Table of Contents - Volume 12, number 3 (September 2007) - 22 pages
Stylistically, the first action figure in this issue (‘Flip’) is similar to an action figure from Micronesia (‘Jumping Off’) that was featured in the September 2006 issue. In both cases, hanging loops flip over the frame lines. The second figure in this issue (‘Bull Snake’) is also similar in style, but only one hanging loop exists, and rather than flipping, it slithers and slides between the frame lines as it travels to the left. The third action figure (‘Lightning’) appears quite suddenly when performed with skill, and always surprises an audience. The fourth and fifth figures (‘Going to Get Some Bait’ and ‘Two Bear Brothers’) are associated with local Indian legends: both are accompanied by traditional chants. But like all story-based string figures the individual designs can be renamed if needed to enhance their appeal when presenting them to a modern audience.
Among Navajo Indians this action figure represents someone doing a flip, a somersault, or jumping over a fence. Others say it presents a jumping frog.
The figure is also known among the Klamath Indians of the California/Oregon border. Their method differs somewhat, and is said to represent a sun that rises and sets.
The Bull Snake (Pituophis catenifer sayi) is a large species of non-venomous snake found predominantly in the central United States.
This splendid action figure from Arizona resembles a figure in Jayne’s book from the Torres Straits called ‘Sea-Snake’. The method of construction is entirely different, but the end result is remarkably similar.
There are several versions of this string figure in the literature. They differ only in the way the design is extended. The extension described by Jayne requires lifting a string. The extension described by A.C. Haddon requires pressing down a string and is much more dramatic.
Both extensions were seen by Will Wirt when he visited the Navajo Reservation is 1999-2000. Jessie Neztsosie, a student from Navajo Mountain High School, used Haddon’s extension, then turned the figure vertically and bounced it on her knee to simulate lightning striking the ground as smiled and made a crashing sound.
The Kwakiutl Indians of Vancouver Island thrived on fish as a primary food source. In this amusing Kwakiutl action figure, a man wades into a river in search of bait. In the process, his clothes get wet and he is forced to tote them on his head.
Among the neighboring Bella Coola Indians this figure represents a woman trying to cross a river. When she realizes how deep the water is she hikes her skirt above her knees and proceeds to cross.
Other members of the Bella Coola tribe claim that this figure represents a man with an injured leg who is teased by villagers as he tries to cross a river. In response, he magically lengthens his injured leg and crosses to spite them.
This action figure is a variation of the previous figure. In the chant that accompanies this figure two bears, who are brothers, are hunting for moss. The little brother wants to follow the big brother, but the big brother says, “No! Don’t follow me! You will only slow me down.” To prove his worthiness, the little bear brother jumps past the big bear brother and becomes the leader in their quest for moss.
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