String figure glossary

Hamlet's Cloud

Invented by Martin Probert 2002. This string figure sequence depicts the lines between Hamlet and Polonius in Shakespeare's Hamlet, Act III, Scene II:
 
Hamlet: Do you see that cloud, that's almost in shape like a camel?
Polonius: By the mass, and 't is like a camel, indeed.
Hamlet: Methinks, it is like a weasel.
Polonius: It is backed like a weasel.
Hamlet: Or, like a whale?
Polonius: Very like a whale.

string figure string figure string figure
Like a Camel Like a Weasel Like a Whale

Construction time: 3 seconds for Like a Camel, 2 seconds for Like a Weasel, 4 seconds for Like a Whale.

  1. Use a 0.80 metre wide loop.
  2. Insert the thumbs and little fingers into the loop (to give Position 1).
  3. Release the left little finger. Insert the left little finger from above behind the right hand palm string, then separate the hands, turning the left little finger away and up.
  4. On each hand, touch the tip of the thumb to the tip of the little finger and transfer the loop from the thumb to the little finger. Keep the newly added loop above the loop already on the little finger.
  5. With each thumb, pick up the near string of the lower loop on the little finger. Display the figure by pointing the fingers away from the body, thumbs uppermost. You have a hump-backed cloud Like a Camel.
  6. Return the hands to their usual position. Identify the narrow space that runs from the left little finger to the centre of the figure. Insert the left index from above into this space.
  7. The near string of this space is the near little finger string. Draw this near string towards you with the index and pass the index over the near thumb string, then pick up the near thumb string by rotating the index away and up.
  8. Release the right thumb and transfer the loop from the left index to the right thumb. Separate the hands. Display the figure by pointing the fingers away from the body, thumbs uppermost. You have a round-backed cloud Like a Weasel.
  9. Insert the left index down into the left thumb loop and pick up the near string of the left little finger loop.
  10. Release the left little finger from the left index loop.
  11. Release the right little finger.
  12. Bring the right hand to the left and insert the right little finger from the far side up into the left little finger loop.
  13. Separate the hands. A string will now run straight from the far side of one little finger to the far side of the other little finger.
  14. Bring the right hand to the left and insert the right index from the far side up into the left index loop.
  15. Separate the hands. A string will now run straight from the far side of one index to the far side of the other index.
  16. Insert the right middle and ring fingers up into the right index loop. Push the loop to the tips of the right index, middle and ring fingers.
  17. Insert the right index, middle and ring fingers down into the right thumb loop, and press the tips of all three fingers on the right palm.
  18. Release the left little finger.
  19. Pass the left little finger down through the left index loop, then pick up the far string of the left thumb loop and draw it up through the index loop.
  20. Release the left index.
  21. Spread the thumbs and little fingers to increase the thickness of the whale.
  22. Without pulling the hands apart, gently release the right index, middle and ring fingers from the tail of the whale. You have a leviathan-shaped cloud Like a Whale.
  23. To dissolve the figure, release all fingers except the left thumb, then gently open out the left thumb loop.

(For another character from Shakespeare, see Macbeth.)

Copyright © Martin Probert 2003
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