XI. HAND AND FINGER GAMES
From the information provided by the people surveyed, it seems that games with yarn and twine were very popular in the past, but which are forgotten today. This chapter starts with a section on them and on the game of “Cat’s Cradle” which was very popular according to the accounts, proof of which is the glossary of figures that can be made and which we have prepared using the data collected.
Then there are some girls’ games consisting of passing stones to the rhythm of a song, after having performed certain movements with them.
The third section considers games that were very easy to play and very common, and which involve trapping or tapping their hands, transmitting messages or making shadows on the wall using their hands.
The chapter ends with clapping games, some of which are played in a circle and have much in common with those described for early childhood. The ones here are for older children who can play them by themselves without the help of adults as in the former case.
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Cat’s cradle. Kumak
The game called “cat’s cradle” that appears in nearly all the surveyed locations is practically the only one of the yarn and twine games on which we have information even though not always in full and exact, as despite reference to them in many places, there are few respondents who could detail the steps to be followed to intertwine the string with their hands and thus obtain the different figures.
The games were originally played individually, although two people are required today. The game consists of making different figures with the help of thread, yarn or string, using the hands of the players, and making sure that the thread did not unwind so the players would need to sometimes hold it in their mouth.
“Cat’s cradle” is the generic name that includes different versions making not only cradles, but also figures including “mesh”, “candles”, “envelope”, and many more.
Different types of threads, twine or yarn have been used to play “cat’s cradle”. Flax was used in some places (Laguardia-A) and in others braid or black ribbon, galartzu beltza (Bidegoian-G).
Game of the Goose
The players sit around in a circle, with their arms stretched out and their hand open, with their palms upwards. Each player puts their right hand on the left hand of the person sitting to their right, while they sing:
- Al juego de la oca,
- de cua, cua, cua,
- levanta el ala
- y esconde, esconde, esconde
- el pre-mi-o.
- [The game of the goose / it lifts its wing / and hides, hides, hides / the pr-i-ze]
To the rhythm of the song, a girl taps with her right hand the identical hand of the person places to her left; that girl then repeats the same movement with the next one, and so on, one after another. When they say “pre-mi-o”, they give three consecutive taps. The one who is to be tapped on the "o", tries to tap the hand of the girl on her left before she pulls back her hand and without holding it by the wrist. If she manages to do so, she eliminates that girl; if she fails, she is eliminated.
The game continues in that way until only two girls remain. Then they hold each other’s hands and the spin to the rhythm of the song until the end of the verse. At that moment, they open their hands and leave them with the palms in contact. The girl whose backs of her hands are facing downwards must try, with a rapid movement to tap the backs of the other girl's hands. If she fails, they reverse the hand position and the one who has previously avoided the tap tries again. The game continues in that way, alternating the change in position of the palms and attempts to get their opponent, until one manages to hit the other.
This mixed game, although mainly played by girls, was found with small variations in Amézaga de Zuya, Moreda (A), Bilbao, Gernika, Leioa, Portugalete and Zamudio (B).
Many locations reported games involving two and more participants, generally girls, sitting opposite each other and clapping, hitting and crossing their hands. There are different versions and rules regarding the way to clap the other people’s hands, which sometimes includes hitting thighs, shoulders, etc., following a pre-established order that is repeated. The game is often accompanied by ditties which get faster and faster until the players start to lose their place. Some of those games, within the simplicity that characterises all of the them, have some specific features.
En la calle 24 clapping song
The players sit in a circle with their arms stretched out to the side, with the palm of one hand facing upwards and the other downwards so the palms of the adjacent players touch. Clapping and making other movements, they sing:
- En la calle, lle-lle (1)
- veinticuatro, tro-tro (2)
- habido, do-do (3)
- un asesinato, to-to (4)
- una vieja, ja-ja (5)
- mata un gato, to-to
- con la punta, ta-ta
- del zapato, to-to.
- Pobre vieja, ja-ja (6)
- pobre gato, to-to
- pobre punta, ta-ta
- del zapato, to-to.
- [In street twenty four/ there was a murder/ an old lady killed a cat / with the tip of the shoe / Poor old lady / poor cat / poor tip of the shoe.]
Every time that someone makes a mistake, she is eliminated until only one remains who is the winner. The aim is to try to get several people to play to extend the game.