Board Games in Academia V
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
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.