Spirit Tortoise




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By Dan Beard

Spirit Tortoise and Dead Turtles

There is no necessity of counting out in this game, for all are "It." The game commences by each lad choosing what sort of turtle he intends to represent. "I'm a soft back!" "I'm snapper!" "I'm a mud turtle!" "I'm a diamond back!" "I'm a red belly!" and "I'm a land tortoise! " they shout. Then they all squat down in a row, testing their chins on their knees and crossing their hands, each holding his right foot with his left hand and his left foot with his right hand.

A short distance from the line of boys is some object, a fence or wall , which they have decided upon as their taw line or goal. It is the object of all the turtles to waddle along without removing their hands from their feet until they have touched goal and returned to the starting point. When all are ready they shout out a comical verse, which is probably intended to represent the awkward motions of the turtles by words-

"Kumbo, kuzetoo, rungetoo, zee! When we start, fun you'll see! Willy, wally, wully, wake! See this turtle take the cake!"

At the word "cake" all start in their strange race amid general laughter, boasting, and banter. Sooner or later some one of the boys is certain to loose his grip on either one or the other of his feet. Then the others shoot " Dead turtle!" and the player whose hand slipped must lie motionless where he is until the return of his more skilful companions.

The first racer who reaches his goal and returns successfully is the victor, and is supposed to be endowed with supernatural powers. After reaching the starting point he goes back to the dead turtles, and of each he makes the same inquiry, "Dead turtle, what are you doing there?"

Now, while all who fail are considered dead, yet they are not supposed to be deprived of the power of speech, and so no one is surprised when the dead turtle answers in these words: "I am waiting for the spirit tortoise to blow life into me" The victor, or spirit tortoise, still retaining fast hold of his feet with his hands, manages to waddle around the dead turtle, repeating these mystic lines:

"Hunyab, Punyab, chiz row zie, I bring life to all near me! I touch a turtle on the snout. Life blows in and death blows out!"

Loosening his grasp on one foot for an instant, the spirit tortoise touches the nose of the dead turtle with his finger, and instantly the dead turtle returns to life, grasps his right foot with his left hand and his left foot with his right hand and wiggles back to the starting point.

Alter the victor has restored all the dead to life he manages to regain his position at the starting point and the game is finished.

It is no easy matter to win in this game, and the victor must have the pluck and force of character to hold hard with both hands, no matter how great the temptation to let go and be a dead turtle.

This game is said to he of Indian origin. In the Indian game neither the turtles nor the tortoises repeat verses, but in other respects it is practically the same as the Indian tortoise race.







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Costume Race ] Duck on a Rock ] Hopscotch ] Hunkety ] I Spy ] Jack Candles ] Jack Stones ] Jack's Alive! ] Kick the Wicket ] Leap-Frog Race ] Mumbly Peg ] Renegade ] Simon Kenton ] Skittles ] [ Spirit Tortoise ] Tip-Cat ] The Wheelbarrow Race ] Woodsmen's Tests ]

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Last modified: October 15, 2016.