The Traditional Children's Games of England Scotland
& Ireland In Dictionary Form - Volume 2

With Tunes(sheet music), Singing-rhymes(lyrics), Methods Of Playing with diagrams and illustrations.

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CHILDREN'S GAMES                           481
of the sacred encircling of a tree, and of other significant usages, go far to suggest that these games must contain some element which belongs to the essential part of their form, and my next quest is for this element. I shall take each class of game, and endeavour to ascertain what element is present which does not necessarily belong to games, or which belongs to other and more important branches of human action; and it will depend on what this element is as to what can ultimately be said of the origin of the games.
Of the games played in " line " form, " We are the Rovers " is the best representative of pure contest between two opposing parties. If reference is made to the game (vol. ii. pp. 343-356), the words will be found to be very significant. In my account of the game (pp. 356-60), I suggest that it owes its origin to the Border warfare which existed on the Marches between England and Scotland and England and Wales, and I give my reasons, from analysing the game, why I consider it represents this particular form of contest rather than that of a fight between two independent countries. Both sides advancing and retiring in turn, while shouting their mutual defiance, and the final fight, which continues until all of one side are knocked down or captured, show that a deliberate fight was intended to be shown. I draw attention, too, to the war-cry used by each side, which is also significant of one of the old methods of rallying the men to the side of their leader—an especially necessary thing in undisciplined warfare. This game, then, contains relics of ancient social conditions. That such a contest game as this is represented by the line form combining words, singing, and action, is, I submit, good evidence of my contention that the line form of game denotes contest. This game, then, I consider a traditional type of contest game.
It is remarkable that among the ordinary, now somewhat old-fashioned, contest games played by boys there should be some which, I think, are degenerate descendants of this tra­ditional type. There are a number of boys' games, the chief features of which are catching and taking prisoners and getting possession of an enemy's territory — as in the well-known
" Prisoner's Base" and " Scots and English." " Prisoner's VOL. II.                                                                               2 H

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