A Sea-Snake

The "Sea-snake" is played by the natives of Murray Island, Torres Straits, they call it Pagi = a Sea-snake. It is described by Rivers and Haddon (p. 152, Fig. 9). Partington (pl. 341, 3) gives a drawing of a finished pattern from Torres Straits, preserved in the British Museum (A. C. Haddon Collection) and labelled "cat's-cradle in the form of a water snake (garé)."


First: Opening A. (The left palmar string must be taken up first.)


Second: Keeping all the loops securely on the fingers, turn the hands with the palms down and the fingers pointing toward one another. Move the right hand toward you, then to the left, and carry it up and away from you over and past the left hand (Fig. 64); turn the hands with the fingers pointing upward and draw the strings tight (Fig. 65). This movement brings all the strings from the palm of the left hand around the base of the left thumb over the back of the left hand and then to the right hand from the far side of the left hand.

Fig. 64
Fig. 65

Third: Put the entire left hand, from above, into the loop on the right index (Fig. 66), and move it away from you over the right little finger loop, and release the loop from the right index as it slips down on the left wrist (Fig. 67). Now carry the right hand around the left hand, by moving it away from you, to the left, and toward you over the left hand (Fig. 68), thus unwinding the strings. Separate the hands and draw the strings tight (Fig. 69).

Fig. 66
Fig. 67
Fig. 68
Fig. 69

Fourth: Release the loop from the left index and draw the strings tight (Fig. 70). The string on the right hand is now in the First Position.

Fig. 70

Fifth: With the back of the left index take up, from below, the string on the right palm, as in Opening A, and separate the hands (Fig 71).

Fig. 71

Sixth: With the right thumb and index pick up the string on the back of the left wrist (Fig. 72), lift it over the tips of all the left fingers, and let it drop on the palmar side; separate the hands (Fig. 73).

Fig. 72
Fig. 73

Seventh: Release the loop from the left thumb.


Eighth: Put the left thumb, from below, into the left index loop and withdraw the left index (Fig. 74), in order to transfer the loop to the left thumb (Fig. 75, Left hand).

Fig. 74
Fig. 75

Ninth: Turning the palms away from you, bend each index over the near little finger string (Fig. 75, Right hand), and pick up on the tip of the finger the far little finger string (Fig. 76); holding these index strings high, release very gently the loop from the left thumb, and the snake will be seen winding about the two parallel strings of the figure (Fig. 77).

Fig. 76
Fig. 77

To make the snake swim to the right, draw the strings slowly to the left, allowing them to slip through the fingers of the right hand.

String Figure Notation (SFN)

  1. OA:lT mo S:tw all S ar lW
  2. lH md-th-pu rFN (tr rFN to lW)
  3. untwist S from lH:re lF
  4. lF mo-pu rPS
  5. re lWN:re lTN:lT pu lFN
  6. F mo-th LN pu fLS:P ma, re lT
  7. ex H slowly, ls rHS

This figure is interesting because the Second and Third movements are unlike anything we find in other figures, and also because the majority of the movements are done on the left hand only, instead of being done simultaneously on both hands. Of course the final figure must be unsymmetrical.