1. Mystery number one is: why do children love this form of play? This is an eternal question for the student of child’s play psychology and I cannot really give a precise answer. But, there is one point on which people tend to be mistaken about children making mud balls and I must straighten it out. Grown-ups tend to take it for granted that children are the same as us and wish to make “a beautiful one like that.” We therefore tend to think this is an activity in which they set themselves a target and make every effort to attain it, and, thus, they learn perseverance, concentration, and so forth. Of course, you cannot deny such aspects to it.
But, look at this picture, for instance. This is just a ball made of mud. Not even a ball, you might say, but just a lump of clay. Still, for the child who made this, it is something he/she cannot let go of. Ask them, “May I have it?” and see what happens. They absolutely refuse you. You say, “Why don’t you throw this away and make a new one?” and they will not listen. Why? Because they are working hard toward the target of making a perfect mud ball, would you say? I don’t think that explains it.
2. Mystery number two is the fact that these shiny balls are all completely dry. Soil is adhesive and can be lumped only when it is moist. But once it loses moisture, it loses its adhesion as well. That is the difference from rocks and earthenware. Then why do these mud balls maintain their adhesion and stay as balls? It’s a great mystery, don’t you think?
3. The third mystery is related to the second. It is said that such a shiny surface can be made
with powdery soil by putting pressure of ten tons per square centimeter
on it, ten times greater than the pressure at the bottom of the Mariana
Trench, which is ten thousand meters deep. The next picture shows the surface
of a mud ball magnified eight thousand times through an electronic microscope.
An X-ray diffraction also shows a surface of
metallic sheen, I have been told. How is it possible to make such a surface by
simply rubbing with the hands? It’s really mysterious, isn’t it? The key to the
mystery is in water, I guess. In the process of being made into a ball, mud is
turned into something between liquid and a solid by the working of water,
perhaps? I am not a specialist, and this is all I dare say.