This figure was taught to me by Dr. Haddon in August, 1904. He obtained it when on the Cambridge Anthropological Expedition to Torres Straits; it is described by Rivers and Haddon (p. 150). In Mer (Murray Island), Torres Straits, it is called Ares = Murray and Dauar men fighting. One twisted loop of the finished figure represents the Murray man, who always carries off the Dauar man’s head.
String Figure Notation (SFN)
OA:L mo S pu fTS, re T
T mu FN pu 2LDS, re L
L mo FN pu 2fTS
F pu 2cDS, re bFN
re T:F ma-tw FN 3 times
re F:ex H:ls lHS to fight
If, in forming Opening A, the right palmar string be taken up first, and if, when the figure is completed, the right near strings be pulled upon, then the victorious head-hunter will travel home toward the left hand.
There are not many figures like this one which have definite stories attached to them. Doubtless the stories exist, but have not been told and recorded; in some instances the stories have been forgotten by the natives themselves, or have degenerated into formulae the meanings of which are no longer known.
The Fighting Head-Hunters is a good example of that simple type of figure in which most of the movements consist in passing the fingers away from you and toward you, and taking up strings and loops from other fingers of the same hand. The picking up of the strings forming the sides of the central triangle is not a common movement. In the Second movement a loop is transferred from one finger to another and turned over during the transfer. In the Sixth movement we have the first example of an almost universal procedure: When two loops are on a finger the lower loop is lifted over the upper loop and off the finger to form, toward the centre of the figure, a running noose or ring upon the upper loop. If there be three loops on a finger the lower one may be lifted over the upper two, or the lower two over the upper one, but in all cases the principle is the same, namely, to thread the upper loop, which originally belonged to another finger, through the lower loop, which is usually the original loop of the finger. As we shall see further on, this movement is executed in different ways: with the teeth, with the thumb and index of the other hand, by the aid of another finger of the same hand, or merely by twisting the finger itself. It is so general in the Navaho Indian figures that, following Dr. Haddon, in conversation we often speak of it as the "Navaho movement," or, coining a new verb, direct that the loops on a finger shall be "Navahoed."