Tag Archives: chlidren’s lore

The Elbow game

The informant is my 19-year-old cousin who now lives in Pomona, CA, but grew up in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. She learned this game from other kids at her international elementary school.
“So I don’t know if this really counts as a game, but there’s this thing we used to do when we were little…here. Stick out your arm. Okay, so, one person holds their arm out like that [gestures to my arm] and then looks away, or, actually, they close their eyes. Okay, so close your eyes. And then the other person kind of walks their fingers up their arm, but like, really slowly. And the point of the game is for the person who has their eyes closed, they have to see if they can guess when you make it to their elbow. Well, not their elbow, but, like, the inside of their elbow. Or whatever it’s called where your arm bends, but on the other side.”
Even though she attended an international school, my cousin learned this game in Ethiopia. I found this incredibly interesting, because I also knew this game when I was little, even though I grew up in the New York, and other people who grew up in other states also know this game. It’s interesting how the same games (and more broadly the same folklore) arise in so many different places that are seemingly unrelated. There are other examples of this, including that every culture has a version of the idea of dragons, but this was the first example I had really seen personally of such a specific piece of folklore existing in two such different places. Though it is easier to deduce how such a game might have reached my cousin’s school, being that it was an English-language international school where many students were the children of American expats, it really reinforced to me the “multiplicity” aspect of Dundes’s definition of folklore, which I find incredibly fascinating.