Friday, February 23, 2024



By Mary Davis

Though adorable, not those kinds of cats.

This kind.

As a child playing Cat’s Cradle, I never realized it was an ancient game played in many cultures.

Cat’s cradle is a string game involving various figures with a loop of string made on the hands. Versions can be played by either one or two people, sometimes more. Each figure created has a different name.

Variations of this game have been found independently in cultures around the world; some of these are Africa, the Americas, the Arctic, Australia, Eastern Asia, and the Pacific Islands.

In other countries this game goes by different names.

         France — crèche

         Japan — ayatori

         Korea — sil-tteu-gi

         Russia — the game of string (but in Russian)

         China — fan sheng (turning rope)

         Israel — Knitting Grandmother

         In some regions of the U.S. — Jack in the Pulpit

So, who created this attention absorbing game and when?

No one really knows, but it is found around the world.

Though the origin and name of this enduring game is debated, it may have begun in China and has likely existed for centuries. Even so, the earliest mention of it in literature isn’t until 1768 in a novel titled The Light of Nature Pursued by Abraham Tucker under the pen name Edward Search.

“An ingenious play they call cat's cradle; one ties the two ends of a packthread together, and then winds it about his fingers, another with both hands takes it off perhaps in the shape of a gridiron, the first takes it from him again in another form, and so on alternately changing the packthread into a multitude of figures whose names I forget, it being so many years since I played at it myself.”

However, Cat’s Cradle isn’t the only game nor is it the only use of a loop of string to create figures. People have been manipulating string for as long as there has been string.

The first known written account of manipulating string was by first century Greek physician Heraklas where he describes surgical knots and slings. His figure called the “Plinthios Brokhos” was used to set and bind a broken jaw. With the string doubled, the shape consisted of four corner loops with a hole in the center. The chin would be placed in the middle hole while the four loops are pulled up near the top of the head and tied. This figure is known as “The Sun Clouded Over” to the Aborigines in Australia.

The extinct woolly mammoth is a figure the Inuits have. So, their culture had been playing with string for a very, very long time to have knowledge of an animal that no longer exists.

And like so many things, there are Guinness Book of World Record holders. In August 1974, a trio of California girls, Geneva Hultenius, Maryann Divona, and Rita Divona played Cat’s Cradle for 21 hours, making 21,200 changes between them. They were in the 1975 and 1976 editions of Guinness Book of World Records. But they didn’t hold their title for very long. In August of 1976, a pair of Canadians, Jane Muir and Robyn Lawrick, also played for 21 hours and completed 22,700 changes, dethroning the California trio. So many questions go through my mind of how they managed this, but I keep coming back to someone having to had counted all those exchanges while not losing track, not to mention bathroom breaks and eating.

In 1963, the game was the inspiration for Kurt Vonnegut’s novel aptly titled Cat’s Cradle where a character surmises that the invisible cat in the game symbolizes all the nonsense of life.

Did you play Cat’s Cradle or other string games in your youth?


Here’s a video if you want to refresh your memory.



Historical Romance Series

By Mary Davis

THE WIDOW’S PLIGHT (Book1) – Will a secret clouding a single mother’s past cost Lily her loved ones?

THE DAUGHTER’S PREDICAMENT (Book2) *SELAH & WRMA Finalist* – As Isabelle’s romance prospects turn in her favor, a family scandal derails her dreams.

THE DAMSEL’S INTENT (Book3) *SELAH Winner* – Nicole heads down the mountain to fetch herself a husband. Can she learn to be enough of a lady to snag the handsome rancher?

THE DÉBUTANTE’S SECRET (Book4) – Complications arise when a fancy French lady steps off the train and into Deputy Montana’s arms.


MARY DAVIS, bestselling, award-winning novelist, has over thirty titles in both historical and contemporary themes. Her latest release is THE LADY’S MISSION. Her other novels include THE DÉBUTANTE'S SECRET (Quilting Circle Book 4) THE DAMSEL’S INTENT (The Quilting Circle Book 3) is a SELAH Award Winner. Some of her other recent titles include; THE WIDOW'S PLIGHT, THE DAUGHTER'S PREDICAMENT, “Zola’s Cross-Country Adventure” in The MISSAdventure Brides Collection, Prodigal Daughters Amish series, "Holly and Ivy" in A Bouquet of Brides Collection, and "Bygones" in Thimbles and Threads. She is a member of ACFW and active in critique groups.

Mary lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband of thirty-seven years and one cat. She has three adult children and three incredibly adorable grandchildren. Find her online at:
Books2Read Newsletter Blog FB FB Readers Group Amazon GoodReads BookBub


1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this fun post! I did play Cat's Cradle but can't remember more plays than the first two or three. I can't think how one person would play this alone! I might have to look it up to refresh my memory, I have a 13 yo granddaughter who might enjoy this game.