Residence: Los Angeles, CA
Date of Performance/Collection: April 23rd, 2013
Primary Language: Italian
Other Language(s): English, French, Sardinian
“So this is a game we play in Sardinia. Everybody holds the hand of the person next to them making like a circle. And there is a person in charge and he gives secretly everyone a type of fish. Like, you know, I would whisper to Samuel, ‘salmone’, salmon. And I would whisper into your ear, ‘you are, I don’t know, um, trout’. So each child is a type of fish. And then they, you know, they start singing this song, ‘We are fish and the fisherman is here to catch you and if I’m lucky I’m going to catch…Salmon!” And at this point Samuel is supposed to leave the circle and run around it while I try to catch him and if he’s able to get back to where he was and avoid the hands of the fisherman then he wins, and I have to go again. If I catch him, then it’s his turn to lead it.”
The informant told me about this childhood game after telling me about several other games he played as a child. It seemed that once he started talking about what he did as a child, he did not want to stop! He said that this was one of his favorite games to play, because it involved running around and was a little silly. It’s fun to make up fish names for people and then chase your friends around. He would normally play this at school during breaks with his friends. He has good memories of such times. Furthermore, he still remembers the tune of the song, which he sang to me. Now, as a teacher, he still sometimes uses games like this to teach his students Italian vocabulary.
This game remind me of duck, duck, grey duck, a game I used to play when I was in preschool and elementary school. The punchline is still the same: race your friend around the circle to the spot you just left. However, I like the edition of the silly fish names and the song. I think even now, as a college student, I might find this game entertaining, because it’s simple yet the chase is exciting. It’s interesting that the version I know talks about ducks, while the Sardinian version is about fish. Sardinia is an island off Italy, and they probably have a lot of fishing in their economy. A lot of culture centers around what and how people eat, so it makes sense that this version is about a fisherman, a “piscatore”, and his fish. Furthermore, it involves the fisherman chasing the fish, sometimes winning and sometimes losing. This reflects the reality of how hard it can be to fish for your food. I’m sure that the idea of chasing someone around a circle of people has many origins, because it is a simple and fun way to entertain a group of people. It is still interesting that similar versions of this game appear in many different countries. I like the idea that we grew up playing similar games, despite our disparate birthplaces.