The Antlion Pit (click to go home)
About AntlionsEducational ResourcesAntlions in CultureBestiary: Creatures of Myth and Psyche

Advertisements (not necessarily endorsed by The Antlion Pit):

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, by Mark Twain

American writer and humorist Mark Twain drew upon his knowledge of antlion folklore to help establish the regional realism in his 1876 novel The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. U.S. antlion folklore typically takes the form of superstitious "charms" spoken to an antlion larva ("doodlebug") to entice it to move. In chapter eight, Twain describes in wonderful detail the events that lead Tom to invoke such a doodlebug charm, treating the creature as if it were an oracle—a priest-like medium blessed with great wisdom:

Yes, it was settled; his career was determined. He would run away from home and enter upon it. He would start the very next morning. Therefore he must now begin to get ready. He would collect his resources together. He went to a rotten log near at hand and began to dig under one end of it with his Barlow knife. He soon struck wood that sounded hollow. He put his hand there and uttered this incantation impressively:

"What hasn't come here, come! What's here, stay here!"

Then he scraped away the dirt, and exposed a pine shingle. He took it up and disclosed a shapely little treasure-house whose bottom and sides were of shingles. In it lay a marble. Tom's astonishment was boundless! He scratched his head with a perplexed air, and said:

"Well, that beats anything!"

Then he tossed the marble away pettishly, and stood cogitating. The truth was, that a superstition of his had failed, here, which he and all his comrades had always looked upon as infallible. If you buried a marble with certain necessary incantations, and left it alone a fortnight, and then opened the place with the incantation he had just used, you would find that all the marbles you had ever lost had gathered themselves together there, meantime, no matter how widely they had been separated. But now, this thing had actually and unquestionably failed. Tom's whole structure of faith was shaken to its foundations. He had many a time heard of this thing succeeding but never of its failing before. It did not occur to him that he had tried it several times before, himself, but could never find the hiding-places afterward. He puzzled over the matter some time, and finally decided that some witch had interfered and broken the charm. He thought he would satisfy himself on that point; so he searched around till he found a small sandy spot with a little funnel-shaped depression in it. He laid himself down and put his mouth close to this depression and called—

"Doodle-bug, doodle-bug, tell me what I want to know! Doodle-bug, doodle-bug, tell me what I want to know!"

The sand began to work, and presently a small black bug appeared for a second and then darted under again in a fright.

"He dasn't tell! So it was a witch that done it. I just knowed it."

He well knew the futility of trying to contend against witches, so he gave up discouraged. But it occurred to him that he might as well have the marble he had just thrown away, and therefore he went and made a patient search for it. But he could not find it. Now he went back to his treasure-house and carefully placed himself just as he had been standing when he tossed the marble away; then he took another marble from his pocket and tossed it in the same way, saying:

"Brother, go find your brother!"

He watched where it stopped, and went there and looked. But it must have fallen short or gone too far; so he tried twice more. The last repetition was successful. The two marbles lay within a foot of each other.


Reference

Twain, Mark [Samuel Langhorne Clemens]. 1903 [1876]. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. New York and London: Harper & Bros.

Related topic in The Antlion Pit

Related websites



Go to next topic: The Pearl, by John Steinbeck

larva iconGo home


About AntlionsEducational ResourcesAntlions in CultureBestiary: Creatures of Myth and Psyche

What's New? | Doodlebug Oracle | The Antlion Pit Store | Videos | Awards
FAQ | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Contact | Support The Antlion Pit! | Credits


Search :

Antlion Pit: A Doodlebug Anthology — http://www.antlionpit.com/
Copyright © 1996-2016 Mark Swanson. All rights reserved.

 
Advertisements: