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There are many games consisting of guessing the name of an item, person, trade, etc. that a child asks their friends. These games are usually played indoors or out of the elements, when the weather is bad, which meant the children could not go out or, simply, when the children had nothing better to do. Both sexes take part in groups, though girls usually excel as they are games that require imaginations and faster reflexes.

General guessing games

Ikusi-makusi. I spy

Known and played throughout the Basque Country. It consists of a player thinking of an object that everyone can see and the others guessing which object it is from the clue of the first letter or the first and last of the name by which it is known.

Quién te ha picado (Who pinched you?)

One of the children sits on the floor as the leader; another places their head on the leader’s lap with one their hands placed on their back. That child does not know what name (fruits, animals, etc.) has been given beforehand to the other players who stand some way away. The leader calls one of them by their allocated name, for example: “Come here Strawberry”. That child comes up and pinches the hand of the child whose head is bowed down and therefore cannot see who comes up and returns to their place. The child who has been pinched, stands up and looking at the group has to guess who it was.

Games with pins and other objects

“Pins” is the generic name for these games in some places and there are specific names for the individual games in other locations.

The versions can be divided into three types: those guessing the position, the number of units or the place where they are located, all of which follow rules and sometimes used specific ritual formulas.

We should point out that the children did not differentiated between needles and pins in some areas of Navarra surveyed. The same happens in Basque as there are increasingly more people who use orratzak interchangeably to refer to them.

Al florón. Al polvorón (Jewel in the Hand)

These are the names used for these games played by both girls and boys, even though girls are more likely to play them. They sit in a circle, passing a small item from one to another, or hold a rope with their hands, which is tied together and the children move a ring around it. A player stands in the centre and has to guess who is holding the object or ring. If they guess correctly, they are replaced by the player who was hiding it.

Hot or cold. Hotz-beroka

A child hides an object or a garment and the others have to find it. While they are looking for it, the child who has hidden it helps them by saying “hot” if they are near the item and “cold” if they are far from it. In some places, such as Artajona (N), they also say “warm” when the players are going in the right direction, but are still not near it, and “you’re burning!” when they are practically touching the object. The first to find it will be the next one to hide it.

Blindfold games

The different versions of these games are found throughout the country, though there were some that have now fallen into disuse. During the game, the children enjoy bothering and confusing the player who is blindfolded by giving wrong instructions which greatly amuses all the players.

Blindman’s Buff. ltsu-itsuka

In Bilbao, Durango, Galdames and Zamudio (B), Allo, Aria and El Roncal Valley (N), “Blindman’s Buff” is played by blindfolding the eyes of a child, singing a rhyme and turning the around several times. The child then has to catch another and guess, by touching them, who that child is. The people surveyed already said that the game was already being played at the start of the 20th century.

Riddles. Igarkizunak, papaitak

Solving riddles or puzzles is a mental game played by children, along with their elders, during family gatherings. Those riddles and puzzles, along with some guessing games and jokes, form part of the list of verbal games that children play as entertainment or when travelling somewhere.

The riddles considered here have been collected from the places surveyed; a few come from the Eusko Folklore Laboratory (LEF) Archives and have not been previously published. The most important list of riddles in Basque is undoubtedly the one published by Azkue[1]. In the 19th century, J.F. Cerquand collected a good number of them in the Zuberoa region[2]. Other authors, such as Garralda, Dámaso lntza, Father Donostia and Irigaray, recorded riddles from different Basque-speaking regions. In “La vida infantil en Alava” (Childhood in Álava”), Gerardo López de Guereñu published an extensive collection of riddles that he gathered at different locations of this province.

  1. Resurrección María de AZKUE. Euskalerriaren Yakintza. Tomo 111. Madrid, 1945, pp. 375-411.
  2. F. CERQUAND. Ipar Euskal Hemko Legendak eta lpuinak. Donostia, 1985, pp. 102-105.