Barcelona 2002 Colloquium

--{ Barcelona 2002 }--

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Board Games in Academia V


Maria Argyriadis

The game of "Chasing the hare"

In my paper I will mention board games played by children in the traditional Greek world, that were influenced from the customs and traditions of the adults, related to religious beliefs, to vegetation and farming activities.

The board game "Chasing the hare", which can be considered as one of them, was played by three children, with four counters -stones or beans on a drawing cardboard, or illustrated paper-cuts, that corresponded to the hunter, the two dogs and the hare. (one had the hare, the other the hunter and the third the two dogs)

The child with the hare put his counter at the center of the circle marked on the board and the children with the hunter and the dogs placed their counters on three different black points in the first circle. The game commenced with moving the hare to one of the free black points in the circle. The counters of the hunter and the dogs were then moved in turn to the black points on the circles in an effort to trap the hare in one of the "lairs". If the opponets succeded in doing so, the game ended and was began again, reversing the roles.

The particularity of this special game is that it derives from one of the most remarkable harvesting customs of the the reapers during the agricultural period, performed to ensure the fertility of the fields. An old custom, that when two adjacent fields were being harversted, the reapers competed with one another. The first to finish, would chase a hare in the next field. If he caught it his harvest would be richer next year. In some parts of Greece one repear had to play the hunter and the other the hare.

Commenting on it, the ethnographer N.Politis notes that in many parts of Greece, as in other lands too, the harvesters believed that the spirit of the corn appeared in the form of an animal, particularly of a hare, which had to be captured or killed on the last sheaf of wheat.

This ancient custom of adults passed to children, chasing imaginary hares -pretending to be the hare, the hunter and the dogs, or playing this board game which they invented based on this custom.

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