The informant is a 28-year-old who was raised in the Midwest and has very distinct memories of the game. He stated that this game was something he loved doing as a kid and brought back fond memories of his childhood. He claims that this habit and belief is something that helped him out in life. The game itself is just a fun thing he did as a kid, but not allowing himself to be last or late in anything in life is something he takes seriously now as an adult, and he views it as a great life lesson.
The Folklore was collected through a scheduled zoom meeting with the informant where we discussed his childhood years and different games he would play growing up. He learned this specific tradition from his older brother and whenever he heard it, he would immediately start running to wherever they were going he would end up as the rotten egg.
The game is one where a group of people are going to a certain location such as getting on a bus, going to play on the playground, etc. The informant recalls that when he would walk with a group of friends as kids, one of them would shout out ‘Last one there is a rotten egg!’ and everyone would race towards their destination. Whoever got their last would then be the “Rotten Egg” and would be teased by the other kids as the “Rotten Egg” until the next round. The informant stated that usually after someone got labeled as the “Rotten Egg”, they would look for some other destination to race to and then keep repeating the phrase “Last one there is a rotten egg” until they no longer lost the race.
Children’s lore is always unique yet seems to bear a common theme throughout. Many of the folklore games that children play seem to have a sort of life lesson or teaching embedded within them. The ‘Last one there is a rotten egg’ game of racing to a location while trying not to be last makes me think of a few examples where this type of lore may have been an important lesson to learn for youth. In older societies that experienced famine, being the last to something might mean not having enough food to survive — Therefore this type of folklore practice would have helped children learn early on to never be last. Another example would be societies that were more nomadic or that had natural predators. In these types of societies, a child that fell too far behind the group would be at risk of getting lost and or attacked by a predator. In today’s world, these same lessons have real-world applications albeit not as extreme. For example, being last in something might cause you to lose out on opportunities in life such as getting into a good college, making a sports team, getting a good job, a promotion, etc. The informant discussed this aspect of the lore in detail and how he viewed this game as a major life lesson that has helped him develop a strong work ethic and desire to succeed in life.