Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 15.djvu/238
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.
kites till these games came across from Asia, when they took root at once and became naturalized over Europe. The origin of kite-flying seems to lie somewhere in southeast Asia, where it is a sport even of grown-up men, who fight their kites by making them cut one another's strings, and fly birds and monsters of the most fantastic shapes and colors, especially in China, where old gentlemen may be seen taking their evening stroll, kite-string in hand, as though they were leading pet dogs. The English boy's kite appears thus an instance, not of spontaneous play-instinct, but of the migration of an artificial game from a distant center. Nor is this all it proves in the history of civilization. Within a century, Europeans becoming acquainted with the South Sea Islanders found them down to New Zealand adepts at flying kites, which they made of leaves or bark-cloth, and called manu, or "bird," flying them in solemn form with accompaniment of traditional chants. It looks as though the toy reached Polynesia through the Malay region, thus belonging to that drift of Asiatic culture which is evident in many other points of South Sea Island life. The geography of another of our childish diversions may be noticed as matching with this. Mr. Wallace relates that, being one wet day in a Dyak house in Borneo, he thought to amuse the lads by taking a piece of string to show them cat's-cradle, but to his surprise he found that they knew more about it than he did, going off into figures that quite puzzled him. Other Polynesians are skilled in this nursery art, especially the Maoris of New Zealand, who call it maui, from the name of their national hero, by whom, according to their tradition, it was invented; its various patterns represent canoes, houses, people, and even episodes in Maui's life, such as his fishing up New Zealand from the bottom of the sea. In fact, they have their pictorial history in cat's-cradle, and, whatever their traditions may be worth, they stand good to show that the game was of the time of their forefathers, not lately picked up from the Europeans. In the Sandwich Islands and New Zealand it is on record that the natives were found playing a kind of draughts which was not the European game, and which can hardly be accounted for but as another result of the drift of Asiatic civilization down into the Pacific.
Once started, a game may last on almost indefinitely. Among the children's sports of the present day are some which may be traced back toward the limits of historical antiquity, and, for all we know, may have been old then. Among the pictures of ancient Egyptian games in the tombs of Beni Hassan, one shows a player with his head down so that he can not see what the others are doing with their clinched fists above his back. Here is obviously the game called in English hot-cockles, in French main-chaude, and better described by its mediaeval name of qui fery? or "who struck?"—the blindman having to guess by whom he was hit, or with which hand. It was the Greek kollabismos, or buffet-game, and carries with it a tragical asso-