Italian Boys' Activities: Play--Games

Figure 1.-- Here we see Naples street kids playing the ancient game of morra in 1894. It is perhaps the oldest game still played. Here four boys were playing. Once yoy get beyond about five players the game becomes unwieldy. Thus image is interesting beyond just morra. American school textbooks emphasize the povery of inner city immigrant communities at the turn of the 20th century. And of course this is accurate when compared to modern times. But the comparison should be made with contemprary comditions in Europe like the boys here. In addition to the obvious poverty also important is the fact that these boys also certainly did not attend school while most American immigrant children did.

We notice Italian children playing a range of games. We notice both informal and formal games. There were a range of field games involving teams. Some sound very familar with different names. We note Guardie e Lardi (Cops and Robbers). It sounds rather like Capture the Flag, not like the informal Cops and Robbers we used to play. Lupo Mangia Frutta (Wolf Eating Fruit) is another team field came. This is sort of like Go Fish without the cards. Strega Ghiaccio (Ice Witch) is a tag came where the witch (it) feeze tags the other children. Piovra (Octopus) is a particularly popular game. It is another tag game with a different twist, less running than most tag games. Playes tagged become baby octopuses, but have to stan still, they can only tag players who come near. There were also indoor or less active games like cards. Here we see boys playing cards, but are not sure what game they are playing (figure 1). An especially interesting game is morra. All that is needed is your hands. No one knows its origins, but it is known to date back millenia to ancient Greece and Rome. It can be played by two or more players. More than five or so becomes unwildly. The game is played by each participant revealing their hand, simultaneously extending any number of fingers and calling out a number. A player successfully guessing the total number of fingers revealed by all players combined scores a point. This may be the oldest game still played.


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Created: 11:54 PM 1/18/2017
Last updated: 11:54 PM 1/18/2017