
  • 10. Caroline Extension.
- 38
FIG. 34.
Illustration
19. TE BATA.

(The House.)

(From Ten Teikarawa, of Nonouti.)

Synonyms: Boua-n Uma-n Na Kun (the posts of Na Kun's house); Nonouti. Bua-n Rereba (the throat of the “rereba,” a fish); Onotoa.

    METHOD.
  • Mouth-loop Opening
  • 1. Mouth-loop.
  • 2. Insert right hand toward you into mouth-loop; pass it to left between body and left mouth-string, pick up this string on back of right wrist and return to right, so that what is now right dorsal string crosses right mouth-string close to mouth.
  • 3. Pass left hand between body and right mouth-string, return to left with this string on back of left wrist.
  • 4. There are now two loops, a small mouth-loop and a larger loop below it; insert little fingers toward you into mouth-loop, release string from mouth and extend.
  • 5. With the mouth, distal to right radial wrist-string and proximal to right little-finger-loops, pick up the right ulnar wrist-string and pull it toward you; release right wrist from loop.
  • 6. Insert right thumb toward you into mouth-loop and on its back pick up right mouth-string, release string from mouth and extend.
  • 7. Repeat 5 and 6 with left hand.
  • 8. Insert thumbs, from proximal side, into little-finger-loops; pick up radial little-finger-strings on their backs and return.
  • 9. Caroline Extension.
FIG. 35.
Illustration
- 39
20. AUA NI BA-N ITAI.

(Four “itai” leaves.)

(Learnt from Nei Tearabi of Nuka Village, Beru.)

Synonyms: Aua ni Katang (four “Katang” shells).

    METHOD.
  • Mouth-loop Opening
  • 1. Mouth-loop.
  • 2. Insert right hand toward you into mouth-loop; pass it to left between body and left mouth-string; pick up this string on back of right wrist and return to right, so that what is now right radial wrist-string crosses right mouth-string close to mouth.
  • 3. Pass left hand between body and right mouth-string, return to left with string on back of left wrist.
  • 4. Insert little fingers toward you into small loop close to mouth, drop string from mouth and extend.
  • 5. From distal side, with mouth, pull the ulnar wrist-string through little-finger-loops.
  • 6. Insert thumbs toward you into mouth-loop and release string from mouth.
  • 7. Remove loops from wrists.
  • 8. Insert thumbs from proximal side into little-finger-loops and return with radial little-finger-strings.
  • 9. Caroline Extension.
  • Right Hand—
  • 10. With middle finger push the ulnar little-finger-string between the distal and proximal radial thumb-strings, a few inches from thumb. Hold this string between teeth and release all but index finger.
  • 11. Transfer index-loop to Position 1 on thumb and little finger.
  • 12. Insert thumb toward you into mouth-loop and release string from mouth.
  • 13. Repeat 10, 11 and 12 with left hand.
  • 14. Caroline Extension.
FIG. 36.
Illustration
- 40
21. O'N TE BEKE.

(The Pig's Fence.)

(Learnt from Nei En of Beru Island.)

    METHOD.
  • 1. Opening A.
  • 2. Pass thumbs, from distal side, through index-loops, pick up from proximal side the radial little-finger-strings and return through index-loops.
  • 3. Pass indices distal to palmar string and insert into thumb-loops from proximal side; pick up ulnar thumb-strings on their tips and release thumbs.
  • 4. Pass thumbs, from proximal side, through proximal index-loops, pick up on their tips the radial little-finger-strings and return through proximal index-loops. Release little fingers.
  • 5. Pass little fingers from distal side, through distal index-loops, proximal to proximal index-loops and pick up on their tips, from proximal side, the ulnar thumb-strings. Return through distal index-loops and release thumbs.
  • 6. Pass thumbs, from proximal side, through proximal index-loops, hook up from distal side the distal ulnar index-strings and return. Release indices from distal loops.
  • 7. Pass thumbs, distal to index-loops and insert into little-finger-loops from proximal side. Pick up radial little-finger-strings and return.
  • 8. Release indices.
  • 9. Caroline Extension.
FIG. 37.
Illustration
22. TE KIBENA.

(A small seine.)

(Learnt from Nei Teang, of Beru Island.)

Synonym: Te Karaun (a large seine).

    METHOD.
  • 1. Insert the big toes into the loop.
  • 2. Insert left little finger from proximal side into loop and pull taut.
1   Haddon, Kathleen, Artists in String—String Figures, their Regional Distribution and Social Significance. London. 1930.
2   Hornell, J., “String Figures from Fiji and Western Polynesia.” Bernice P. Bishop Museum. Bulletin 39, pp. 77 to 79. Honolulu. 1927.
3   Dickey, L. A., “String Figures from Hawaii.” Bernice P. Bishop Museum. Bulletin 54, pp. 167 to 168. Honolulu. 1928.
4   Grimble, A. F., “Gilbertese Astronomy and Astronomical Observances.” Journal of the Polynesian Society, pp. 214 to 216. December, 1931.
5   Bingham, Hiram, A Gilbertese-English Dictionary. Boston. 1908.
6   Handy, Willowdean C., “String Figures from the Marquesas and Society Islands.” Bernice P. Bishop Museum. Bulletin 18, page 6. Honolulu. 1925.
7   Notes and Queries on Anthropology edited for the British Association for the Advancement of Science, 5th edition. London. 1929.
8   Rouse Ball, W. W., String Figures—An Amusement for Everybody, 3rd edition. Cambridge. 1929.
9   Jayne, Mrs. C. F., String Figures. New York. 1906.
10   Andersen, J. C., “Maori String Figures,” Memoirs of the Board of Maori Ethnological Research, vol. 2. Wellington. 1927.
11   Not only then; near and far, upper and lower, have the same comparative meaning as radial and ulnar, distal and proximal, whatever the position of the hands, and this is, as I have often experienced, perfectly understood even by children. It will be found, too, that even the terms radial and ulnar, distal and proximal, require explanatory words such as upper and lower to make their meaning clear.—J. C. A.
12   The numbers given after the names refer to the text.
13   MSS. note by Mr. A. F. Grimble.
14   Wau or tai=a string-figure. Taiani=the sign of the plural.
15   Adapted from a MSS. note by Mr. A. F. Grimble.
16   Journal of the Polynesian Society, December, 1931, pp. 213-216.
17   Jayne, ibid., p. 260.
18   Andersen, ibid., pp. 89-90.
19   Handy, ibid., p. 43.
20   Hornell, ibid., pp. 54-60.
21   Hambruch, Paul, Ergebnisse Sudsee Expedition, 1908-1910, fig. 3, p. 348.
22   Jenness, D., “Papuan Cat's Cradles,” Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, vol. 50, p. 305, 1920.
23   We have found it hard to obtain the exact meaning of this; it probably means “an abnormal pregnancy” but might be rendered “the pregnancy of a slave or crazy person.” As in the case of the other figures, the kan or kani is put in purely for the sake of euphony.
24   Kiribeu or Na Ribeu ni kiu both have the meaning of “a skinny old man or woman, whose hip and thigh bones are protuberant through lack of a flesh covering.” It is used as a term of mild abuse.
25   Kani Bikou te Aomata probably means either “a normal pregnancy” or “the pregnancy of a freeman.”
26   Hornell, ibid., p. 25.
27   Haddon, Kathleen, Cats Cradles from Many Lands. London, 1912, p. 12.
28   For translation see footnote to 1 (e).
29   Karere Wenei is also a game, played with darts in imitation of a shooting star. The Wenei is a sign of death.
30   This figure was also obtained by Mr. A. F. Grimble from Nei Tenamonrenga of Tarawa island in the Northern Gilberts. Kai-n wa-n Na Morereke=the occupants of the canoe of Morereke.
31   Handy, ibid., p. 74.
32   Jayne, ibid., p. 17.
33   Haddon, “Cats Cradles,” ibid., p. 39.
34   The figure is said to represent a man named Itu and a woman named Kaeko. Te Itu is also a hard substance washed up by the sea and used for scenting oil, and Te Kaeko a decorated throwing-stick.
35   This differs from the Maori kotiro punarua only in movements 6 and 7.—J. C. A.
36   During the whole of this construction the hands should gradually approach the mouth, drawing further apart as they do so.
37   The result is as the Maori wahine; but wider stretch makes a better figure.—J. C. A.
38   The Maori inserts forefingers only, producing the same effect less cumbrously.—J. C. A.
39   9-13 have the same effect as 13, 14 of the parallel Maori figure.—J. C. A.
40   Andersen, ibid., page 78.
41   Handy, ibid., page 19.
42   Lit. meaning “its body” or “its framework” but here probably best translated as “its extension.”