String figure glossary

The Larva of the Ant-Lion

The Larva of the Ant-LionCollected by Alfred Cort Haddon, 1888.
Reconstruction by Martin Probert, 1999 (Provisional, pending comparison with the original mounted figure: see the introductory note in the British Museum entry.)

Ant-lions are insects of the family Myrmeleonidae. The larvae of some species are well known for constructing funnel-shaped pitfall traps in sandy soil. The ant-lion, with only its jaws protruding, waits in the bottom of the pit until some small insect, usually an ant, stumbles in. The string figure of this celebrated insect survives in the British Museum as a single specimen mounted on cardboard, one of eight finished figures which A.C. Haddon collected during his first visit to the Torres Strait in 1888. No method was recorded. The reconstruction offered here is based upon that for the figure Man Going Backwards, collected by A.C. Haddon during his second visit to the Torres Strait in 1898. No interpretation of the Larva of the Ant Lion is available. We suggest that the opening of the ant-lion's conical pit is at the top of the figure; at the bottom of the pit, the large jaws of the ant-lion lie in wait.

Use a 1 metre wide loop (as recommended by A.C. Haddon in Man 109:147, 1902).
Construction time 10 seconds.

  1. Place the loop over the thumbs and little fingers; draw the hands apart. A.C. Haddon gave the name "Position 1" to this widely used string figure opening. The index, middle and ring fingers remain outside the loop. The loop forms a rectangle, the sides composed of the left palmar string, the left and right little fingers' far string, the right palmar string, and the right and left thumbs' near string.
  2. Keeping the string taut, pass the left index away from you over the left little finger far string, then with the pad of the bent left index hook the far string towards you and straighten the left index by turning it towards you and up to its usual position. (There is now a loop around the left index: the left index far string passes across the figure to become the right little finger far string, while the left index near string passes under the left index far string to become the left little finger far string.)
  3. Release the right hand from the loop. Hold the left hand with the index finger pointing upwards and with the left palm facing right.
  4. Bring the right hand to the left and pass the right index finger under the near string of the left index loop, up into the left index loop, and then bend the right index finger over the far string of the left index loop, then with the pad of the bent right index finger hook out the far string of the left index loop and, keeping the right index finger bent to the right palm, pull the far string of the left index loop (and no other string) to the right as far as it will go, straightening the right index by turning it towards you and up to its usual position. (The far string of the left index loop now passes under the near string of the left index loop and crosses the figure to become the far string of the right index loop.)
  5. Insert the right thumb up into the right index loop alongside the right index, then remove the right index from the loop, thus transferring the loop from the right index to the right thumb.
  6. Bring the right hand to the left, pass the right index down into the left index loop and with the nail of the right index pick up from below the left palmar string, drawing it up through the left index loop. Separate the hands.
  7. Bend the right little finger towards you and insert it from above down into the right index loop, hooking the far string of the right index loop down to the right palm; release the right index from the loop, then straighten the right little finger by turning it towards you and up.
  8. Hold the right hand above the left hand. Without pulling on the strings, release the loops from the left index and left little finger. Insert the left little finger into the left thumb loop alongside the left thumb, then separate the left thumb and left little finger.
  9. The Larva of the Ant Lion is complete.

 
Copyright © Martin Probert 1999
 
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