USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘red rover’
Game

Red Rover

The informant is my mother, who was born and raised in North Vancouver, Canada. She has two older brothers, and both of her parents immigrated from the United Kingdom when they were adults. She worked in accounting until she retired at the age of 50. She is widowed and has two children: myself and my brother, who has Cerebral Palsy.

This is a popular children’s playground game that she played when she was younger.

“Well, Red Rover. You stand in a line, holding your arms together, and then you call someone over and they try to break through the line. “Red Rover Red Rover we call…Jennifer over.” And then Jennifer will come running through and try to choose the weakest spot between the arms that she thinks she can break through, and… if she breaks through, I don’t what, I don’t remember what happens if you break through. I think you get to go back. If you don’t break through, you have to join the line. You’re part of the row—you’re part of the line.”

What’s the goal of the game?

“To be the last man standing, to be the person who breaks through all the time. To be the strongest [laughs].”

Analysis:

This common children’s game may seem fairly innocuous, but I think that it sheds a lot of light on social hierarchies in North American societies. The goal of the game is to keep breaking through the wall of people standing before the player. Not only does this mean that the social currency gained from winning the game is given to the “strongest” player, but it also establishes that one should be looking to break through barriers; those who don’t become part of the conglomerate. This may reflect some of the social values found in capitalist societies.

Childhood
Game

Red Rover

Red Rover is a children’s game that I played as a kid and my friend, who works as a preschool teacher, told me about her students playing.

The game works like this:

Two groups of children stand opposite each other in an open space.  Each of the two groups form a line and grasp hands forming a chain.  The group that has been selected to go first will decide on a player from the opposite team and call out “Red Rover, Red Rover send (players name) right over.”  The player who has been called then runs from their side to the side that called them in an attempt to break the chain with the force of their body.  If they succeed in breaking the chain they return to the side they began on, but if they fail they join the other team.  The game ends when all players are on one side.

This folklore was significant to my friend because she played it as a child and she is witnessing other children playing the same game, which connects her with the children she teaches.

The game is interesting because although it is a game played on teams the teams change throughout the game, so there is no set opposing forces.  This most likely fosters unity between the group who take part in the game

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